Lewis Hamilton surprised by Ferrari's drop in performance

Lewis Hamilton wins Japanese GP & closes on fifth world title

Hamilton won the downhill gallop to the opening bend, with Bottas slotting in behind, and Verstappen holding off Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari.Lewis Hamilton has one hand, three fingers and a thumb on the world championship after romping to victory in Japan as his rival Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly sixth following a calamitous collision.

Hamilton led from pole to flag, crossing the line 12.9 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas in a second successive Mercedes one-two.

A period of Mercedes dominance in 2015 and 2016 saw Vettel fall behind in the Championship race, failing to win a single Grand Prix in 2016 and raising serious questions over his ability to perform the way he could at Red Bull. The Australian demonstrated to his replacement at Red Bull exactly how one moves smoothly round the field.

"I have seen that he has said he wishes he had Michael Schumacher available to ask for advice, and I can understand why".

The German put the blame firmly at the feet of Verstappen after the race, although the Dutchman was naturally quick to defend himself.

Despite the mistakes and a heavy points loss in both championships, Vettel said that seeing the team work was "inspirational" and claims the team doesn't have much to lose now with four races to go. Now it is a matter of just when Hamilton closes it out and equals Juan Manuel Fangio's five F1 titles.

Verstappen went on to finish third regardless, and when told by team principal Christian Horner after the race that he would not be "too popular with Ferrari and the Italians", he jovially replied: "That's not my problem, they were too aggressive". But Vettel's departure in 2015 seemed somewhat odd when you consider that Red Bull always possessed the knack of striking back despite having lean periods. But I think we have gone from strength to strength this year as a team, so I really hope that we can [win].

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Indeed, the move smelt of desperation, and it marked Vettel's second mistake of the weekend, after he ran off track in qualifying, and his seventh of an error-prone campaign.

Verstappen was already carrying a five-second penalty for earlier running wide and forcing Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen off the track and would have dropped behind Vettel anyway at the pitstops.

Update: Stewards have decided that there will be no penalty awarded to either drivers for the collision.

From what could only be labelled as a bad situation going worse, Sebastian Vettel collided with Max Verstappen while trying to overtake him for third position on lap 8th.

The second Force India of Esteban Ocon came in ninth with Renault's Carlos Sainz Jr 10th. "If you want to talk about a race incident, I accept this, but we were not able to exploit our potential".

"I got through the whole field without any trouble", added the former world champion.

Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene said the podium had been within Ferrari's grasp.

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