Early Vettel retirement paves way for easy Hamilton victory at Japan GP

Max Verstappen's contract runs out in 2019

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.

Verstappen closed right up on Hamilton in the final laps at Suzuka and asked Red Bull if he had the go-ahead to give it his all.

The British was its eighth victory of the season. Ferrari's continuing reliability woes have robbed Formula One fans and Mercedes of the thrilling battle they had been hoping for, last year's world champion Nico Rosberg said today.

Vettel told Sky: "It's normal you're critical, especially if things go wrong, so it's part of our job". There are four races to the calendar. With his main rival out, all Hamilton needed to do was to stay clear of any incidents and drive a low-risk race.

Instead, Hamilton will have title rival Sebastian Vettel sharing the front row with him, after the German went third fastest almost half a second off the pace, which sets up the tantalising prospect of the two title rivals steaming head to head into the first corner. Lining up alongside him will be rival Sebastian Vettel, who needs a big performance to catch Hamilton. By the fourth lap Vettel had slipped to sixth, forcing the Ferrari pit wall to cede to the inevitable and retire the auto. Alonso let Hamilton pass during Lap 52 at Turn 11.

Verstappen pitted from second place on lap 22 and switched into softs, and Hamilton did the same on the following lap taking softs as well. He then occupied the 14th rank.

"After the start, the race spread out, and it wasn't much fun for me but then I had Valtteri (Bottas) coming at the end so to have pressure at the end was good".

"I just don't think there is a need to make any changes".

"That's a lot of points".

"I get on very well with them and with (principal) Maurizio (Arrivabene) and it's not a situation you want to be in". I have not been very lucky this weekend, but I'm looking forward to Austin. Carlos Sainz, who had been set to move to Renault next year but will now replace Palmer at the next race in the United States, was also hit with a hefty penalty. Massa grabbed the last points place for Williams.

Vettel admitted that winning the championship would now be hard. He had also had a mechanical issue in Malaysia, starting from the back of the field before finishing fourth. "We go flat out for the last four races and see what happens", he said. But sometimes it is like that.

"Of course it hurts, and we're all disappointed".

In the constructors ' championship, Mercedes has brought its lead to 145 points ahead of Ferrari.

The next race is on October 22 in the US.

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