Formula One: Hamilton on brink of fifth title after pole to flag victory in Japan | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.10.2018
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Formula One: Hamilton on brink of fifth title after pole to flag victory in Japan

Lewis Hamilton eased to another victory, this time in Japan, to move to within touching distance of a fifth Formula One title. The Mercedes driver led from start to finish as Sebastian Vettel endured a turbulent race.

Mercedes pulled off their second consecutive one-two finish as Lewis Hamilton breezed to victory in Japan, leaving him on the brink of another Formula One title.

Hamilton is now 67 points clear of Vettel with four races to go, and the 33-year-old Briton could secure the title at the next meeting at the US Grand Prix in two weeks' time, if he wins in Austin, Texas, and Vettel finishes lower than second.

Hamilton capped a perfect weekend for Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas fending off the sustained challenge of Max Verstappen to finish second at Suzuka. But Sebastian Vettel, whose title challenge is rapidly ebbing away, endured another frustrating weekend.

Starting in eighth, the German had made a strong start to force his way up to fourth. But an over exuberant Vettel clashed with Verstappen on lap nine and the Ferrari driver, despite fighting his way back to sixth, was dealth a fatal blow in his hopes of making a late fightback in the title race. 

Hamilton, however, was reveling in his second consecutive victory at Suzuka, and one that edges him closer to what should be a fifth F1 crown, and his fourth with Mercedes.

"I loved it," said an ecstatic Hamilton. "The whole weekend's been incredibly strong from the team. A great one-two shows the team's strength in depth.

"This is the best track in the world. I don't know why they don't make tracks like this any more. Every second was great fun.

"I wasn't able to look after the tyres the way I wanted, so I had to manage them. It's a great feeling. These guys you see at the track and the guys at the factory work so hard to create this beast.

He added: "Each week you have a positive weekend and go to another grand prix and don't know how you're going to perform. But Austin's a good track for us and I can't wait to unleash this beast there."

As it happened:


52/53 Hamilton starts his final lap and, barring a miracle, will win in Japan.

50/53 Verstappen has got the gap to Bottas below two seconds again, but with three laps left the Mercedes one-two now looks pretty safe.

48/53 Mercedes lets Hamilton know there are five laps left and to "be careful" lapping Gasly and Sainz ahead as "they are fighting for points".

47/53 A real ding-dong battle between Bottas and Verstappen. Bottas has somehow dug out a fastest first sector of the race, moving 1.6 seconds clear of Verstappen in the process. Bottas being made to work for his second place by the young Dutchman.

46/53 Verstappen is now just half a second behind Bottas, who seems to be in real tyre trouble. Bottas has drifted 9 seconds off Hamilton, who is just cruising to victory.

44/53 Verstappen breifly had Bottas in range, but the Red Bull has now fallen 1.4 seconds behind as the Mercedes fends him off.

42/53 Hamilton is serenely out in front on his own — he hasn't even been challenged today.

40/53  Verstappen is now just one 1.6 seconds behind Bottas as a battle for second develops.

37/53 "Have you gone for a break, Bono? Because I haven't had an update in a while," asks Hamilton of his engineer. "I'm back now, Lewis," replies Pete Bonnington. I guess there's not much to talk about when you're so dominant.

35/53 Vettel sets a new fastest lap of the race but he's sixth and 40 seconds off the lead. At least he's in the points.

33/53 Vettel still working his way through the field, but sixth is surely the best he can hope for today.

30/53 There's a big tussle for 11th between Ocon, Hulkenberg, Vettle and Ericcson.

28/53 Hamilton is still complaining of minor problems and odd feelings in his car, but that hasn't stopped him from leading by 4.6 seconds.

27/53 It’s Hamilton in first, Bottas second, Verstappen third and Ricciardo fourth. Verstappen and Ricciardo are both still on soft tyres.

25/53 Ricciardo pits and rejoins ahead of Raikkonen, who is now behind both Red Bulls.

24/53 "Pace is looking good on this tyre," Red Bull tells Ricciardo, who is on softs.

22/53 Ricciardo is up to fourth and closing in his teammate Verstappen, who is hanging on to third.

21/53 Hamilton's lead over Bottas is over four seconds now.

18/53 The pit stops have begun and it's a a swift one for Raikkonen, who has emerged into 10th place and gets caught in traffic. Elsewhere, Vettel passes Alonso and is now 12th — the German having to fight his way back twice in this race.

17/53 The track is dry, which was not the case in practise. This is causing some questions about which tyres to use among all the teams.

15/53 Ricciardo takes fifth from Grosjean. That's 15th to fifth in less than 15 laps for the Red Bull.

13/53 Daniel Ricciardo breezes past Pierre Gasly into sixth.

11/53 Vettel is having to climb his way back through the field after that spin a couple of laps ago. He's currently 16th. A tough break for him after that impressive start.

10/53 While all the chaos is unfolding behind him, Hamilton sets a new fastest lap at the front... His lap over Bottas is now 2.5 seconds.

9/53 Raikkonen also has a run at Verstappen for third, but there's no space for him to get through at the chicane.

8/53 Vettel spins! Vettel has a go at Verstappen for third, they touch and Vettel spins!

6/53 Verstappen hasn't taken well to that incident which resulted in a penalty for the Red Bull driver. "What the ****... Honestly... I tried to do the best I could. He tried to go around the outside of me, he could have just waited."

5/53 Five second time penalty for Verstappen for leaving the track and not returning safely.

4/53  Kevin Magnussen has lost a tyre and there is now debris all over the track. The safety car has been deployed, and this could take a little while to clear up.

3/53 Max Verstappen tries to force Kimi Raikkonen off the track, but instead ends up in the long grass himself. Vettel, meanwhile, is fourth. Great driving from the German early on.

2/53 Vettel forces his way past Grosjean into fifth, and the German is doing well after starting down in eighth.

Lap 1/53 GO GO GO! We're underway and everyone seems to be safely through the first few corners!

07:05 The warm-up lap is getting underway now. That means we're just a couple of minutes away from lights out....

07:00 The teams are making the finishing touches to their cars as we prepare to get underway in Japan.