REPORT: Hamilton widens lead as Vettel retires in Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton has had his quest for a fourth Formula One World Championship boosted with a win at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. On the other hand, his rival Sebastian Vettel once again suffered reliability issues which saw him retire the race after five laps. Hamilton now has a healthy lead of 59 points gap over the German with four races to go.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen gave Hamilton a late challenge but settled for second with teammate Daniel Ricciardo fending off Valtteri Bottas for third place. Kimi Raikkonen fought back from P10 start to finish fifth after his gearbox penalty, the Finn was followed by the two Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Double points also for  Haas with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean in eight and ninth respectively. Felipe Massa grabbed the last point at stake for Williams just ahead of Fernando Alonso in the McLaren.

Carlos Sainz’s last race for Toro Rosso before a switch to Renault did not end with flourish as the Spaniard had a runoff in the opening lap and could not continue. At the start also, Vettel reported to his engineer on the radio that his SF70H is losing power. It was his spark plug which failed and not long did the frontrow starter lose places to Verstappen, Ocon, Ricciardo, Bottas and Perez . Eventually on lap five he was told to retire the car.

Verstappen tried the undercut on Hamilton by pitting on lap 21. The Dutchman gained 2-seconds in his  pitlane as he changed from the red-stripe supersoft onto the softs tyres. Mercedes reacted quickly by  bringing in the race leader in the next lap for a switch onto the softs as well.

Hamilton was now behind his teammate Bottas who was running a different strategy. The Briton was stuck in the turbulent air coming from the sister car as Verstappen aso closed in from behind. On lap 29, the Finn let Hamilton pass for the lead and held up Verstappen for a while before making his stop for new tyres.

Williams’ Lance Stroll went wide and stopped his car on lap 48 at the S-corners prompting the Virtual Safety Car. Hamilton struggled with tyre vibrations after the restart with Verstappen all over his his mirrors. It was a nervy moment as it took a bit of time for Hamilton to clear backmarker Massa. Verstappen came within DRS range but with two laps to go but could not make it stick like he did in Sepang last week.

Jolyon Palmer in his last race for Renault finished 12th followed by Pierre Gasly, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein in the Sauber. Marcus Ericsson crashed out of the race at Degner 2 on lap 8 and Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire  with to his DRS rear wing flap failing to close.

Mercedes extend their lead in the constructors championship with 540 points against Ferrari’s 395. Red Bull stay third with 303 followed by Force India on 147 and Williams 66.


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