Lewsis Hamilton has won the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix at Suzuka. In a race that he lead from pole to finish, the Mercedes driver will use this win as the catalyst to sew up the 2018 title. His nearest rival, Ferraris Sebastian Vettel, managed just sixth after an early tangle with ultimate third place getter Max Verstappen put his red machine through a spin cycle.
Verstappen would also tangle with the other Prancing Horse of Kimi Raikkonen and perhaps may have shouldered Hamilton’s team mate Vaterri Bottas for second had it not been for those. Bottas played the perfect foil for Hamilton throughout the Suzuka race.
Although Mercedes made it look easy there was plenty to watch from the start behind the pair. Verstappen had been handed a five second penalty in lap 1 for a misjudged braking move and in rejoining the track hit Raikonnen. On the same lap Lance Stroll had been judged to have interfered with Fernando Alonso’s clear track progress whilst Alonso was later deemed to then have taken advantage of Strolls error unfairly. Five seconds apiece for both here.
Charles Leclerc was penalized five seconds for a front to rear collision with Kevin Magnussen. The Haas driver junked to cover his line with Leclerc in the Sauber puncturing Magnussen’s left rear and destroying his nose cone. Magnussen’s tire subsequently exploded and brought out a safety car.
Perhaps the drive of the day came from Red Bull’s outgoing driver, Daniel Ricciardo. Starting from the rear of the field, his consistent lunges in the Suzuka chicane saw him into fifth by lap 14. That became fourth and his final position at race end, thanks to the pit stops holding up Raikonnen. Ricciardo would finish five seconds adrift of Verstappen and nearly thirty two ahead of the Finn.
Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, and Esteban Icon would be the only other drivers in the top ten to finish on the lead lap.
Hamilton now sits 67 points ahead of Vettel in the driver’s championship and now needs just eight points in the next race to cement the title. The win also gives him a place in F1 history by becoming just the second driver, behind Michael Schumacher, to win fifty F1 races for one team. With Botaas finishing second again it makes it the 44th time Mercedes have finished in first and second.
The F1 series heads to the U.S. for the next race on October 22.