Hamilton cruises to win at Japanese GP, closes in on title
SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, claiming his fourth straight Formula One win and moving a step closer to a fifth world championship.
Starting from pole, the Mercedes driver was never seriously challenged and crossed the finish line 12.919 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, 14.295 seconds back.
“The whole weekend has been incredibly strong for the team,” Hamilton said. “It’s a great 1-2 for Mercedes and shows you the strength and depth of our team.”
Hamilton has won six of the last seven races and now leads Sebastian Vettel by 67 points with four races left. He only needs to outscore Vettel by eight points at the next race in the United States to clinch a fifth world championship.
“We’ve gone from strength to strength as a team,” Hamilton said. “And Austin is usually a good track for us so I can’t wait to unleash this beast there.”
Vettel started eighth and quickly moved up to fourth place, overtaking both Toro Rosso cars that started ahead of him.
But the Ferrari driver attempted to pass Max Verstappen on the ninth lap and the two cars collided with the Ferrari spinning off into the runoff. The move dropped Vettel back to 18th place.
“I’m not the one who makes the rules,” Verstappen said. “It was a similar situation to what happened in China with him. He could have been more careful.”
Vettel worked his way back up to sixth but couldn’t move higher than that.
Verstappen was given a five second penalty for an incident with Raikkonen where he clashed with the Ferrari as he rejoined after running off at the chicane.
“Kimi chose the wrong line in the chicane, he could have also just waited for me to come back on the track,” Verstappen said. “We touched a little bit but I really think it’s ridiculous those five seconds.”