Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of taking his fourth world title is a step closer after taking victory in the Japanese Grand Prix to allow him to open a fifty nine point lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton took his second victory this week after building his lead over the German from the start after he began to drop back. It was another nightmare afternoon for Vettel, with Ferrari having to work on his car from the grid.
Sebastian Vettel retired from the race after four laps because of a problem with the engine, which Ferrari had detected early on.
On Lap one, you see Ricciardo going down the inside of Vettel in what looked like a very easy pass. Then as them come out of the final corner Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen pull out sweeping pass Vettel, then Bottas appears to have got a tow from the Red Bull.
His second retirement in three races and the second engine problem which caused a retirement within a week has seen his title hopes take a serious blow. Since the summer break, Ferrari has underperformed and three weeks ago we saw that Singapore race he should have won.
Vettel said “Of course it hurts, and we’re all disappointed. But now we need to get back, get some rest and then go flat out for the last four races and see what happens.”
“I don’t know, we still have a chance this year. Obviously, it depends what happens today and in the next races… obviously it’s not as much in our control as we’d like, but overall I think the team is on a good way.”
Before the race Ferrari say they found a spark plug failure when he was on his way to the grid and again worked on his car on the grid, trying to access the area they didn’t have time to fix the problem before the race.
Hamilton on brink of the title
Lewis Hamilton will go into the final four races as the favourite now the Mercedes looks as Austin will favour the team. Hamilton put in a good race fighting with Max Verstappen and he was helped by back markers, that helped him hold Verstappen off.
Hamilton says that Verstappen did a really good job, saying he was consistent and was too quick in Sepang. The closing stages were also key for Hamilton managing and holding up Verstappen to take the win.
Over the last few seasons at this stage, I feel Hamilton’s tactics do change slightly and he is going to focus now on the title. We know that Mercedes and Hamilton, will try and spin this as ‘Ferrari can still mount a late charge’ for this title.
How Hamilton wins the title in Austin
- Hamilton will win the title if he wins the race and Vettel is no higher than sixth
- Hamilton wins the title if he is second and Vettel is no higher than ninth
- Hamilton cannot win the title in Austin if he is third or lower
How Mercedes wins the title in Austin
- Mercedes just need a tenth place to seal the constructors in Austin
- Mercedes could not score any more points and still be champions
Blistering halts Verstappen’s charge
In the closing stages of the race, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was unable to put pressure on Hamilton. He was trying to close on the Mercedes, however, we now know that blistering on his tyres meant he was unable to close up during the closing part of the race.
Verstappen was around three seconds off the leaders during the second stint, despite trying the undercut on Hamilton. However it now appears there was more to it as team boss Christian Horner says that it was an instruction from the team as he was trying to manage a blister which had worsened in the stint.
Horner said “We were managing, pretty much from about lap 35/36, an appearing and a widening blister on the inside of the front-left tyre that was getting ever deeper and wider. So we asked Max to maintain a three-second gap as to not get into dirty air and damage the tyre further.
“But he was still able to easily sit there, and then as we got closer to the end of the race after the VSC, he said ‘can I have a go?’ and we said ‘as long as you’re sensible in the way that you approach it, fine’. And suddenly he was on Lewis’s gearbox.”
Reprimands for Alonso
Fernando Alonso has been awarded a reprimand for blocking and ignoring blue flags when Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were fighting for the led. The stewards felt that he interfered in the final lap contest between Hamilton and Verstappen, lowering the Mercedes driver’s lead down to just over one second.
The stewards found that Alonso, who was in a battle for 10th position with Felipe Massa, had not let the leaders through early enough.
“Alonso was shown a solid blue indicator light on his dash and waved blue flags between Turn 14 and Turn 15 on Lap 51. He also had received a flashing blue light informing him that race leader Lewis Hamilton was closing on him for over a lap before. Alonso let Hamilton pass during lap 52 at Turn 11.”
Alonso argued that he had allowed Hamilton space to pass him, but while they accepted that there are limited safe places to let a car past. But the stewards conclude that it did not impact the race win battle enough to warrant further punishment.
McLaren struggled during the race as we expected as we said all weekend the team has struggled with the power deficit this weekend. Stoffel Vandoorne lost out on the opening lap dropping down the field while Fernando Alonso recovered to eleventh meaning it was another home race without points for Honda.
Alonso said “e started 20th and we finished 11th, with a good recovery, with only one pit-stop, and starting on a used set of tyres. That was a pretty huge effort from everyone on the team.
““It was an unlucky situation with Felipe towards the end of the race. He was struggling a lot with his tyres when the Virtual Safety Car came out. That meant he could breathe a little bit during those laps. Then, in the last two laps, the leaders of the race caught up with us, and Felipe again missed out on an attack, and ultimately took the point for 10th place.”
Honda Yusuke Hasegawa said “This is our home grand prix, so we obviously have very strong feelings for this race. I want to say a huge thank-you to all of the fans that turned out to support us and also to the team who worked tirelessly throughout the weekend.
“It is a shame they weren’t rewarded with any points, but we still have four races left this season and we’ll continue to battle to the end.”
Lewis Hamilton race winner “What a weekend! Huge thanks to the fans out here and my hard working team who have been so meticulous! ?? @MercedesAMGF1 #F1 ? @suttonimages”
Max Verstappen, who was second “P2, super! ? I had a great start and very promising pace. I gave it my all and am really happy finishing 2nd ? #keeppushing #JapaneseGP ??”
Valtteri Bottas, who was fourth “4th today ? good speed all through with fastest lap of the race, but shame there was no more to get out of today. #JapaneseGP #F1 #VB77”
Esteban Ocon, who finished sixth, “After a great start and P3 for quite a few laps, P6 was the best possible today! Very happy, let’s keep it going team?? #EO31 #JapaneseGP”
Kevin Magnussen, who was eighth “Great racing today! So happy to finish P8 and to have both cars in the points ? Team did a fantastic job all weekend ? #KM20 #JapaneseGP”
- JAPANESE GP – Ferrari implosion continues, putting Hamilton on the brink of a fourth title after another win
- Notebook – Japanese Qualifying
- Japanese GP – Qualifying Result
- JAPANESE GP – Hamilton takes a maiden pole at Sukuza going three tenths faster than Vettel, breaking the lap record
- Notebook – Japanese Practice
- JAPANESE GP – Hamilton tops the times in rain affected second practice
- JAPANESE GP – Vettel edges out Hamilton in first practice by two tenths
- Preview – Japanese Grand Prix