Formula 1: Hamilton wins in Japan as Vettel retires from race

Formula 1: Hamilton wins in Japan as Vettel retires from race

Photo credit: Andy Hone/LAT/Sutton Images (Formula 1 website)

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has claimed his fourth Japanese Grand Prix victory, and his third at the Suzuka International Racing Course, as his closest championship rival, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, retired due to technical issues at the start of the race. Hamilton is now on 306 points, leading Vettel in the Championship by 59 points.

Hamilton, who took pole position in qualifying yesterday, held the lead from the start, while it soon became obvious Vettel was struggling. Vettel’s engine cover had been taken off on the starting grid so the mechanics could examine a suspected spark plug problem and despite a good start, he had dropped to eighth after just four laps when his team radioed him to retire.

Meanwhile, Max Verstappen had a fantastic start, passing his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo into turn 1 and Vettel at the hairpin on the first lap. Hamilton’s pitstop strategy allowed him to stay ahead of Verstappen, the latter being held up by Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, and although the gap closed to within a second at the final lap, Hamilton crossed the finish line ahead of Verstappen. After losing places on the opening lap, Ricciardo fought back to take third and complete the podium, his first in Japan.

Bottas finished fourth, ahead of the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen. Both Finns were given five-place grid penalties as a result of unscheduled gearboxes and started sixth and tenth respectively. Next were the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez. Ocon had made it up to third before being passed by Ricciardo and Bottas; the Frenchman continues to impress, having scored points in all but one race this season.

Felipe Massa’s Williams was passed by the Haas teammates Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean late in the race to secure the first double points finish for Haas since the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this season; Magnussen finished eighth, Grosjean ninth, and Massa rounded out the points finishers in 10th. Fernando Alonso brought his McLaren home in 11th, despite starting 20th, finishing ahead of Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso, and Alonso’s McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, who dropped several places from his ninth-place start. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber’s was last across the line in 15th.

Carlos Sainz Jr crashed his Toro Rosso on the esses early on, losing the rear, spinning across the gravel and into the wall. This was Sainz’s last race for Toro Rosso, as he transfers to Renault for the United States Grand Prix; he will be replaced by Daniil Kvyat who has sat out the last two races. Marcus Ericsson’s race also ended in early retirement, with the Sauber driver running straight on at Degner 2, sliding across the gravel and nose-first into the wall.

Toward the end of the race Nico Hülkenberg retired because his Renault’s DRS flap was stuck in its open position. The DRS (drag reduction system) opens a flap in the rear wing to temporarily lower the downforce of the car, making it faster along straights, but reducing stability in corners. Lance Stroll’s Williams joined the retirees late in the race due to a suspected front-right puncture of uncertain origin on the esses, riding across the gravel and stopping on the grass on the inside of the circuit.

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