Lewis Hamilton took a giant step towards solidifying his fourth world championship after Sebastian Vettel suffered his second retirement in two races.
Like so many world championships in the past, it seems as if Suzuka has once again decided another world title.
Vettel and Ferrari arrived in Japan with it all to do in order to stand any hope of closing the 28 point gap that Hamilton had extended his lead to after the disasters of the Singapore Grand Prix. But, in typically cruel F1 fashion, Ferrari was once again left with its head in its hands.
After working frantically on the car on the grid, the Ferrari mechanics believed they had fixed the spark plug issue that Sebastian had reported on his out lap. Immediately, the extent of Vettel’s problem became apparent as he plummeted from 2nd to 6th on the opening lap. The dramatic loss in power meant that Ferrari was left with no choice but to retire the car after only completing 6 laps.
Vettel told Sky: “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.”
Hamilton now leads the German by 59 points with only four races remaining and could very well claim his fourth world title at the next race – the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas – if he wins and Vettel finishes lower than fifth.
No easy win for Hamilton
Despite Vettel’s retirement early on, it was wasn’t all plain sailing for the three time World Champion. 20-year old Max Verstappen got off to one of his lightening quick starts, passing his teammate Daniel Ricciardo into the first corner and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel at the hairpin to move up to second on the opening lap.
But Lewis struggled to get away, with the gap between the two drivers rarely opening up to more than three seconds. In the closing laps, Hamilton began to complain of vibrations from his engine and a lack of grip following the Virtual Safety Car period. This allowed Max to close the gap to two seconds. But despite Fernando Alonso ignoring blue flags, Lewis Hamilton brought his Mercedes home to claim his first ever Japanese Grand prix victory.
The Honey badger claims yet another podium
Daniel Ricciardo made up the final podium spot and solidified back-to-back double podium’s for Red Bull. Despite losing a place to the Force India’s Esteban Ocon on the first lap, Ricciardo fought his way back to the final podium position.
Ferrari’s only positive is that Kimi Raikkonen managed to make his was up to 5th after starting 11th with a gearbox penalty.
Crucially, Force India finished ahead of Haas with Perez and Ocon bringing their cars home placed sixth and seventh respectively as Grosjean and Magnussen battled to make it inside the top ten.
It was a day to forget for William’s Lance Stroll as his car suffered a front right puncture which dramatically forced him off the track and out of the race. As f0r his teammate Felipe Massa, he managed to hold off the McLaren of Fernando Alonso to take tenth place.
Briton Jolyon Palmer finished twelfth in his final Grand Prix for Renault. Carlos Sianz who did not make it to the chequered flag is set to replace him in Austin.
Everything’s bigger in Texas
Round 17 sees the circus hit the States in a weekend in which Ferrari will hope for bigger and better results if they are to stand any chance in stopping Lewis Hamilton from claiming his fourth World Title. Vettel only managed to finish fourth in Austin last year with Lewis winning the race. Ferrari must desperately target a win.
With the possibility of Lewis claiming his fourth world title with three races left in the season, it presents F1’s new owners with a headache. Liberty Media’s whole intention in taking over Formula 1 was to make the sport more appealing to more people but how can they keep this season attractive to new fans if the title is claimed before the final race in Abu Dhabi?