Hamilton was in fine form at Suzuka out qualifying Vettel by three tenths to seal his first pole at the circuit. Throughout the session Hamilton looked unstoppable as he was consistently faster than the German, breaking the lap record by over a second, beating Vettel.
Ricciardo out-qualified his teammate Verstappen for the first time in seven races, the Australian finding a fraction more than his teammate, to take fourth.
Come race day, Vettel’s hopes of recovering the ground he had lost in the last two races were in tatters before the race began. Ferrari was working on his car on the grid, trying to repair a spark plug issue. When the race started, it became clear that they were unable to race and was swamped by the Red Bull’s, Sainz and Bottas.
The German was unable to run anywhere near the front and was eventually was forced to retire. That was the realistic end of Vettel’s title hopes as Hamilton went on to take victory, meaning he could wrap the title up at the next race.
Verstappen picked up the challenge during the race to Hamilton after his great start passing teammate Ricciardo and the failing Ferrari. In the closing stages, his tyres begin to lose grip meaning he was not able to mount a sustained attack on the Mercedes.
It was another strong race for Ocon and Perez, the Frenchman had ran as high as third earlier in the race. However, that speed defect meant he was unable to fend off the Red Bulls and Raikkonen.
With Ferrari’s Asian meltdown and Hamilton’s four wins in five races, that meant he had a chance to wrap the title up as early as the next race in Texas.
Hamilton was again in the form in Austin, where he beat Vettel to pole by two tenths of a second. The Englishman had appeared all weekend to have the slight advantage over Vettel. He had topped all three practices and qualifying sessions. Bottas, who still had a very narrow chance of the title was third after losing time on his last lap.
Hamilton continued his brilliant weekend on Sunday, despite losing out Vettel at the start. The race turned into a tactical battle between the two title rivals, but Hamilton used the better strategy. Despite Ferrari trying to pressure the Mercedes, to no effect.
Hamilton again was in good form in the race as well, despite losing out to Vettel at the start he immediately was able to come back at his rival passing him into turn twelve. From where he hung on despite another tactical battle with the German, that put him on the brink of a fourth world title.
Verstappen had been a threat to Vettel as the Red Bull piled the pressure on the German’s teammate Raikkonen, if he got past he could have hounded the Ferrari. However, the Dutchman went wide exceeding track limits when he passed the German for third, the stewards decided he had exceeded track limits awarding him a five-second penalty dropping him to fourth.
Bottas’s fifth-place allowed Mercedes to wrap the constructors up, the Finn had been fighting with Verstappen before an engine failure caused the Dutchman to retire.
After Japan, it was announced Palmer was being replaced by Sainz, the Spaniard was delivering pulling an impressive move on Perez at turn nineteen. But, that put him into the path of Ocon, who accused his teammate of holding him up.
Things were not going as well for Hulkenberg, Alonso and Ricciardo who were all forced to retire with engine problems. Wehrlien was another retirement following contact with Magnussen, which earned him a five-second penalty.
However, Hamilton’s win meant he only required one fifth place in the next three races to become world champion.
Vettel knew he needed a miracle if he was to take his fifth world title in all three of the remaining races. He started off well-taking pole ahead of Verstappen. Mercedes knew that Mexico would be favourable to Ferrari, but knew fifth was enough to seal the title.
There were problems for Toro Rosso with the power unit, Hartley abandoned his Q2 run with a loss of power while Gasly failed to set a time at all in qualifying after an engine issue in final practice that also resulted in a fifteen place grid penalty.
At the start, there was another twist in the title fight, as both Hamilton and Vettel both made contact forcing them to stop immediately. Vettel had tagged the rear tyre of the Mercedes on the way down to turn three causing him to hit Hamilton, both of them then were forced into a pit stop.
The Drama for the title rivals allowed Verstappen to sail off into the distance and take victory. While Hamilton and Vettel knew now it would be a battle to make up ground, the Brit needed a fifth place and Vettel needed a podium at least to keep the slim title hopes alive.
However, Hamilton made better progress and was in the points before making that all-important move on Ocon to take fifth in the closing stages. He also had a great scrap with former foe Alonso over several laps, before making the move with three laps to go.
That sealed his place in history as the first British driver to win four world titles. But could he keep the momentum going to stamp his authority on 2017?