Hamilton ends the season with Abu Dhabi victory

Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ended this epic Formula 1 season by dominating the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which featured a dramatic first-lap crash for Nico Hulkenberg.

Hamilton ran the longest second stint of any driver after pitting under an early virtual safety car period, but he remained comfortably clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the flag.

Max Verstappen overcame an early engine scare and resisted his charging Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to finish third and deny the honey badger a podium on his final race for the team before switching to Renault next season.

Hamilton held his advantage from pole but the race was neutralised after only half a lap thanks to Hulkenberg’s accident.

The Renault driver attacked Romain Grosjean into Turn 9, the left-hander at the end of the first long back straight, but Grosjean hung on around the outside as he was forced to the edge of the track.

Hulkenberg turned in to the apex of the right-hander that immediately follows and was hit Grosjean’s front-left, which pitched the Renault into a barrel roll.

It came to a rest upside down against the outside barrier, briefly caught fire, and the unhurt Hulkenberg had to wait for trackside staff to arrive and reposition the car before he could extract himself.

Hamilton nailed the restart at the end of the fourth lap to lead team-mate Valtteri Bottas by more than a second over the line.

The leader stopped early, on lap seven of 55, when Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari switched off exiting the final corner and stopped on the start-finish line, sparking a virtual safety car.

Bottas and Vettel stayed out, with only Charles Leclerc – running a stunning fourth after jumping both Red Bulls on the opening lap and passing Raikkonen’s ailing Ferrari – and seventh-place man Romain Grosjean following Hamilton into the pits.

Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo extended their stint on ultrasofts and Verstappen tried to make his hypersofts last as long as possible.

Ricciardo and Verstappen were given engine warnings early on by Red Bull but these passed and were traced to “unexpected power unit protection”, suggesting a failsafe had briefly been erroneously activated.

Bottas pitted nine laps after Hamilton and rejoined nine seconds adrift, and although Hamilton complained about his tyres, he was able to maintained a relatively comfortable gap.

Hamilton was still six seconds or so clear of Bottas when his team-mate lost his grip on second place thanks to some problems under braking.

A lock up at Turn 5 and then the end of the first long back straight allowed Vettel to steal second on lap 35, and then three laps later a smaller mistake at the same place let Verstappen get a run on Bottas down the second back straight and pass him – with a bit of wheel bumping – through the little chicane that follows.

One lap later Bottas lost another place to Ricciardo, who had led for a while thanks to extending his first stint to lap 33, and Mercedes decided to pit Bottas for fresh tyres after spotting a possible problem after the Verstappen contact.

Though Bottas’s troubles freed up Vettel to attack Hamilton, and hack the gap down to 2.5 seconds at the flag, he never got close enough to trouble the leader.

Victory was Hamilton’s eleventh of the season, matching his best-ever haul from a single campaign.

By keeping Ricciardo at bay for third, Verstappen was able to nick ahead of Bottas for fourth in the drivers’ championship.

Bottas finished his winless season with a distant fifth, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr.

Sainz ended his time with Renault with a best-of-the-rest victory earned by virtue of a long first stint, that allowed him to overhaul Leclerc’s Sauber.

Leclerc had to survive pressure from Racing Point Force India driver Sergio Perez to hold onto seventh, while Haas duo Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen completed the top ten.

Fernando Alonso finished just outside the top ten on his likely final Formula 1 appearance, despite picking up two five-second penalties late on for a track limits offence when he cut the chicane at the end of the first backstraight.

Three drivers joined Hulkenberg and Raikkonen in not making it to the finish.

Marcus Ericsson’s stint with Sauber ended in retirement after running in the points early on, before Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly retired within two laps of each other with smoke coming from their respective cars.

And so ends Formula 1 2018. It has been an epic season full of drama and excitement. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes ending the season on a high with victory.

As for Fernando Alonso, thanks for the memories. It won’t be the same without the double title winner on the grid next season.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 55 1h39m40.382s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 55 2.581s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 55 12.706s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 55 15.379s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 55 47.957s
6 Carlos Sainz Renault 55 1m12.548s
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 55 1m30.789s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 55 1m31.275s
9 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 54 1 Lap
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 54 1 Lap
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 54 1 Lap
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 54 1 Lap
13 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 54 1 Lap
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 54 1 Lap
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 54 1 Lap
– Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 46 Retirement
– Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 44 Retirement
– Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 24 Retirement
– Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 6 Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 0 Collision

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 408
2 Sebastian Vettel 320
3 Kimi Raikkonen 251
4 Max Verstappen 249
5 Valtteri Bottas 247
6 Daniel Ricciardo 170
7 Nico Hulkenberg 69
8 Sergio Perez 62
9 Kevin Magnussen 56
10 Carlos Sainz 53
11 Fernando Alonso 50
12 Esteban Ocon 49
13 Charles Leclerc 39
14 Romain Grosjean 37
15 Pierre Gasly 29
16 Stoffel Vandoorne 12
17 Marcus Ericsson 9
18 Lance Stroll 6
19 Brendon Hartley 4
20 Sergey Sirotkin 1

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 655
2 Ferrari 571
3 Red Bull-Renault 419
4 Renault 122
5 Haas-Ferrari 93
6 McLaren-Renault 62
7 Force India-Mercedes 52
8 Sauber-Ferrari 48
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 33
10 Williams-Mercedes 7

Hamilton signs off season with pole position at Yas Marina

The 2018 Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton scored his eleventh pole position in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was fastest on both runs in the Q3 top ten shootout to take pole by 0.162 seconds from team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Although Bottas had a slight advantage in the middle sector and was up on his team-mate at the start of the final part of the lap, Hamilton was quicker in the first and third sectors to take P1.

Sebastian Vettel couldn’t improve by enough on his last run thanks to losing time in the final sector and admitted there was maybe half-a-tenth missing, which would not have been enough to get onto the front row.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen jumped Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for fourth position on the final runs despite the honey badger setting a stunning pace in the final sector – fastest of anyone.

Max Verstappen was sixth fastest after abandoning his final run having complained about the tyres being too hot when he left the pits.

Five of the top six will start on the ultrasofts Pirelli having used that compound to set their times in Q2, the exception being Verstappen.

The Red Bull driver wasn’t quick enough on his ultrasoft run in Q2 and reported struggling for grip on turn-in, meaning he had to use hypersofts for his second run to ensure he reached Q3.

Carlos Sainz was unable to make Q3 after being relegated to P11 by Verstappen’s late improvement on hypersofts in Q2.

He was a tenth-and-a-half faster than Ericsson, who beat Haas driver Kevin Magnussen to P12.

Force India driver Sergio Perez was P14, two tenths ahead of McLaren driver Fernando Alonso – who is making, for now, his final Formula 1 appearance.

Despite a P15, Alonso has achieved a remarkable qualifying result by out-qualifying his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne in every Grand Prix. That’s 21 out of the 21 events. Incredible achievement in speed and commitment.

The Toro Rosso pairing of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly were fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 and P17.

They were shuffled back by improvements by Magnussen, Ericsson and Perez despite both improving on their final laps.

Hartley complained of a lack of entry stability compared, while Gasly suffered an engine problem at the end of his fastest qualifying lap and was ordered to stop on track after reporting smoke from the rear of the car.

Stoffel Vandoorne ended his final Formula 1 qualifying session before heading to Formula E in P18, just ahead of Williams pairing Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll – the duo separated by less than half-a-tenth.

So congratulations Mercedes in ending a wonderful championship-winning season with a front row lock-out. The sheer class by the W09 chassis is just magnificent and Lewis Hamilton admits this 2018 car will join the hall of fame of Silver Arrows achievements.

Qualifying positions, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m34.794s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m34.956s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m35.125s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m35.365s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m35.401s
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m35.589s
7 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m36.192s
8 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.237s
9 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m36.540s
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m36.542s
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m36.982s
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.132s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m37.309s
14 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m37.541s
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m37.743s
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rossa-Honda 1m37.994s
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m38.166s
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m38.577s
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m38.635s
20 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m38.682s

Mercedes wins constructors’ title with Hamilton victory in Brazil

Newly crowned Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton sealed the constructors’ title for Mercedes with race victory at Interlagos, after Max Verstappen was taken out of the race lead while lapping Esteban Ocon.

Verstappen had blasted past Hamilton early in his second stint and was edging clear when his Red Bull was pitched into a spin having tangled with Ocon at the Senna S.

That dropped Verstappen behind Hamilton, who managed engine and tyre concerns to stay clear and win the Brazilian Grand Prix after clinching the title for the first time – he was winless in the Grands Prix he completed after wrapping up the championship in 2015 and 2017 respectively. The result also clinched the constructors’ championship for Mercedes.

Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of a mistake from Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel early on and Valtteri Bottas’s challenge fading to complete the podium.

Hamilton had maintained his pole position advantage at the start as Bottas jumped Vettel for second place.

Verstappen started fifth but made short work on the Ferraris by passing them both on successive laps into the first corner, nailing Raikkonen around the outside under braking before diving inside Vettel.

Max caught Bottas quickly and cleared the Mercedes on lap ten when Bottas inexplicably failed to close the door properly into Turn 1.

Hamilton pitted on lap 19 of 71, one lap after Bottas, as Mercedes switched to fresh Pirelli much earlier than its rivals.

Verstappen continued until lap 36 but emerged behind Hamilton despite initially looking like he might build a big enough lead and Hamilton growing frustrated by what he thought was a lack of information from his team.

By running so long in the first stint Verstappen was able to switch to the soft compound and with much fresher, faster tyres, he cruised up to the back of Hamilton and blasted past on the start-finish straight with 31 laps to go.

With Mercedes protecting Hamilton’s engine that should have set Verstappen up a relatively simple run to the flag, but four laps later Verstappen’s win was out of the picture at the first two corners.

Verstappen put a lap on Esteban Ocon but his ex-karting and Formula 3 rival fought back into Turn 1 to the outside of the Red Bull then held firm as track went back to the right.

Ocon did not back out and Verstappen turned in, with the resulting contact spinning both and leaving Verstappen with floor damage, although he was lucky to only lose a position to Hamilton.

Verstappen was able to gradually cut into Hamilton’s five-second advantage over the rest of the race, but Hamilton was just able to hang on despite voicing engine concerns and complaining of a lack of grip late on.

Raikkonen made it through to third after passing Bottas into Turn 1 just as Verstappen was being taken out.

After passing Vettel in the opening stages when the German ran wide at Turn 4, Raikkonen was repassed by his team-mate in the pitstop phase.

But Vettel let Raikkonen go to attack and successfully pass Bottas – while Vettel had to make a second stop after dropping to the tail of the top six, behind the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

The recovering Ricciardo made it up to fourth after passing Bottas as well, which triggered a second stop, who was complaining with blistering.

Bottas and Vettel therefore completed the top six, while Charles Leclerc took seventh for Sauber after dominating the best-of-the-rest fight.

The 2019 Ferrari driver finished comfortably clear of Romain Grosjean’s Haas after passing team-mate Marcus Ericsson at the start.

Grosjean finished eighth ahead of fellow Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, while Sergio Perez took the final point in tenth.

Brendon Hartley was first finisher outside the top ten after an ill-tempered conclusion in which he raged over the radio at Toro Rosso team-mate Pierre Gasly refusing to comply with an order to swap positions.

Gasly, who was also angry, eventually let Hartley past on the final lap but also lost a place to Renault Carlos Sainz Jr.

There were only two retirements from the Brazilian Grand Prix. Ericsson stopped early on after picking up damage at the first corner, slipping down the order and suffering a spin after his pitstop.

Nico Hulkenberg was ordered to stop as Renault recorded a high engine temperature.

So congratulations to Mercedes in winning the constructors’ title. All that team effort in preparing the race-winning cars for Lewis Hamilton has paid off with this championship victory.

Real unlucky for Max Verstappen to miss out on race victory. That clash with Esteban Ocon when lapping was messy and was the key moment in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Brazilian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 1h27m09.066s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 71 1.469s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 71 4.764s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 71 5.193s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 71 22.943s
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 71 26.997s
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 71 44.199s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 71 51.230s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 71 52.857s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 70 1 Lap
11 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 70 1 Lap
12 Carlos Sainz Renault 70 1 Lap
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 70 1 Lap
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 70 1 Lap
15 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 70 1 Lap
16 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 69 2 Laps
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 69 2 Laps
18 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 69 2 Laps
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 32 Retirement
– Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 20 Retirement

Drivers’ championship:
1 Lewis Hamilton 383
2 Sebastian Vettel 302
3 Kimi Raikkonen 251
4 Valtteri Bottas 237
5 Max Verstappen 234
6 Daniel Ricciardo 158
7 Nico Hulkenberg 69
8 Sergio Perez 58
9 Kevin Magnussen 55
10 Fernando Alonso 50
11 Esteban Ocon 49
12 Carlos Sainz 45
13 Romain Grosjean 35
14 Charles Leclerc 33
15 Pierre Gasly 29
16 Stoffel Vandoorne 12
17 Marcus Ericsson 9
18 Lance Stroll 6
19 Brendon Hartley 4
20 Sergey Sirotkin 1

Constructors’ championship:
1 Mercedes 620
2 Ferrari 553
3 Red Bull-Renault 392
4 Renault 114
5 Haas-Ferrari 90
6 McLaren-Renault 62
7 Force India-Mercedes 48
8 Sauber-Ferrari 42
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 33
10 Williams-Mercedes 7

Hamilton takes 100th pole for Mercedes at Brazil

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 100th pole position for Mercedes in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, while nearest challenger Sebastian Vettel faces a race stewards investigation.

Hamilton went fastest using supersoft Pirellis on the first runs in the pole position shootout, setting a time of one minute, 07.301 seconds.

The Mercedes driver was the only one of the frontrunners to improve on his second run, shaving off a further two-hundredths of a second to make sure of P1.

Vettel had been up on Hamilton after the first sector on his final run, but a lock up in Turn 8 contributed to him losing time and he had to settle for second based on his earlier lap, 0.093 seconds down.

Valtteri Bottas was third fastest in the second Mercedes, pipping Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by 0.015 seconds.

As expected, the Red Bull drivers annexed the third row with just 0.002 secondss separating Max Verstappen in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo in sixth. However, the honey badger will drop five places on the grid following a turbo unit change.

Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson was the only driver other than Hamilton to improve on his second run, ensuring he held onto the seventh place he secured on his first attempt.

That put him two tenths faster than his Sauber team-mate Charles Leclerc, with Haas driver Romain Grosjean ninth and comfortably ahead of Pierre Gasly.

Both Ferrari drivers will start the race on soft Pirellis after aborting their initial Q2 runs on supersofts to change tyres, with the rest of the top ten qualifiers all locked in the softest compound.

But Vettel was frustrated to be called to the FIA weigh bridge early in Q2 when he dived into the pits while in a hurry to change tyres in case of racing.

He was reported to the stewards for refusing to turn off his engine, then driving onto the scales and leaving under his own power.

Technical delegate Jo Bauer’s report to the stewards pointed out this made it difficult to get a stable weight, and that in driving off Vettel “destroyed the scales”.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was knocked out at the end of Q2 by a superb lap from Leclerc, who looked set to miss out on a place in the top ten when rain hit with six minutes remaining.

At that point, Magnussen had just pushed Leclerc down to P11, but the Sauber driver returned to the track after the rain eased and returned the favour.

When the rain came, Racing Point Force India driver Esteban Ocon did improve his lap time on a second set of supersoft Pirellis but it was only good enough for P13 behind teammate Sergio Perez.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was P14 after improving his time, but not his position, with a late lap to end up ahead only of the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin.

Sirotkin had to swerve and skirt the grass on the approach to the Juncao left-hander while on an out-lap after Hamilton attempted to move out of his way by jinking to the left too late.

The Williams driver then appeared to express his frustration by attempting a pass on Hamilton into Turn 1 on the following lap.

Renault driver Carlos Sainz was the fastest of those eliminated in a frenetic Q1 session, during which spots or rain made it difficult for drivers.

Gasly bumped Toro Rosso team-mate Brendon Hartley into the drop zone with a few minutes remaining, putting Ocon into P15.

But Sainz then posted a lap 0.005s slower than Ocon to take P16, and slot in 0.011 seconds ahead of Hartley, who complained of a lockup on his best lap that cost him time.

McLaren pairing Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were P18 and P20 respectively and separated by 0.199 seconds – as well as the second Williams of Lance Stroll.

Qualifying positions, Brazilian Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m07.281s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m07.374s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m07.441s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m07.456s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m07.778s
6 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m08.296s
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m08.492s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m08.517s
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m09.029s
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m08.659s
11 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m07.780s
12 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m08.741s
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m08.834s
14 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m10.381s
15 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m09.269s
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m09.280s
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m09.402s
18 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m08.770s
19 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m09.441s
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m09.601s

Verstappen wins at Mexico as Hamilton is crowned five-time champion

Lewis Hamilton achieved his fifth Formula 1 championship despite finishing out of a podium result in the Mexican Grand Prix, which was won by Max Verstappen.

Poleman Daniel Ricciardo was swamped by team-mate Verstappen and Hamilton on the opening lap and Verstappen went side-by-side with Hamilton to take the race lead.

Verstappen eased clear to a dominant victory ahead of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as Hamilton slipped down to fourth at the finish, but that was enough to clinch the championship with two races left.

Hamilton went into the race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez knowing he only needed to finish seventh to secure the title and did not need to finish at all if Vettel failed to win.

Vettel started fourth and briefly dropped to fifth at the start as Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas mugged him into Turn 1, but the Ferrari driver fought back aggressively at Turns 4 and 5 to reclaim fourth position.

Hamilton tried to keep pace with Verstappen over the opening stint but gradually slipped back and came under pressure from Ricciardo, but held onto second until pitting on lap 11 of 71.

Ricciardo stopped on the next lap while Verstappen went one further, and the undercut gave Hamilton a brief reprieve from Ricciardo but not enough to come close to challenging Verstappen.

With the Dutchman looking untouchable out front, Hamilton started to be caught again by Ricciardo and Vettel after the long-running Ferraris finally stopped.

Hamilton edged clear again as the front runners negotiated the backmarkers, and a virtual safety car for Carlos Sainz Jr’s broken down Renault – which had been comfortably in the points but suffered a complete shutdown – put a temporary hold on the Ricciardo and Vettel scrap behind.

It re-engaged after a couple of laps and more heavy traffic allowed Vettel to size up his former team-mate before, on lap 34, throwing a superb move inside Ricciardo under braking for the first corner.

Vettel was four seconds behind Hamilton at this stage but made rapid inroads as Mercedes struggled to keep its tyres alive.

Five laps after he cleared Ricciardo, Vettel passed Hamilton at the same place when Hamilton attempted to defend, locked up and skated across the grass.

Mercedes brought Hamilton into the pits on the same lap, with Bottas following suit having lost sixth to Raikkonen in an identical lock-up/off-track incident at Turn 1 moments after Hamilton’s.

With the lead Mercedes out of the picture the race boiled down to a Red Bull vs Vettel fight, with Ferrari going aggressive by pitting Vettel for a fresh set of ultrasofts.

That brought him within ten seconds of Verstappen once Red Bull brought him in for fresh supersofts, but Ricciardo stayed out and kept track position ahead of Vettel.

That stunted Vettel’s bid to catch Verstappen and as Ricciardo’s pace held up in the closing stages Vettel looked unable to get close enough to launch an attack.

However, with ten laps ago smoke emerged from the rear of the Renault-powered Red Bull and Ricciardo went straight on at Turn 1, stopped and suffered his eighth retirement of the season.

Verstappen asked Red Bull if he needed to be worried or conserve the engine but he had a trouble-free run to the finish to record his second victory of the season.

Vettel and Raikkonen completed the podium as Hamilton struggled to fourth, frustrated with Mercedes’ lack of pace compared to its rivals.

Hamilton’s mood lifted swiftly, though, as he celebrated a fifth title that moves him level with Juan Manuel Fangio on the list of all-time championship successes.

Bottas completed the top five – a lap down – having stopped for a third time, setting the fastest lap of the race on hypersofts at the end.

Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for the second race in a row as Renault secured best-of-the-rest honours behind the leading three teams.

Hulkenberg executed a one-stop strategy well to keep comfortably clear of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc in seventh.

Stoffel Vandoorne produced an unexpected boost at the end of a difficult season by rising to eighth in his McLaren, ending a run of 14 races without points that stretches back to Azerbaijan.

Marcus Ericsson made it a double-points finish for Sauber in ninth to vault the Swiss team above Toro Rosso into eighth in the constructors’ championship, despite Pierre Gasly rising from the back to score a solitary point.

So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in achieving this brilliant result with title number five. He becomes the most successful British driver in Formula 1 and equals the achievement of Juan Manuel Fangio.

As for Sebastian Vettel, this was a challenging season and the mistakes was very costly in terms of points. Hopefully next year he can cut out these errors and go for title glory for Ferrari.

Mexican Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 71 1h38m28.851s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 71 17.316s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 71 49.914s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 71 1m18.738s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 70 1 Lap
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 69 2 Laps
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 69 2 Laps
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 69 2 Laps
9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 69 2 Laps
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 69 2 Laps
11 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 69 2 Laps
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 69 2 Laps
13 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 69 2 Laps
14 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 69 2 Laps
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 69 2 Laps
16 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 68 3 Laps
– Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 61 Retirement
– Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 38 Retirement
– Carlos Sainz Renault 28 Retirement
– Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 3 Retirement

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 358
2 Sebastian Vettel 294
3 Kimi Raikkonen 236
4 Valtteri Bottas 227
5 Max Verstappen 216
6 Daniel Ricciardo 146
7 Nico Hulkenberg 69
8 Sergio Perez 57
9 Kevin Magnussen 53
10 Fernando Alonso 50
11 Esteban Ocon 49
12 Carlos Sainz 45
13 Romain Grosjean 31
14 Pierre Gasly 29
15 Charles Leclerc 27
16 Stoffel Vandoorne 12
17 Marcus Ericsson 9
18 Lance Stroll 6
19 Brendon Hartley 4
20 Sergey Sirotkin 1

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 585
2 Ferrari 530
3 Red Bull-Renault 362
4 Renault 114
5 Haas-Ferrari 84
6 McLaren-Renault 62
7 Force India-Mercedes 47
8 Sauber-Ferrari 36
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 33
10 Williams-Mercedes 7

Ricciardo denied Verstappen pole in Mexico

Daniel Ricciardo denied Max Verstappen his first P1 in Formula 1 by snatching pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix as title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel completed the second row.

Ricciardo beat his Red Bull team-mate Verstappen on the final runs in qualifying to take his second pole of the 2018 season.

Hamilton was quickest on hypersofts in the opening phase of qualifying but Verstappen had the edge on ultrasofts in Q2 and took that momentum into Q3 to hold provisional pole after the first runs.

His one minute, 14.785 seconds was almost two tenths of a second clear of Vettel, while Hamilton lost time in the middle sector but snuck ahead of the second Red Bull of Ricciardo to hold third spot.

Vettel, Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas all failed to improve on their second runs, but Ricciardo vaulted to top spot on a one minute, 14.759 seconds.

That only put him 0.026 seconds clear of Verstappen but was enough for pole given that Mad Max failed to improve despite setting a fastest first sector and Hamilton only managed a one minute, 14.894 seconds.

Bottas will line up fifth with Austin race winner Raikkonen sixth on an all-Finish third row.

Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari were all able to progress to Q3 without using the softest compound.

That means they will all start the race on the more preferable ultrasoft tyre and can avoid the problematic hypersofts.

Renault continued to hold an advantage in the best-of-the-rest fight through qualifying but it was Charles Leclerc who hauled his Sauber to seventh on the first runs.

Leclerc outpaced Nico Hulkenberg by less than a tenth before the Renaults hit back on their second laps, with Hulkenberg leading Carlos Sainz Jr as Leclerc was shuffled to ninth.

His Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson completed the top ten and was fortunate to make it through to the shootout having failed to improve on his second run in Q2.

With the hypersoft tyres degrading so rapidly in Friday practice Esteban Ocon has arguably the most favourable position of the midfield teams as the first of those who did not make Q3.

Ocon was P11 after Racing Point Force India opted to use supersofts and then ultrasofts in the second part of qualifying.

It means he and Sergio Perez, who qualified P13, will have freedom of choice over the tyres they start the race on.

Fernando Alonso split the Force Indias in his McLaren, while the under-pressure Brendon Hartley was limited to P14 after a mistake on his final lap – Toro Rosso suggested he was on course for a lap time that would have been good enough to progress.

Hartley’s team-mate Pierre Gasly did not complete a timed lap in Q2 because Honda’s engine strategy and a gearbox change meant he went into the session consigned to a back-of-the-grid start, so Toro Rosso opted to save tyres and mileage.

Romain Grosjean was first of the drivers to be eliminated in the opening part of the session, missing out on progressing by just half a tenth.

He and Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen used three sets of hypersofts in their bid to make Q2 but still fell short.

Magnussen was 18th-fastest after failing to improve on his final run, with the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne in between the Haas pair.

Williams duo Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin were slowest but will not fill out the last row of the grid as Gasly will drop back because of his penalty.

So congratulations to Daniel Ricciardo in achieving that second pole position this season. Leading a Red Bull 1-2 with Max Verstappen. It was unfortunate that Max missed out on his first pole after setting the pace in all practice sessions. Maybe Verstappen can have the last laugh by winning the Mexican Grand Prix.

Qualifying positions, Mexican Grand Prix:
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m14.759s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m14.785s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m14.894s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m14.970s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m15.160s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m15.330s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m15.827s
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m16.084s
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m16.189s
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m16.513s
11 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m16.844s
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m16.871s
13 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m17.167s
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m17.184s
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m16.966s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m17.599s
17 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m17.689s
18 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m16.911s
19 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m17.886s
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda –

Raikkonen wins thrilling race in the States

The Iceman is back! Kimi Raikkonen claimed his first Formula 1 win in five years in a thrilling United States Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton’s 2018 title celebrations were delayed despite a Sebastian Vettel spin.

Raikkonen overcame poleman Hamilton at the start and withstood late pressure from Max Verstappen, who started P18, and the Mercedes driver to finally win in his second stint with Ferrari and clinch his first success since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Lotus.

Second position would have given Hamilton the title and he went wheel-to-wheel with Verstappen with three laps to go, but could not make it stick, eventually running off-track at Turn 18.

Vettel’s fourth position, having passed Valtteri Bottas late on in his recovery drive, means Hamilton leads by 69 points with 75 on offer in the final three Grands Prix.

Hamilton went into the Austin race needing to outscore Vettel by eight points to clinch a fifth championship.

He erred at the start as Raikkonen muscled past on the inside into Turn 1, but half a lap later the pendulum swung in Hamilton’s favour when Vettel spun to P15.

Vettel breezed past Daniel Ricciardo down the back straight but made a small mistake under braking for the next corner and Ricciardo cut back on the exit of the tight left-hander.

That gave Vettel the inside for the next right-hander, but the German had a small wobble, bumped into the Red Bull and ended up facing the wrong way.

Raikkonen kept Hamilton at bay until an early virtual safety car led to Ferrari and Mercedes adopting different strategies.

With the race neutralised as marshals tended to Ricciardo’s stricken Red Bull, which had stopped on the exit of the Turn 11 hairpin, Mercedes told Hamilton to do the opposite to Raikkonen under the virtual safety car and so he dived into the pits, committing to a two-stop strategy.

Hamilton resumed in third place, just nine seconds behind The Iceman, and within three laps had taken second from team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who slowed down on the start-finish straight to let him by.

By lap 18 of 56 Hamilton was already on the back of Raikkonen again but Raikkonen somehow resisted three laps of relentless Hamilton pressure before pitting – which proved crucial later on.

Vettel stayed out until lap 26, ceding places to Raikkonen and Verstappen – who had charged through the field in a stunning first stint on softs – as he struggled with fading tyres.

Raikkonen’s task was to stay within one pitstop – roughly 20 seconds – of Hamilton, while Vettel began to catch Bottas for fourth.

Hamilton’s 18-second lead was gradually eroded by Raikkonen and as the Mercedes’ ageing softs worsened, third-place man Verstappen and Bottas comfortably got inside Hamilton’s pitstop window.

He stopped on lap 37, which handed Raikkonen a 2.5-second lead over Verstappen, with Bottas 6.5 seconds further back and Hamilton fourth, 12 seconds behind the lead Ferrari and 4.1 seconds clear of Vettel.

Armed with fresh softs, Hamilton raced onto the back of his team-mate and was let through within two laps.

That put Hamilton third, 8.8s off the lead, but with Vettel stuck in fifth Hamilton only needed to pass Verstappen – 6.7 seconds ahead with 15 laps to go – to secure the championship.

He closed onto the back of Verstappen with seven laps to go, but was not able to make a pass as their battle culminated in an epic run of four corners side-by-side.

Hamilton ran wide as he finally attempted to pass Verstappen on the outside of the fast double-right near the end of the lap.

Moments later, Vettel passed Bottas at the hairpin to lose only two points to Hamilton as the title fight continues.

Behind the leaders, Renault received a late boost in its quest for fourth in the constructors’ championship as Nico Hulkenberg led home team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr for a best-of-the-rest one-two.

Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen and Ocon’s team-mate Sergio Perez completed the points finishers.

There were four retirees from the race.

Long before Ricciardo ground to a halt in his Red Bull, Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean had their races ruined on the opening lap.

Alonso stopped in the pits after being wiped out by Lance Stroll on the entry to the esses, while Grosjean locked up and clattered into Charles Leclerc’s Sauber at the tight left-hander at the end of the back straight.

Stroll was given a drivethrough penalty for spinning Alonso, while Grosjean’s incident – which sent Leclerc, who eventually retired much later, to the back of the pack – will be investigated after the race.

Grosjean faces an automatic one-race ban if the stewards award him three licence penalty points, having already picked up nine in the last 12 months.

So congratulations to Kimi Raikkonen. Finally a race victory to the most popular driver on the Formula 1 grid. This achievement is sweet as this is the last chance for The Iceman to taste the winning champagne following the news to switch from Ferrari to Sauber next season. Enjoy this moment.

As for Lewis Hamilton, this was a tense race and that fifth championship will have to wait until Mexico. Roll on the next Grand Prix.

United States Grand Prix, race results after 56 laps:
1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1h34m18.643s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1.281s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2.342s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 18.222s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 24.744s
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m27.210s
7 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m34.994s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m39.288s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m40.657s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m41.080s
11 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1 Lap
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1 Lap
14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1 Lap
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1 Lap
16 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 2 Laps
– Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari Retirement
– Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault Retirement
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari Collision
– Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault Collision

Drivers’ standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton 346
2 Sebastian Vettel 276
3 Kimi Raikkonen 221
4 Valtteri Bottas 217
5 Max Verstappen 191
6 Daniel Ricciardo 146
7 Nico Hulkenberg 61
8 Kevin Magnussen 55
9 Sergio Perez 54
10 Esteban Ocon 53
11 Fernando Alonso 50
12 Carlos Sainz 45
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 563
2 Ferrari 497
3 Red Bull-Renault 337
4 Renault 106
5 Haas-Ferrari 86
6 McLaren-Renault 58
7 Force India-Mercedes 48
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 30
9 Sauber-Ferrari 27
10 Williams-Mercedes 7

Hamilton edges one step closer to title with pole

Lewis Hamilton is edging towards his fifth championship after achieving his ninth Formula 1 pole position of the season in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix. Title rival Sebastian Vettel will start fifth following grid penalty.

Vettel was Hamilton’s closest challenger on pace at the Circuit of the Americas qualifying, but has a three-place grid penalty for speeding under the red flag conditions during practice.

Hamilton had the advantage after the first runs in Q3, but came under attack from both Ferraris on his second run.

Kimi Raikkonen, who will start alongside Hamilton on the front row, briefly took top spot with a lap of one minute, 32.307 seconds, only for Hamilton to retake it by 0.061 seconds.

Vettel then completed his lap, a one minute, 32.298 seconds, to split the pair, subsequently saying over the radio that he tried everything he could to beat Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas was 0.379 seconds off his Mercedes team-mate and ended the session fourth fastest ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

Both Silver Arrows drivers, Vettel and Ricciardo will start the race on the supersoft Pirellis having used that compound to set their Q2 times – although Raikkonen used ultrasofts.

Esteban Ocon was best of the rest in sixth position for the Racing Point Force India team, just ahead of Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Romain Grosjean was eighth ahead of Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Perez tenth for Force India.

Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr was the quickest of those eliminated in Q2 in P11 after failing to capitalise on team-mate Hulkenberg, who had a lock up into Turn 1, not improving on his second run.

Sainz set his best time of one minute, 34.566 seconds to close to just two-thousandths from Hulkenberg and complained of “oversteer in the last corner, I don’t know why” costing him.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was P12 after also failing to improve on his second run thanks to losing time in the first sector.

Toro Rosso pairing Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, who will both drop to the back of the grid thanks to Honda power unit change penalties, did not set times during Q2 and ended up P13 and P14 respectively.

Because both did at least take to the track, they were classified ahead of Max Verstappen.

The Red Bull driver could not run in Q2 after a failure in the right-rear corner when running over an exit kerb in the first segment of qualifying.

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso was P16 having been eliminated in Q1 by Hartley’s last gasp improvement.

Alonso was 0.441 seconds up on Hartley after the first sectors of their final laps, but the Toro Rosso driver turned that deficit into a 0.088 seconds advantage over sectors two and three to jump the McLaren.

Alonso will move back ahead of both Toro Rossos on the grid once the penalties are applied.

This put Alonso ahead of Williams pairing Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll in 17th and 18th respectively, with 0.118 seconds separating the two.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson briefly elevated himself out of the dropzone in the final flurry of Q1 laps, only to be shuffled back down to P19 by the chequered flag.

Stoffel Vandoorne brought up the rear in the second McLaren, lapping two-tenths slower than Ericsson.

So Sunday’s United States Grand Prix will be the race in which Lewis Hamilton can achieve his fifth world championship. Starting on pole is the best ideal position for the Mercedes driver as title rival Sebastian Vettel has to fight back from. Hamilton just need to outscore Vettel by eight points to win the title. It can be done come race day. Best of luck!

United States Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m32.237s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m32.307s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m32.616s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m33.494s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m32.298s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m34.145s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m34.215s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m34.250s
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m34.420s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m34.594s
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m34.566s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m34.732s
13 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault –
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m35.294s
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m35.362s
16 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m35.480s
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.536s
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m35.735s
19 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda –
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda –

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

Hamilton achieves 80th career pole at Suzuka as Vettel is only ninth

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton achieved his 80th career pole position in Formula 1 with the fastest lap time at Suzuka, while title rival Sebastian Vettel ended up ninth after a failed intermediate tyre gamble.

Hamilton hit the front on the supersofts Pirelli on the first runs in Q3, lapping 0.229 seconds faster than his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

That lap of one minute, 27.760 seconds proved to be fast enough to secure pole position given rain that hit the track in the middle of the session.

Both Mercedes drivers will start on the soft compound Pirellis, having used them to set their Q2 times.

Ferrari drivers Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, were sent out on intermediates at the start of Q3 in anticipation of the rain coming earlier.

Both were forced to abort their runs to take on slicks, meaning their first flying laps came just as rain was on the cusp of falling, and while Raikkonen was able to post a one minute, 29.521 seconds to secure fourth behind Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, Vettel ran off the track at Spoon Curve after the rear stepped out and posted only a one minute, 32.192 seconds.

For good measure, Vettel later went off through the gravel at Degner 1 while cruising on slicks in the intensifying rain.

This allowed Haas driver Romain Grosjean, who will be the only driver in the midfield group in the top ten to start on softs having brilliantly used the tyre to set his Q2 time, to take ‘Class B’ pole position in fifth.

His Q3 lap put him just over two-tenths faster than Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley.

The Honda-powered team had set a target of having both cars in Q3 after using its ‘Spec 3’ engine for qualifying for the first time, and Hartley slotted in ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly in seventh.

Racing Point Force India duo Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were eighth and tenth, sandwiching Vettel’s Ferrari.

Perez also did not set a serious time, lapping 9.5 seconds off the pace, having aborted his lap on his first run.

Sauber driver Charles Leclerc was the quickest of those eliminated in Q2, in which rain meant the first-run times decided the order.

Leclerc was P11 after his first run, but attempted to complete a lap on his second set of supersofts in the forlorn hope of breaking into the top ten before spinning exiting Degner 1.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was 12th fastest having used softs on his first run and lapping 0.548 seconds slower than Grosjean in Q2 on the same compound.

Carlos Sainz Jr was P13 for Renault ahead of Williams driver Lance Stroll. Daniel Ricciardo was P15 after failing to set a time in Q2, cruising into the pits at the end of his outlap with what appeared to be an engine problem.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated in Q1, having had his first run compromised by a red flag caused by Marcus Ericsson crashing in Turn 7.

The Swede ran wide onto the grass through the left-hander then spun into the barrier on his second push lap, leading to a six-minute red flag.

Hulkenberg was, along with team-mate Sainz and Perez, one of three drivers not to have set a time at that point, and after going out immediately after the restart was relegated into the dropzone by a flurry of improvements as Q1 was chequered flagged.

Sainz was the driver whose improvement actually relegated Hulkenberg into the bottom five, with the German ending up just 0.044 seconds slower than Stroll ahead.

Sergey Sirotkin was P17, just 0.011 seconds slower than Hulkenberg, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso P18 on his first taste of the fastest supersoft Pirellis of the weekend.

Team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was P19 having had to use soft rubber for his first run before moving onto supersofts, putting him ahead only of Ericsson.

So an excellent team effort for Mercedes with a front row grid slot at Suzuka. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in achieving pole position. This is looking so good for Hamilton considering championship rival Vettel is eight places behind. The 2018 title is within Hamilton’s gasp. Roll on race day.

Japanese Grand Prix, qualifying result:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.760s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.059s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m29.057s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m29.521s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m29.761s
6 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m30.023s
7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m30.093s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m30.126s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m32.192s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m37.229s
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.864s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m30.226s
13 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m30.490s
14 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m30.714s
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault –
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.361s
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m30.372s
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m30.573s
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m31.041s
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m31.213s