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Japanese GP: Hamilton eases to lights-to-flag victory as Vettel falters

Written by  Oct 07, 2018

Lewis Hamilton is now within touching distance of his fifth Formula 1 title after a comfortable lights-to-flag victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Briton led every lap as Mercedes scored their second 1-2 within a week with Valtteri Bottas holding off a charging Max Verstappen who completed the podium for Red Bull.

At the start, the top five getaway in stereo with Hamilton leading Bottas and Verstappen into Turn 1. Sebastian Vettel would make important moves on the two Toro Rosso's before Turn 2 and then bravely passed Romain Grosjean on the run to Spoon on the opening lap.

Ahead, Verstappen would go deep into the final chicane, pushing Kimi Raikkonen wide as he rejoined the track, something the stewards would later give the Red Bull driver a five-second penalty for, and Vettel would take advantage to move upto fourth in front of his teammate.

Further back, Charles Leclerc would look to pass Kevin Magnussen on the main straight with Dane moving late to defend and leaving the Sauber nowhere to go but into the back of his car. 

The Haas would pick up a puncture as a result with debris on the track both on the approach to Turn 1 and the exit of Spoon curve as Magnussen's tyre delaminated on his way to the pits.

A Safety Car would be called to clear the circuit but it would be too early for any drivers to try and make an early pit-stop.

At the restart, the order remained unchanged until Vettel tried a silly move into Spoon on Verstappen with the Ferrari spinning and falling to the back of the field.

Surprisingly, after the penalty for Max, the Ferrari driver would not be punished despite making contact in what appeared to be an ambitious overtake.

The second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo would light up the track with a number of trademark overtakes. He would soon be upto P5 within 14 laps from 15th on the grid and in free air had much better pace than Raikkonen ahead who was struggling on his used Supersofts.

Kimi would pit such was his lack of pace but the traffic he emerged in meant both Verstappen, despite his five-second penalty, and Ricciardo would be able to jump the Ferrari when they pitted several laps later.

The midfield battle also heated up as Vettel made his way back through making rapid moves on Ocon and Leclerc, who also produced a great move on Hulkenberg into the chicane moments prior, to move back into the points.

A big loser, however, would be the two Toro Rosso's as Brendon Hartley slipped down rapidly and Pierre Gasly lost out in the pit-stops eventually losing out on a point following a late pass by Carlos Sainz in the Renault.

The story after the pit-stop was Verstappen, who switched to the Soft tyre, closing in on the Mercedes' ahead on the slower Medium compound.

Ricciardo was also following his teammate too as the Silver Arrows also tried to run a reduced pace to save engine modes and look after the tyres.

Leclerc would allow the Dutchman to close in a little faster as he went off at the Degner corners soon after pitting, telling his team "something broke", requiring the Virtual Safety Car to clear his Sauber from the side of the track.

The closest Verstappen would get, however, was after Bottas ran wide at the hairpin lapping Fernando Alonso but the power of the Mercedes was enough to pull away down the straights and not give the Red Bull a chance.

Hamilton would continue serenely on, taking the checkered flag by 12 seconds over his teammate with Verstappen in third.

Ricciardo followed in fourth with Raikkonen 31 seconds behind in fifth as Red Bull trounced Ferrari. Vettel came in sixth meaning his deficit to Hamilton in the championship now sits at 67 points with four races left to go.

Sergio Perez would lead the midfield in seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean with Esteban Ocon giving Force India a double points finish in ninth.

As mentioned, Carlos Sainz made a late move on Pierre Gasly to break the hearts of the Toro Rosso/Honda fans and claim the final point in 10th.

The final finishing order from Suzuka can be seen below:

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