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