Hamilton victorious at Suzuka as Vettel clashed with Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton is within touching distance in winning the 2018 Formula 1 world championship after a masterclass display at Suzuka with his 71st victory in Formula 1.

His title rival Sebastian Vettel could only managed sixth position following a clashed with Max Verstappen. That crash and spin was very costly in terms of the championship…

Hamilton’s ninth win of the year and Vettel’s sixth place at Suzuka, after spinning to the back, leaves Hamilton leading by 67 points with four races remaining.

That means Hamilton only needs to outscore Vettel by eight points in the United States Grand Prix to clinch a fifth world championship.

Hamilton held his pole advantage at the start and kept Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at ease throughout the first stint, which was punctuated by a safety car.

Kevin Magnussen’s Haas picked up a puncture after he moved to the right down the start-finish straight defending from Charles Leclerc and was rear-ended by the Sauber.

The Haas eventually shed the damaged tyre, and bodywork that splintered thanks to the flailing rubber, and the safety car was deployed while the debris was cleared.

By this point a flying start from Vettel had launched him from eighth to fourth, helped by Verstappen’s first incident of the day with a Ferrari.

Verstappen locked up entering the final corner on the opening lap and ran off track, bounced over the grass and kerb as he rejoined at the second part of the chicane.

That resulted in light contact with Kimi Raikkonen, who was forced wide as he tried to pass the Red Bull on the outside, and allowed Vettel to sneak ahead of his team-mate.

When the safety car period ended on lap eight Vettel attacked Verstappen, who had been handed a five-second penalty for the Raikkonen incident.

Vettel tried to sneak inside Verstappen into the fast Spoon left-hander, but carried too much speed and made light contact with the Red Bull and spun onto the run-off.

This was a risky move by the Ferrari driver and even though Verstappen gave him little space, the move was not on… That mistake by Vettel against the Red Bull cost his chance of this season’s world championship.

Verstappen managed to continue without losing a position to Raikkonen but Vettel dropped to the back – the stewards looked into the clash but took no further action.

Despite his early time penalty, Verstappen was able to maintain third ahead of Raikkonen thanks to Ferrari pitting The Iceman first and releasing him into traffic.

That also allowed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had started P15 after a problem in qualifying, to jump Raikkonen having carved through the order in a stellar opening stint.

The lead order settled thereafter, with Hamilton constantly extending his lead as Bottas came under late pressure from Verstappen.

Bottas survived a mistake at the final corner with six laps to go, which resulted in him skipping across the chicane, to complete a Mercedes one-two for the second race in a row.

Raikkonen drifted further away from the Red Bulls in fifth, while Vettel gradually made his way back to sixth – but by the time he was clear of the rest of the field, he was a minute behind Hamilton and 40 seconds behind Raikkonen.

That gap shrank to 18.8 seconds at the flag as Ferrari opted not to switch the drivers, denying Vettel an extra two points.

Sergio Perez stole best-of-the-rest honours in seventh after Racing Point Force India benfitted from Haas and Toro Rosso with a superior strategy.

Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly ran sixth and seventh early on for their respective teams, but Force India stopped Perez and Esteban Ocon earlier than their immediate rivals.

The fresh-tyre advantage allowed them to jump Gasly, before Perez caught and passed Grosjean after a virtual safety car called to deal with Charles Leclerc’s stricken Sauber.

Ocon was not able to match his team-mate and finished ninth, with Carlos Sainz Jr beating Gasly to the final point after passing him late on.

That meant Toro Rosso failed to score at all after qualifying sixth and seventh for engine supplier Honda’s home grand prix.

Brendon Hartley finished P12 at the end of a muted race in which he had already plunged from sixth to tenth with a poor start.

Only three cars retired from the Japanese Grand Prix – Magnussen, Leclerc, who had also been rear-ended by team-mate Marcus Ericsson just as they prepared for the restart after the safety car, and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

So a perfect weekend for Lewis Hamilton. Fastest in all three practice sessions. Pole position and now race victory. It’s going to be mission impossible for Sebastian Vettel to take the title down to the wire.

Japanese Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 53 1h27m17.062s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 53 12.919s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 53 14.295s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 53 19.495s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 53 50.998s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 53 1m09.873s
7 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 53 1m19.379s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 53 1m27.198s
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 53 1m28.055s
10 Carlos Sainz Renault 52 1 Lap
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 52 1 Lap
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 52 1 Lap
13 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 52 1 Lap
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 52 1 Lap
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 52 1 Lap
16 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 52 1 Lap
17 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 52 1 Lap
– Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 38 Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 37 Retirement
– Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 8 Retirement

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 331
2 Sebastian Vettel 264
3 Valtteri Bottas 207
4 Kimi Raikkonen 196
5 Max Verstappen 173
6 Daniel Ricciardo 146
7 Sergio Perez 53
8 Kevin Magnussen 53
9 Nico Hulkenberg 53
10 Fernando Alonso 50
11 Esteban Ocon 49
12 Carlos Sainz 39
13 Romain Grosjean 31
14 Pierre Gasly 28
15 Charles Leclerc 21
16 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
17 Lance Stroll 6
18 Marcus Ericsson 6
19 Brendon Hartley 2
20 Sergey Sirotkin 1

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 538
2 Ferrari 460
3 Red Bull-Renault 319
4 Renault 92
5 Haas-Ferrari 84
6 McLaren-Renault 58
7 Force India-Mercedes 43
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 30
9 Sauber-Ferrari 27
10 Williams-Mercedes 7

7 thoughts to “Hamilton victorious at Suzuka as Vettel clashed with Verstappen”

  1. Japanese Grand Prix race review as reported by Formula1.com.

    It was a dramatic Japanese Grand Prix for most of the F1 field – but for lights-to-flag victor Lewis Hamilton, it looked to be a serene Sunday afternoon, as he swept to his fifth victory in Japan and his fourth at Suzuka while his title rival Sebastian Vettel ended up sixth.

    It was Hamilton’s 71st career victory and his 50th for Mercedes, and sees him extend his title lead over Vettel to 67 points, with the German claiming just eight for P6 after a tough race that saw him spin early on following contact with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

    Valtteri Bottas backed up his team mate to make it a Mercedes one-two, while Verstappen survived the Vettel contact and another run-in with the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to complete the podium – his third rostrum appearance in Suzuka in as many years.

    A fantastic recovery drive from Daniel Ricciardo saw the Australian go from P15 on the grid to fourth at the race end, ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel, while Sergio Perez claimed P7 for Force India.

    But from the off, this was a race dictated by Lewis Hamilton…

    Was lap eight of the Japanese Grand Prix the moment where Sebastian Vettel lost the 2018 title? Following his disastrous qualifying on Saturday that saw him take ninth on the grid (later bumped to eighth following a penalty for Esteban Ocon) Vettel had been a tiger off the line at the race start, surging past the Haas of Romain Grosjean and both Toro Rossos, and found himself up in fourth and with every chance of fighting his way through to the front. But then he came up behind Max Verstappen…

    The Dutchman never gives up a place easily, and as Vettel tried to slip up the inside of the Red Bull at Spoon, the two touched, sending Vettel spinning off the track. He then had an agonising wait to come back onto the circuit as the cars filed past him, eventually taking up 19th spot.

    There had already been plenty of drama before that point. Verstappen had been handed a five-second penalty on the very first lap, after he misjudged his braking at the chicane. As he rejoined the track, Raikkonen tried to go around the outside of Verstappen but was clobbered by the Red Bull.

    There was more action going on further down the field too. As Fernando Alonso attacked the Williams of Lance Stroll going into the chicane on lap one he found himself pushed rudely off the track by the Canadian. Stroll was issued with a five-second penalty, while Alonso was judged to have kept his foot in and gained an advantage as he rallycrossed over the gravel, and was handed his own five-seconder.

    Elsewhere, as Charles Leclerc came up behind Kevin Magnussen going over the start finish line, the Haas driver moved across the track at the last minute to defend his line. Leclerc had nowhere to go, and as he veered left to avoid a collision, his Sauber punctured Magnussen’s left rear tyre, while Leclerc later had to pit for a new front wing. That left Magnussen – who escaped penalty despite Leclerc’s protestations – with almost a whole lap to complete as his tyre destroyed itself, the resultant debris bringing out a Safety Car on lap four.

    Hamilton, who had made a brilliant getaway at the start, managed the lap seven re-start perfectly, gapping second-placed Bottas before settling into a rhythm for the rest of the afternoon. It was Vettel and Ricciardo who were having the lion’s share of the action as they each fought back from their respective disasters. Ricciardo’s overtaking spot of choice was into Suzuka’s chicane, the Australian pulling off a string of neat lunges there to make his way up to fifth by lap 14. Vettel, meanwhile, was clearly undettered by his issues with Verstappen earlier in the race, and largely stuck to his Spoon strategy, nipping past Perez and Grosjean there as he made his way up to P6.

    Ricciardo’s fifth became fourth after the pit stops as the Red Bull driver benefitted from Raikkonen getting held up in traffic following his pit stop, and although at one point it had looked as if the Australian might go after his team mate’s third place the attack never came. Still, P15 to fourth represented a great afternoon’s work for Ricciardo.

    Verstappen wasn’t done yet either, as he hunted down Bottas’ Mercedes in the closing stages. By lap 48 of 53, he was just 0.9s back from Bottas after the Finn outbraked himself into the hairpin. But the late race position change ultimately never came, with Bottas having just enough in hand to keep his rival at bay. Verstappen’s car was showing signs of damage around the floor area after his Raikkonen and Vettel incidents, so he was happy enough with his third place, and his third straight Suzuka podium.

    If we haven’t mentioned Hamilton much, it’s because his ninth win of the year was smooth sailing. There were occasional flashes of worry for the Mercedes man, as he complained of driveability issues on his W09. But if Ferrari fans were holding out hope for any major issues for Hamilton they were disappointed, as held on to win by almost 13 seconds from Bottas.

    On a day that saw several notable midfield drop-outs – Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Haas’ Magnussen and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc all failed to see the chequered flag – Sergio Perez put in a strong drive to finish in the prized P7 spot behind the paired up Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari cars, stealing the place from Haas’s Romain Grosjean, who struggled on medium tyres in the final stint against the soft-shod Mexican.

    Toro Rosso’s own midfield threat – after the team’s drivers had lined up an incredible sixth and seventh in qualifying – failed to materialise on Sunday. Pierre Gasly held a points position for much of the race, but ended the race 11th, two spots ahead of Brendon Hartley, Carlos Sainz having nipped past with two laps to go for the final points position.

    So post-Suzuka, Hamilton now sits 67 points clear of Vettel in the drivers’ standings, meaning that if he outscores Vettel by just eight points at the next race in Austin, he’ll be crowned world champion for the fifth time. And considering that Hamilton has won every race at the Circuit of The Americas since 2014, things aren’t looking too rosy right now for Sebastian Vettel…

  2. Japanese Grand Prix race winner Lewis Hamilton didn’t expect Sebastian Vettel to “tail off” like this. Motorsport.com has the story.

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted he never expected Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari to “tail off” in the Formula 1 title battle the way they have.

    Hamilton claimed his fourth victory in a row at the Japanese Grand Prix to put him on the brink of the 2018 crown after Vettel spun early on trying to pass Max Verstappen and finished sixth.

    Vettel led the title race by eight points back in July but Hamilton has won six of the seven races since then and turned that deficit into a 67-point lead.

    Asked by Motorsport.com if he was surprised how Vettel has faded from the picture, Hamilton said: “Up until the mid-part of the season they were very strong.

    “Then they got to Monza and after that they were still quite strong at Monza and Singapore, then Singapore was really when things started to tail off.

    “I definitely hadn’t anticipated that they would tail off as they have. The performances have not been coming as strong as they were before.

    “I don’t really have an answer for that, it’s not something I’ve really focused on – I’m sure Sebastian could tell why.

    “We’ve just been focussing on trying to do the best job we can and maximise the potential of our own ability.”

    Ferrari appeared to have the edge on Mercedes for pace until Singapore, where Mercedes has traditionally been weak but Hamilton won from pole.

    The Italian team has lost several points this season, with high-profile incidents like Vettel crashing from the lead in Germany and spinning after hitting Hamilton in Italy.

    Hamilton made Vettel pay for that Monza mistake by going on to win, triggering his current four-race victory streak – which he said the team should be proud of after overturning Ferrari’s advantage.

    “You have to set your sights high,” said Hamilton. “As we came into the season we set the goal high. We got to mid-season, we had that win going into the break.

    “We’ve been pushing to make sure we come back even stronger. That’s what you’re hoping to achieve – it’s not always the case that you do.

    “We have, through great hard work from everyone.”

  3. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen commented that Sebastian Vettel drove into my car and the 5-second penalty was “stupid”. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Max Verstappen feels Formula 1 rival Sebastian Vettel “drove into the side of my car” in their Japanese Grand Prix clash, which the Dutchman likened to their earlier collision in China.

    Vettel challenged Verstappen for third down the inside of the Spoon left-hander after an early-race safety car restart, which resulted in a collision and sent the Ferrari driver spinning.

    The incident was investigated by the stewards, with no further action taken, but Verstappen felt it was clear Vettel had been at fault.

    “In that corner you cannot overtake,” he said. “I even gave him space. But he understeered into my car.”

    And when asked whether Vettel deserved a penalty for the move, Verstappen compared it to his ill-fated divebomb on the German in the closing stages of the Chinese Grand Prix – which spun both drivers around and yielded a 10-second penalty for the Dutchman.

    “I’m not the one who makes the rules otherwise a lot of penalties would have been avoided in F1, but I think it is a similar scenario to what I had in China with him,” Verstappen said.

    “Of course we didn’t spin off the track [like in China], but he drove into the side of my car.

    “He could have been a bit more careful.”

    Verstappen’s run-in with Vettel was set up by a previous incident with the German’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, which dropped the Finn behind Vettel.

    The Raikkonen clash had been triggered by Verstappen locking his right front on approach to the final chicane and missing the corner, skipping across the grass to return to the track.

    Raikkonen tried to clear him round the outside of the second part of the chicane, only to be forced off by the rejoining Red Bull, which was subsequently assessed a five-second time penalty.

    Verstappen went on to finish third regardless, and when told by team boss Christian Horner after the race that he wouldn’t be “too popular with Ferrari and the Italians”, he jovially replied: “That’s not my problem, they were too aggressive.”

    “The first one I totally don’t agree with,” Verstappen said after the race in reference to the penalty for the Raikkonen clash.

    “I locked up and I could easily have cut the track, I made my best effort to get back on track.

    “And he chose to go around the outside, he could have waited for me to understeer wide.

    “So I don’t know why I got a penalty. It is a bit stupid.”

    When speaking to Sky Sports about the sanction, Verstappen said he was now incentivised to instead cut the chicane in full – like Valtteri Bottas had done ahead of him late in the race.

    “If I get a five-second penalty for that, then next time I’ll just cut the track and do it like Valtteri.

    “I was just trying my very best to still make the corner and not make it look like I’d locked up and just cut the corner. But I know what to do next time now.”

  4. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel views that Max Verstappen was completely to blame for clash at Spoon Curve. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel believes Max Verstappen is completely to blame for their Japanese Grand Prix collision, which all but ended Vettel’s 2018 Formula 1 world championship hopes.

    Having quickly progressed from eighth on the grid following his poor qualifying, Vettel was attacking Verstappen for third at Spoon corner on the first lap after the early safety car at Suzuka when they tangled and the Ferrari spun.

    Vettel could only recover to sixth, leaving him 67 points behind race winner Lewis Hamilton – who can now clinch the title at the next race in the United States.

    Before the Vettel collision, Verstappen had already had an incident with the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and been given a five-second time penalty to serve at his pitstop.

    “I was obviously pushing to get past but I wasn’t desperate to get past,” Vettel told Sky Sports F1.

    “I knew he had a penalty but I also felt that we were faster. The gap was there but as soon as he saw me obviously he defended. But I had the inside.

    “As soon as he realises somebody is close or next to him, he tries to – in my opinion – push when you shouldn’t push anymore.

    “Look at [the incident with] Kimi, [Verstappen]’s off the track and he comes back and if Kimi just drives on they’d collide.

    “But it’s not always right that the other guy has to move. We’re all racing, the race is long.”

    Vettel managed to get down the inside of Verstappen going into Spoon but was not ahead when the Red Bull turned in and contact was made.

    “For me, the gap was there – otherwise I wouldn’t do it,” Vettel added. “I think I got through the whole field without any trouble. Sometimes closer, sometimes with more margin.

    “It’s normal that it sometimes gets close but you need to always give the space and in that case I couldn’t go anywhere and then we touched.

    “This is part of racing, don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret the move, obviously with that outcome you would do it differently because with hindsight it’s always easy.

    “But the gap was there, his battery was clipping [running out of ERS boost], I was boosting, I saved my battery, I had more speed, I would have made the corner, I was side by side and then he didn’t give enough room and then we touched.”

    Raikkonen also felt Verstappen was fully to blame for their tangle, which happened when the Red Bull ran off the road at the chicane on the opening lap while third then banged wheels with the Ferrari as it rejoined.

    That allowed Vettel to get between them, with the stewards penalising Verstappen for failing to rejoin safely.

    “He ran wide and he went off the track and I just went on the outside at the next corner, leaving him space on the inside,” Raikkonen said.

    “He knew that I was there and he just drove into me and pushed me off the track.”

    Verstappen finished third, while Raikkonen fell to fifth and said damage from the collision made his car “far from ideal” afterwards.

  5. Charles Leclerc says he could not understand why Formula 1 rival Kevin Magnussen was not penalised for his “dangerous” move in their fight during the Japanese Grand Prix.

    Magnussen’s Haas was read-ended by the Sauber of Leclerc after the Dane suddenly moved to the right on the main straight when the Monegasque was attempting to pass at the start of the race.

    The incident resulted in a puncture for Magnussen, who later retired with a damaged car.

    The race stewards investigated the incident but concluded no driver was predominantly to blame and therefore imposed no penalty.

    Leclerc, who called Magnussen “stupid” on the radio, said he could not understand the decision.

    “For me it’s clear from the cockpit, I have to watch back the images, but one or two years ago there was a very similar situation with Kimi and Max Verstappen at Spa, when Max was looking in the mirrors and then as soon as Kimi moved Max moved,” Leclerc told Motorsport.com.

    “And I think we all agreed at that time that it was a dangerous manoeuvre.

    “I don’t understand why he hasn’t been penalised today. I need to understand because if that’s possible then I’ll do that next time and I will also expect a driver to do that.

    “For me it’s dangerous at this type of speed.”

    Leclerc said it was important for the stewards to act on Magnussen, who has been involved in several incidents this year, to make sure they understand what is allowed on track.

    “I’ve only done one year in Formula 1 and for sure the driver which I had the most problems with is definitely Kevin.

    “And I’m not the only one as I’ve obviously spoken with other drivers so I don’t really understand why sometimes we aren’t a bit more harsh with drivers like this because otherwise we are going to continue like this.

    “If we can race like this, then I will also race like this but for me it’s not the right way.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  6. Kevin Magnussen did nothing to upset Charles Leclerc according to Haas team boss Gunther Steiner. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Sauber and Charles Leclerc have no reason to be upset by Kevin Magnussen’s driving in the Japanese Grand Prix, according to Haas Formula 1 team boss Gunther Steiner.

    The two drivers collided on the second lap of the race when Leclerc jinked to the right down the start-finish straight and rear-ended Magnussen as the Dane moved across to defend.

    Magnussen picked up a left-rear puncture that caused enough damage to the car to force his eventual retirement, while Leclerc damaged his front wing.

    Leclerc was angry with Magnussen after the reason but asked if he and his team have reason to be upset, Steiner said: “No. He [Leclerc] ran into him. He ran into him.

    “Kevin didn’t brake. He didn’t push him off or anything, Kevin just moved over to his line and he ran into him.

    “What can he do? Just let him by?”

    When suggested by Motorsport.com that the concern was Magnussen moved over in a manner he should not, Steiner said: “It was before the braking point. It was not under braking.”

    Then, when asked by Motorsport.com if he felt Leclerc should bear some responsibility, Steiner said: “Exactly, that’s what I think. He [Leclerc] needs to judge what he can do and what he cannot.

    “He [Magnussen] didn’t run into the side of him, he was clearly in front because he could move in in front of him.”

    Leclerc branded his rival “dangerous” after the clash and the rookie said he had more trouble with Magnussen this season than any other driver.

    It is not the first time Magnussen’s driving has been criticised this season, with Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso both hitting out at his defensive moves at times.

    Steiner has stood up for his driver before and declared him an easy target.

    Asked by Motorsport.com if that was the case here, Steiner said: “Absolutely. It’s more of the same. And I’m getting quite tired of this.

    “If they have a problem with him just blame him for it because it’s quite normal.”

  7. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says penalty shows “how bad Formula 1 is” following a penalty filled Japanese Grand Prix. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso says the penalty he was handed in the Japanese Grand Prix shows “how bad Formula 1 is” with its race stewarding.

    Alonso was given a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage after he was sent onto the grass by Lance Stroll’s Williams as the duo braked for the final chicane early in the race.

    The stewards found Stroll guilty in the incident and also handed him a five-second penalty for the contact and for pushing the McLaren off track.

    The Spanish driver was also awarded one penalty point, while Stroll – who later apologised to Alonso – received two.

    Alonso, who finished the race in 14th, admitted he was baffled by his penalty and said it showed how inconsistent F1 penalties are.

    “Even when the driver comes to apologise I think it’s difficult to understand the decision but you know, this is how bad Formula 1 is,” said Alonso.

    When asked in what way F1 was “bad”, he said: “In the decisions, in the randomness, in the pure consistency.

    “You are braking on the outside at the last corner, and one guy didn’t see you and came here to apologise after you go on the gravel, and you get the penalty. It’s a shame.”

    The two-time champion, who will leave the sport at the end of the season, did not blame Stroll for the incident.

    “He didn’t see me. If he sees you and pushes you on the grass it’s another thing, but it was just an unfortunate situation in a race situation,” he added.

    “It doesn’t change much because instead of 14th maybe you finish 12th, but it’s the way it is.”

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