Japanese GP: Hamilton wins as title rival Vettel slips up again

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Lewis Hamilton wins Japanese GP

Leads title race by 67 points

CNN  — 

Lewis Hamilton may have been ‘allowed to win’ last week in Russia but needed no help to take victory Sunday in the Japanese Grand Prix to close on a fifth world championship crown with a virtually unassailable 67-point lead over Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton’s teammate Valterri Bottas, who moved over for Hamilton at the Russian Grand Prix under team orders, finished second, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third place.

But it proved another sorry afternoon for Hamilton’s title rival Vettel as the Ferrari man lost further ground to finish in sixth place.

After a mistake by his team left the German in eighth on the grid after qualifying, he charged through to challenge Verstappen for third place after just eight of 53 laps at Suzuka.

However, going for a passing move on the Dutchman at the Spoon corner, Vettel appeared to misjudge the available gap and made contact, dropping back to 19th.

“On that corner you can’t overtake, I even gave him (Vettel) room. It’s a shame,” said Verstappen, who had to serve a five-second penalty for an incident with Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen but still made the podium.

Vettel, whose title hopes have all but subsided, saw it differently: “For me the gap was there,” he told Sky Sports. “I had the inside, he tried to push when he shouldn’t push any more.

“I don’t regret the move. I was side by side, he didn’t give enough room.”

Up ahead, Hamilton, who started from pole, led for every lap for a dominant victory, his 71st and 50th for the all-conquering Mercedes team.

“I loved it, very, very happy. The whole weekend we were strong, it’s a great one-two for Mercedes,” he said after winning for the fourth time in five years on a track he described as the “best in the world.”

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With just four rounds to go, Hamilton will go to Austin in Texas knowing that if he achieves victory there, with Vettel finishing lower than second, the coveted fifth championship will be his.

“I can’t wait to unleash the best at Austin,” he said as Mercedes takes a 78-point lead in the constructors’ championship over Ferrari to the United States GP in a fortnight.

Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of claiming a fifth world title after another commanding victory at his favorite track Suzuka, his ninth of the F1 season.

Behind the front runners, Daniel Ricciardo in his final few races for Red Bull, drove superbly to cut his way through the field into fourth place, ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel.

Sergio Perez was seventh for Force India ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean. The second Force India of Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz Jr. in the Renault rounded out the scoring.