Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has won his fifth Japanese Grand Prix, his fourth at Suzuka, the 30th to be held at the classic track - crushing the hopes of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, whose title ambitions are in tatters after he finished down in sixth, 67-points now the difference with four races remaining, his weekend characterised by mistakes under pressure.
Hamilton, who has now won six of the last seven events, got a great start from pole, and comfortably led every lap of the race - ahead of his Silver Arrows teammate, who finished second despite coming under heavy pressure from Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in the closing stages of the race. The pair completing the podium.
“I loved it,” Hamilton said. “Have to be very happy, I think. Incredibly strong for this team. It’s a great one-two, a true showing of the real strength in depth that we have as a team. This track is the best track in the world.”
Hamilton can now win a fifth world championship, should he win at the next race in Austin and Vettel not finish second. Vettel, who finished sixth behind Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Kimi Raikkonen, started eighth after running wide at Spoon corner during his final Q3 lap in qualifying, and was up to fourth in the race before making an ambitious move on Verstappen on Lap 8 that saw the pair make contact - and Vettel spin off, rejoining 19th.
There’s now a two-week break before heading to the United States of America and the next race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, on October 21, which is run back-to-back with Mexico.
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Here’s how the FORMULA 1 2018 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has one hand on a fifth Formula 1 World Championship, 50 points ahead of title rival Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with just five races to go - and the Brit starting from pole for the 80th time, Vettel down in eighth after he ran wide at Spoon during qualifying. The rain precluding him from getting another lap. Lots of tension at this, the 30th Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
Mercedes has locked out the front row for the sixth time this season, its second straight, with Valtteri Bottas now certain of playing rear gunner for Hamilton. Behind the front row, it’s Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen - who was very happy with his lap, the team getting him out on slicks rather than the intermediates Ferrari opted for. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen starts from fourth, and he’ll want to make a lightning start to slow the pack for Vettel to make his way through.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean starts fifth, his equal-best grid slot all year - and best since Belgium. The Honda-powered Toro Rosso cars’s also shone in front of their home crowd, Brendon Hartley snagging his best result with sixth and teammate Pierre Gasly immediately behind him. Vettel starts eighth, after Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon was penalised three places for failing to slow sufficiently under red flags in qualifying.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo starts down in 15th after a throttle actuator failed in Q2. It was a tough moment for the Australian, his bad luck continuing - with his last trip to the podium being his Monaco win (in May). Ricciardo screamed into his helmet as he walked down the pit lane, in a stunning display of pure emotion. Behind him, his 2019 teammate Nico Hulkenberg, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, the two McLarens (Alonso outqualifying Vandoorne for the 17th time this year, 22-straight times) and Marcus Ericsson, who crashed out of Q1, going wide at Dunlop.
There’s perfect weather at Suzuka, blue skies and ambient temperature of 26 degrees. No threat of rain, as per qualifying. We’re expecting a one-stop race, as we had in Russia - those on the red supersofts like Ferrari expected to pit around lap 14, given the hot temps, and then onto the softs or the mediums. The Mercedes, both on the softs, will want to keep those on the fast-starting supersofts behind with Turn 1 the big threat. If either Verstappen or Raikkonen can get between the two Silver Arrows, the race will come alive. Lots to play for right from lights out.
Both Mercedes, Grosjean (P5), and Leclerc (P10) on the softs, with the remainder of the top-10 on the supersofts. Ocon in P11 is the only one beyond top-10 on the supersofts, with the rest on the softs - except for Hulkenberg (P16) on the mediums. A key moment for Verstappen and Raikkonen, both tasked with splitting the Silver Arrows - or even to snatch the lead.
Polesitter Hamilton gets a good start, crosses to cover Bottas and Verstappen remains third. Vettel passes Gasly, and Hartley to get yp to P6. Ricciardo up to P14. Vettel passes Grosjean into Spoon for P5. So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Vettel.
Verstappen locks up into final chicane and goes off track, pushes Raikkonen wide as he returns to the track. Vettel all over Verstappen now. Magnussen has rear left puncture, after contact with Leclerc on pit straight.
Hamilton leads, sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.467. He’s 2.3 seconds ahead of Bottas. Ricciardo is up to P11. Vettel in P4 is 1.4 seconds behind Verstappen. Ricciardo passes Hartley for P10 into Spoon. Magnussen’s car slow, and spitting rubber.
Safety car deployed to pick up the debris on track from Magnussen’s Haas. Verstappen and Raikkonen incident under investigation. So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Gasly, Perez, Ocon, Ricciardo, Hartley, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Vandoorne, Magnussen.
Safety car still out as Leclerc pits for new front wing, he’s also onto the mediums. Sirotkin pits as well. Verstappen given 5-second time penalty for going off track and not returning safely, so Vettel now has P3 on balance - all things being equal.
We’re still under the safety car at Suzuka as debris is cleared off the track. Replay of team radio, Verstappen complaining about his 5-second time penalty. Lapped cars can now overtake (Magnussen).
The safety car is still out, and will come in at the end of this lap. This is Vettel’s chance. Incident between Alonso and Stroll, leaving track and gaining an advantage - being investigated by the race stewards. Gasly complaining of fire.
Hamilton leads Bottas, Verstappen stays ahead of Vettel, then it’s Raikkonen. Ricciardo in P10 is putting pressure on the Force Indias ahead. Vettel all over the back of Verstappen, and the pair collide at Spoon - this is incredible! Vettel spun around and rejoins in P19. Verstappen continues in P3.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.437. Ricciardo passes Ocon for P8 into Turn 1. Replays show over-ambitious move by Vettel on the Red Bull of Verstappen, who gave him room. Magnussen retires. Ricciardo in P8 behind Perez, 0.5 sec the gap.
Another fastest lap by Hamilton, 1:34.346. Replays show Ericsson hit into the back of Leclerc into final chicane before safety car came in. Vettel down in P18, who is past Vandoorne. Hamilton leads Bottas by 2.4 seconds. DRS enabled.
Hamilton leads Bottas, then Verstappen and Raikkonen - the gap 2.1 seconds, so penalty will see the Finn ahead. Ricciardo trying to get past Perez down the back straight, and gets him for P7 into the final chicane. Gasly ahead.
Vettel into P17, passes Ericsson into Turn 1. Ricciardo just 0.5 sec behind Red Bull stablemate Gasly.
Hamilton leads Bottas comfortably by 2.1 seconds, Verstappen 3.3 sec behind the Finn in P3. Ricciardo passes Gasly for P6 into Turn 1. Stroll in P15 chasing Leclerc, 0.6 sec the gap there. Hamilton says he’s getting hesitations from his power unit at different parts of the circuit. Ricciardo passes Grosjean into the final chicane for P5, he’s on a charge.
Vettel passes Stroll for P15 into the final chicane. Ericsson passes Sirotkin for P17 into Turn 1. Hamilton leads Bottas by 2.6 seconds, Verstappen 5.3 seconds adrift of the leader in P3. Ricciardo has done a personal best lap, 0.5 sec faster than Hamilton on that last lap.
Raikkonen in P4 is struggling on his supersofts tyres, we’re inside the pit window for the red marked rubber. Vettel passes Leclerc at Spoon for P14, his future teammate doing the right thing.
Vettel sporting damage to side of his car from Verstappen contact, including bargeboards. Hamilton’s engine OK at the moment, and he is 3.2 seconds ahead of Bottas in P1.
Vettel chasing down Hulkenberg and he passes him into the final chicane for P13. Ferrari mechanics preparing tyres in the garage, Raikkonen locking up into the chicane.
Raikkonen pits from P4, he’s onto the mediums - and exits into P10 behind Sainz. Vettel in P13 behind Alonso, will he be able to get past the Spaniard so easily?
Hamilton leads Bottas by 4.1 seconds. Alonso defending hard against Vettel into the final chicane, but the German gets past for P12 into Turn 1. Raikkonen has gotten past Sainz and is into P9. Vettel has a train of cars ahead: Ocon, Raikkonen, Sainz, Hartley.
Raikkonen passes Ocon into Turn 1 for P8. Ricciardo in P4 is 8.1 seconds behind his teammate. None of the top-seven has stopped as yet.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.336 - ahead of his expected pit stop before Lap 30. He’s 4.3 seconds ahead of Bottas. Verstappen in P3 is 4.7 seconds behind the Finn. Raikkonen passes Perez for P7 into Turn 1. Top 5 is Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Grosjean.
Verstappen pits for the softs and takes penalty, exits P5, as Raikkonen battles Gasly for P6 - and gets past into Turn 1. Alonso has picked up a 5-second time penalty for gaining advantage over Stroll. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.320.
Hamilton betters Bottas’ best, with a 1:34.183. He’s 5-seconds up on his teammate. Verstappen passes Grosjean for P4 down the back straight. Ricciardo is now P3, 11.8 seconds behind Bottas. Raikkonen all over Grosjean now, 0.5 sec the gap.
No further action between Verstappen and Vettel for racing incident. Raikkonen passes Grosjean for P5 into Spoon. Bottas and Ricciardo pit, both going onto the mediums. Ricciardo has jumped Raikkonen and is back in P4. So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Gasly, Perez, Ocon and Sainz for the top-10.
Hamilton pits with blistering left rear, he’s onto the mediums - and it’s a 2.3 second stop. He retains the lead ahead of Bottas. So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen after the stops. Ricciardo in P4 is 1.4 seconds behind his Dutch teammate.
Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:33.519 - he’s 4.5 seconds behind Hamilton, and 10.8 ahead of Verstappen. Leclerc in P14 is chasing down Hulkenberg, less than a second between them. Hamilton worried about gearbox, upshifts feel harsh.
Ocon, Vettel and Alonso pit. Vettel onto the softs, 2.3 second stop - so good stop. The German exits in P16.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.3 seconds. Vettel in P16 chasing down Sirotkin.
Vettel goes wheel to wheel with Sirotkin out of the hairpin, but gets him for P15 into Spoon. Leclerc forces Hulkenberg wide as the pair squabble into the final chicane, the Monegasque up the inside and into P9.
Vettel passes Ericsson for P13 into the hairpin. Grosjean pits as does Gasly. Vettel passes Hulkenberg for P12 in the lead into the final chicane. Perez passes Leclerc, but almost passes Grosjean as well who was exiting the pit.
Vettel is in P11, chasing Ocon. He attempts a move into 130R, but gets past into final chicane. Hulkenberg pits.
Vettel passes Leclerc for P9 into Turn 1. Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.4 seconds, Verstappen 8-seconds adrift in P3. Ocon passes Leclerc for P10 into Spoon. Gasly down in P13, care of a slow pit stop.
Vettel in P9 is chasing down Perez now, and he’s past for P8 into Spoon. Grosjean is up ahead. Sainz pits from P6. Gasly passes Ericsson for P11 into Turn 1.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.8 seconds. Vettel is up to P7, as he sets the fastest lap - a 1:33.243. He’s chasing Grojean, 0.6 seconds the gap there.
Vettel passes Grosjean for P6 into Spoon. He’s 40-seconds behind his teammate Raikkonen, so will have to do some chasing. Sirotkin and Sainz seen bumping wheels, Sainz getting past for P13 into Turn 1, just where Gasly got past Leclerc for P10.
Sainz chasing down Leclerc for P11, and he gets past - the Monegasque running out of rubber. Hamilton leads Bottas by 6-seconds, as Leclerc pits.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.6 seconds. Verstappen in P3, 3.7 seconds behind the Finn - and having served his penalty.
Alonso passes Stroll for P15 aggressively into Turn 1. Leaders are going through traffic. Alonso in P15 is chasing down Sirotkin.
Alonso passes Sirotkin for P14 into Turn 1. Verstappen is putting the pressure on Bottas, 2-seconds the gap - and the Dutchman can see the place. Hulkenberg retires from the race.
Ricciardo says he’s getting a big knock into turn 3 in sixth gear, the Australian in Turn 4. Bottas laps Vandoorne and Stroll, with Verstappen scything through - 1.7 seconds now the gap. Sirotkin has made second stop, Leclerc kicking up a lot of dust at Degner 2 - and is going very slowly. He’s pulling over, says something is broken. Could be a loose wheel.
Only the top-13 are on the lead lap. Virtual Safety Car has been deployed to recover Leclerc’s car.
We’re still under the VSC. Mercedes is out in the pit lane. But the track is clear and VSC has been stood down, mechanics return to the garage. Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.4 seconds, Verstappen 0.9 seconds behind the Silver Arrows.
Ricciardo sets the fastest lap, a 1:33.236. Replays show Perez passes Grosjean for P7 into the final chicane. Bottas locks up into the chicane, bringing Verstappen even closer - 0.8 sec the gap.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 6.1 seconds, the Finn gaining ground on Verstappen - 1.4 seconds the gap. Alonso complaining about Bottas lapping him, losing time.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:32.959 - he’s 7.1 seconds ahead of Bottas now. Verstappen now 0.6 seconds behind Bottas, the race is on for P2.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 9.7 seconds, Bottas in P2 is under fire from Verstappen. Ricciardo says left front has taken a pretty big hit after the safety car, grip-wise.
Raikkonen in P5 is 39 seconds ahead of Vettel, but will he slow right down so the pair can swap places? Ocon in P9 is chasing down Grosjean.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 11.3 seconds, this is utter domination by the Brit. Bottas went off track at the final chicane and has lost time to Verstappen, 0.9 sec the gap now.
Hamilton locked up into Turn 11. But continues to be 10.8 seconds ahead of Bottas. Verstappen is now 1.9 seconds ahead of Bottas.
Verstappen complaining about Renault engine. Sainz is fighting Gasly for P10 and the final point. It’s for big honours, given this is Honda’s home race.
Sainz passes Gasly for P10 into Turn 1. Hamilton leads Bottas by 10.8 seconds.
Hamilton sets the fastest lap, a 1:32.785. He’s 12.5 seconds ahead of his teammate. Verstappen is within DRS zone of Bottas at the moment.
Lap 53 - FINAL LAP:
Verstappen still charging hard on Bottas, but can’t get past - locking up into the hairpin. Vettel gets the fastest lap, a 1:32.318. Hamilton wins the 30th Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
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