Hamilton: Verstappen 'looked so big in my mirrors'

Aaron Brown
October 9, 2017

Lewis Hamilton has put himself within touching distance of a fourth Formula One world championship after his victory at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.

Vettel's latest setback, a fatal engine glitch which reduced the Ferrari driver to a spectator at Suzuka for most of the afternoon, leaves the German 59 points behind with four races remaining and Hamilton on the verge of the championship.

The German made a clean start, hanging on to second off the line, but it soon became apparent the problem ran much deeper as Vettel, clearly lacking power, plummeted down the order.

He was sixth after the first lap and stayed out during a safety-car period following a crash by Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz - but after rapidly losing places again at the re-start after three laps was called into the pits a lap later.

"The team did an incredible job, and it wasn't an easy one for us at all. But until then, I will try and not give him too many poles or too many wins".

"I think we are improving race by race, we've got a lot further than people have thought so there's also some positives", he added.

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"I was trying to manage the pace and the tyres; it was a long way to go, it was the hottest the track had been all weekend, so that was really crucial".

The win is Hamilton's eighth victory this season, and it his 21st consecutive race finishing in the points. Moments later, Bottas allowed Hamilton to pass through, and now the Red Bull was stuck behind him. It is good to get some rest and then we know we have the package to do well in the last four races. "They just told me when to do it really and I kind of got the point, I understood completely the situation".

With Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel having issues with his auto, and eventually needing to retire, the coast was clear for Hamilton - but Red Bull's Max Verstappen was not going to just hand the victory to the Brit. "There's also some positives but for sure now we don't look at positives because it is not a day to look at positives". The race was restarted on lap 3/53.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he feels sympathetic towards former driver Sebastian Vettel and Formula 1 fans having seen the Ferrari driver's title challenge take a critical blow in Japan which he fears will dampen the title climax. "At least I tried", he said, happy to be on the podium.

The other Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo, took the third row, while Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes finished fourth. Raikkonen had recovered to sixth ahead of the two Force India cars, with Jolyon Palmer ten seconds back at the head of a train of cars fighting hard over tenth place that included Massa, Magnussen, Grosjean and Pierre Gasly.

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