Hamilton wins, Ricciardo third at Japan F1

Can Vettel overhaul Hamilton? Image Octane

He did that by quickly opening up a 3-second lead on Verstappen in second place, despite two safety cars in the first 10 laps.

Verstappen then dropped time clearing both drivers and ended up 1.2s adrift at the chequered flag.

Racing was back on and Hamilton's lead over Verstappen had increased to 2.7s on lap 50/53. While the VSc Period last from Lap 48-50, when the Canadian spun, he nearly collected Ricciardo along with him, who was approaching the same corner carrying unprecedented speed. Vettel finished fourth in Malaysia, but Hamilton extended his lead anyway with a second-place finish.

Vettel's early retirement put a serious dent in his fading hopes of coming back to win the championship.

Vettel admitted that winning the championship would now be hard.

"The track was fantastic and the team did a sensational job, said Hamilton".

Lewis Hamilton showed the young pretender who was boss on Sunday by fending off Max Verstappen in the closing laps of the Japanese Grand Prix.

"But whatever they say, we'll accept it".

"Today the Red Bulls seemed to be rapid in race-trim. He caught right up and it was very, very close". "They've done a phenomenal job". "They made a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017, their vehicle is super fast - it just lacks reliability and that is the next step".

"So a big thank you to everyone back at the factory you do an incredible job and I hope I'm making you proud". I'm not really particularly taking insane risks in order to be in the position I'm in.

"We're just going to try and continue to do what we're doing".

Hamilton has a priority of 59 points in the standings of the drivers in front of Sebastian Vettel, forced to withdraw in the third round, his Ferrari losing power.

Vettel, though now only having a theoretical chance for the yearly title, is still hopeful.

"For the first half of the race it was very, very well under control", said Hamilton. "Of course it hurts and we're all disappointed".

"I think we are improving race by race, we've got a lot further than people have thought so there's also some positives", he added. "There's also some positives but for sure now we don't look at positives because it is not a day to look at positives".

But speaking after the race, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said the telemetry indicated there was no problem.

He chose to close up on Hamilton in the last two or three laps, but failed to overpass the Briton. I was excited actually to have a good race with Sebastian here, as I was in the last race, but he's obviously been incredibly unfortunate.

"I tried everything on the last run, I knew I had to take a bit more risk", he continued. Similarly Valtteri Bottas just nearly took down Ricciardo for a podium finish, but the Mercedes driver had to settle for fourth ahead of the Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. The duo were split by just 0.9secs at the end.

"This is my first podium here. I have it and it feels great", Ricciardo noted.

"It's a circuit I've always enjoyed, and with this year's auto it's a lot of fun".

A start-line crash in Singapore has been followed by engine problems at consecutive races in Malaysia and Japan.

Ferrari's scant consolation was fifth place for Kimi Raikkonen, who started 11th after a gearbox penalty, as Ocon and team-mate Sergio Perez took sixth and seventh ahead of Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. Verstappen smelt blood and when in search of a second consecutive win, but his charge was hampered as the leaders came to lap Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and he got stuck in traffic.

Of the rest, Renault's Jolyon Palmer was 12th in his final race with the team following the announcement on Saturday that he will be replaced by Sainz for the remainder of the season.

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