Hamilton Wins in Japan; Increases Points Lead
SUZUKA, Japan-R.I.S.- Having to take advantage of one safety car, two virtual safety cars, a retirement from rival Sebastian Vettel, and a last-minute challenge from runner up Max Verstappen, did not deter Lewis Hamilton from edging ever so closer to his fourth world championship, as the Briton won the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday at the Suzuka International Circuit by 1.2 seconds over the Dutchman. Red Bull made it a double podium by having Daniel Ricciardo finish in third.
"The start was okay, although the initial getaway was not spectacularly good, I had a bit of wheel spin. Said Hamilton afterwards to the press. “But from then on I had a good start and it was pretty much under control from there. I was trying to manage the pace and the tires; it was a long way to go, it was the hottest the track had been all weekend, so that was really crucial. With the VSC (Virtual Safety Car) towards the end, I lost a lot of temperatures in the tires and waking them up was not so easy.”
Hamilton led the race right from the start, until the first pit stops came into effect. But while Hamilton was comfortably in first, his rival Vettel, began to lose power on lap two, coming into the garage to fix the problem. But it was too late, as the German had to retire from the race with a spark plug issue. This gave both Red Bulls the opportunity to close in on race leader Hamilton without any Ferrari opposition, since Kimi Raikkonen had moved back earlier in the race, following him going off the circuit at Spoon Corner trying to pass Nico Hulkenberg. Hamilton took advantage of an earlier safety car period when Carlos Sainz went off on the first turn, and two virtual safety car situations when both Markus Ericsson and Lance Stroll had accidents, the former with a blown out front right tire. In addition, with a handful of laps to go, Mercedes teammate Valterri Bottas accepted team orders when in the lead, to let Hamilton pass him and take over first place.
Hamilton afterwards cruised to the end, but realized just laps from the finish that his tires were beginning to vibrate, and was beginning to slow down. This gave Verstappen, who was now in second place, the chance to take an advantage to try and pass Hamilton at the last second of the race. But Felipe Massa, who was one lap down and battling for the last point position with Fernando Alonso, was in front of Verstappen, and despite Hamilton had already gone through lapping Massa, Verstappen found it harder to do the same, and ran out of time to catch Hamilton for the lead.
Bottas took fourth, while fellow Finn Raikkonen ended up in fifth. The two Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez took sixth and seventh, respectively, while the American Haas F1 Team scored double points with Kevin Magnussen in eighth and Romain Grosjean in ninth. Massa held off Alonso for tenth.
With Hamilton 59 points ahead of Vettel, it should be easy to cruse for the chance for a world title. But Hamilton was having none of it, realizing that there are still lots of points remaining up for grabs.
“It's almost unbelievable to think we are where we are in the championship.” Hamilton continued. “I was excited to race Sebastian (Vettel) today, but he was obviously very unfortunate. It's still a long way to go, there are still a hundred points. I'm just going to keep my head down and hopefully will continue to be in a form like this."
The U.S. Grand Prix is the next race on the calender in two week's time in Austin, Texas.
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
At the Suzuka International Circuit
Final Race Results
1Lewis Hamilton (GBR) AMG Mercedes
2Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing +1.2
3Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing
4Valterri Bottas (FIN) AMG Mercedes
5Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
6Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India
7Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India
8Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team
9Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team
10Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams Martini Racing
11Fernando Alonso(SPA) McLaren-Honda
12Jolyon Palmer(GBR) Renault
13Pierre Gasly (FRA) Toro Rosso
14Stoffel Vandoorne(BEL) Mclaren-Honda
15Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Sauber
16 Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams Martini Racing- lap 48- accident
17Nico Hukenberg (GER) Renault- lap 38- DRS wing failure
18Markus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber -lap 8 -accident
19 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari- Power unit failure
20 Carlos Sainz (SPA) Toro Rosso Lap 2- accident
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.