Japan was the stage for another championship twist that saw Sebastian Vettel’s recent suffering continue and his championship hopes evaporate further as he was forced to retire with yet more engine problems while championship leader Lewis Hamilton scored another win to raise his tally to eight wins this year.
Suzuka also witnessed a new double podium for Red Bull. But who got their names on the winners’ board and who leaves Japan hoping to leave all the memories behind?
Who else can it be after another perfect weekend for the triple world champion who seems to be heading to collect his fourth championship? The Mercedes driver extending his lead to 59 points with four rounds to spare and completed a full set having now claimed pole at every circuit on the calendar, making it 71 in total.
The Briton maintained the lead through Turn 1 first and held off a game Max Verstappen to take an eighth win this season and fourth in five races with very little now appearing to stay in his way.
It seems that the collision at the start in Singapore signalled a swap in luck between Ferrari and Verstappen as, since that race, Ferrari have failed to get on the podium while the young Dutchman took his second in a week.
The move on Vettel on Lap 1 was vintage Verstappen and from there the 20-year-old kept Hamilton under pressure pretty much throughout and was quite unlucky not to get a better chance of challenging for the win in the closing laps.
Still, a second place to add to his victory from Malaysia on his birthday weekend has been quite the start to the Red Bull driver's third decade on planet Earth.
Ricciardo backed up Red Bull's recent renaissance as he added a ninth podium to his tally for 2017 at Suzuka. The Australian has been able to deliver consistent results this season in a weaker Red Bull, compared to Mercedes and Ferrari and although a bad start saw him drop behind Esteban Ocon, a nice move on the Force India and a strong end to keep Valtteri Bottas behind late on enabled him to finish third for the second weekend in a row.
Another superb drive from Ocon as the Frenchman secured the ‘best of the rest’ finish once again to make it 15 points results in 16 races. No one could have expected the consistency Ocon would manage this season and Suzuka was another proof of his capabilities, even if his teammate Sergio Perez was held back by Force India for much of the race.
An impressive start saw him climb up to third and run well in that position but he was not able to defend against the faster Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari behind as Ricciardo, Bottas and Raikkonen eventually made their way through. Nevertheless, Ocon will have surely enjoyed his sixth position.
Much like Hamilton as the biggest winner, no one could expect another name here. While the Asian rounds used to be Vettel’s good luck charm in previous championship successes, they have become a nightmare in 2017.
This time a faulty spark plug on his engine meant that Vettel’s drive will last no longer than five laps. It seems that what could go wrong has gone for the four-time world champion as he has tried to maintain the battle to Mercedes since Singapore and this retirement could well mean his hopes have been shattered no matter what positive spin the 30-year-old tries to put on it.
The Spaniard had an amazing journey with Toro Rosso, particularly since emerging from Verstappen's shadow mid-way through last year but, ahead of his impromptu move to Renault from Austin, his final race was disappointing.
A farewell that lasted just a few corners before Sainz lost the car out wide in the Esses and head straight to the barriers. Far from the goodbye the 22-year-old was hoping for but surely hope his Renault journey will be better than his last Grand Prix for Toro Rosso.
Is he even allowed to enjoy a good race? It seems that whenever the German is having a good run something will appear and ruin it. Bad strategies, mechanical problems and other circumstances but this time a broken DRS was the culprit which cost Hulkenberg a chance of points.
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