Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Formula 1 world championship by defeating Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to victory in a Japanese Grand Prix shortened by an accident for Jules Bianchi.
After losing out to pole position to his title rival, Hamilton turned the tables in the wet Suzuka weather with a brilliant round-the-outside passing move at Turn 1.
Rosberg had led for the first 28 laps of a race that began behind the Safety Car, thanks to appalling conditions.
When the race got going properly after nine laps behind the Safety Car – interrupted by a red flag following the first two because of rain – the Mercedes driver held a small advantage over his British team-mate as the Silver Arrows streaked clear in the spray.
Rosberg looked comfortable on extreme wet weather tyres, but complained of oversteer after switching to intermediate tyres when circuit conditions improved.
He held Hamilton off until lap 29 when, having suffered a twitch accelerating onto the start-finish straight at the end of the previous lap, he lost enough momentum to allow Hamilton to attack.
Rosberg went defensive, but Hamilton – assisted by extra speed from the DRS – swept around the outside of his team-mate to take the lead through Turn 1.
Once released from following Rosberg’s gearbox, Hamilton pulled away to take his third consecutive grand prix victory in a race that was red-flagged for a second time under the safety car, after Jules Bianchi’s Marussia went off at Dunlop Curve where marshals were craning away Adrian Sutil’s Sauber following an earlier crash.
Bianchi was taken to the circuit medical centre. His Marussia reportedly struck the crane at the crash site.
Red Bull deliberately compromised its dry qualifying pace by setting the RB10 up for the wet conditions, and its drivers used this to good effect to finish third and fourth.
Ferrari-bound reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel completed the podium, despite a trip through the gravel at the Esses, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo overcame Jenson Button’s McLaren to finish in fourth.
Button held third position for most of the first half of the race, after being the first driver to pit for inters, but he lost time to a steering wheel change at his second pit stop, which dropped him behind Vettel, before Ricciardo further demoted the McLaren driver with a firm pass on the inside of the hairpin on lap 43 – a lap before the result was taken.
The Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa started third and fourth, but both struggled badly in wet conditions and trailed home sixth and seventh.
Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India stopped at the end of the pitlane as the race was red-flagged for the final time, but he finished eighth on count back, while Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne charged from the back of the grid to claim two points for ninth.
Hulkenberg’s Force India team-mate Sergio Perez rounded out the points scorers in tenth.
Ferrari scored no points from the Japanese Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen finished P12, while Fernando Alonso retired with a mechanical problem under the Safety Car before the race began properly.
Japanese Grand Prix, race results after 44 laps:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h51m43.021s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 9.180s
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 29.122s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 38.818s
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m07.550s
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m53.773s
7 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m55.126s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m55.948s
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 2m07.638s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1 Lap
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1 Lap
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1 Lap
13 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
14 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1 Lap
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1 Lap
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1 Lap
17 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1 Lap
18 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1 Lap
19 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1 Lap
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari Spun off
21 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari Spun off
– Fernando Alonso Ferrari – Retirement
1 Lewis Hamilton 266
2 Nico Rosberg 256
3 Daniel Ricciardo 193
4 Sebastian Vettel 139
5 Fernando Alonso 133
6 Valtteri Bottas 130
7 Jenson Button 82
8 Nico Hulkenberg 76
9 Felipe Massa 71
10 Sergio Perez 46
11 Kimi Raikkonen 45
12 Kevin Magnussen 39
13 Jean-Eric Vergne 21
14 Romain Grosjean 8
15 Daniil Kvyat 8
16 Jules Bianchi 2
17 Adrian Sutil 0
18 Marcus Ericsson 0
19 Pastor Maldonado 0
20 Esteban Gutierrez 0
21 Max Chilton 0
22 Kamui Kobayashi 0
1 Mercedes 522
2 Red Bull/Renault 332
3 Williams/Mercedes 201
4 Ferrari 178
5 Force India/Mercedes 122
6 McLaren/Mercedes 121
7 Toro Rosso/Renault 29
8 Lotus/Renault 8
9 Marussia/Ferrari 2
10 Sauber/Ferrari 0
11 Caterham/Renault 0
Next race: Russian Grand Prix, Sochi. October 10-12.