Hamilton leads every lap at Suzuka
Leading every lap from pole, Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese GP for the 4th time in the last five years.
Valtteri Bottas held off a challenge from Max Verstappen to give Mercedes a 1-2 finish.
Verstappen had contact with both Ferraris in the early laps but was quick despite a slightly damaged floor.
Daniel Ricciardo drove from 15th on the grid to 4th while the choking Ferrari team could only manage 5th and 6th.
Vettel spun trying to pass Verstappen and that mental error, his second for the weekend, all but assures Hamilton the 2018 drivers title. If Hamilton wins in Austin in two weeks and Vettel does not finish at least 2nd, the title fight is over.
In reality, it's over.
Following a brief Safety Car period called on Lap 4 due to debris after a puncture for Kevin Magnussen, Vettel was able to close on Verstappen - who had a five-second time penalty under his belt after pushing Kimi Raikkonen off-track at the chicane on the opening lap - and got a run on the Red Bull driver as they headed towards Spoon after the race resumed on Lap 8.
Vettel attempted a dive up the inside of Verstappen, only for the two drivers to touch. While Verstappen was able to continue, Vettel was sent into a spin in the run-off area before returning to the track down in 19th place. While the stewards investigated the incident, they ultimately took no action, deeming it to be a racing incident.
The setback left Vettel to fight his way back up the order through the race, and while he was able to battle back to sixth, it acted as the latest blow to his championship hopes. His only consolation was fastest race lap at the end
It was Hamilton’s 71st career victory and his 50th for Mercedes, and sees him extend his title lead over Vettel to 67 points, with Vettel claiming just eight for P6
Maurizio Arrivabene: ”After what happened in qualifying, today the team and the drivers fought back well. The podium could have been within our grasp, but unfortunately, damage on both cars, as a result of collisions in the race, affected the final result. Regardless of what is now a very difficult situation in terms of the championship, we will tackle the coming races giving them our best shot, maintaining concentration and determination.”
Kimi Raikkonen: ”After the contact with Max I saw some parts flying off my car; it was damaged pretty badly on the left hand side. Obviously, this affected negatively the rest of my race. What happened is unfortunate and after that it was pretty difficult to drive on. I had lost a lot of downforce, but there was not much I could do. It’s impossible to know what our performance would have been without that accident at the chicane; we had improved the car over the weekend, it was getting better and better, but unfortunately this is what we have got today. It’s been a difficult and poor weekend overall, the result is not ideal. Now we need to look deeply on everything and hopefully we’ll come back at the next race on a more normal situation where we’ll be able to fight.”
Sebastian Vettel: ”Today, I found it quite inspirational walking through the garage and watching the guys work! All the team is fired up and that certainly helps, as the last couple of weeks haven’t been that easy. The spirit is unbroken despite everything. Races like this are a bit of a hand-over and we know it is difficult from where we are in the point standings, but we don’t have much to lose. We have given everything so far and I believe there’s still something we can learn and understand from the car. So we keep fighting and resisting and we’ll see what the other races bring. As for the collision with Max, I was obviously pushing to pass, I knew he had a penalty, but I also felt that we were fast. I could see that his battery was clipping, while I had saved some energy from mine. I saw a gap and went for it on the inside, he obviously tried to defend and I couldn’t go anywhere, so we touched. However, this is part of racing.”
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo (4th): "Surprisingly, I was able to come through the field and overtake quite easily. That's not because I thought I couldn't personally overtake, it's just not that easy on this track, but I was able to make good use of the downforce we had on the soft tire. I knew we would be quite vulnerable on the straights as we ran very high downforce this weekend, but I could stay close enough in the corners that I could latch onto the tow of the cars ahead on the straights. It was a good set-up and the first part of the race was a lot of fun. We went on to the mediums to try and cover Kimi and fourth place was kind of written after that. I would have loved a podium and I was kinda of hoping for something to happen up front, but I feel I earned at least a fourth today. It was good to come through the field and on the grid Helmut actually said that he thought fourth place was a little optimistic and possibly out of reach today. So, fourth is like a little victory from the back on this track and it was good to see our strong pace against Ferrari. A podium would have been even sweeter but I can't complain with the result and I'm pleased for the Team. All that's left to say is, arigatooooo Japan."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "Today was a good day for both drivers and the Team. For Max to achieve a podium despite incurring a five second penalty following contact with Kimi on the opening lap was a great performance. He had a busy afternoon, with a racing incident between him and Seb on lap seven resulting in damage. Despite that, he was still able to close down Valtteri in the final stages and put him under pressure to try and claim second place and secure his third consecutive Suzuka podium. Daniel also drove a very strong Grand Prix, progressing through the field with some great overtakes and with strong pace he was able to finish fourth from fifteenth on the grid. All round, it has been a positive day getting two cars to the finish and taking home a good haul of points for the Team."
Sahara Force India F1 Team
Esteban Ocon (9th): "The team scored some good points today, but I'm not totally happy because our final result was dictated by the penalty yesterday. We have shown great speed all weekend – as the fourth quickest team – but if we don't start higher up it's difficult to show it in the race. There were some fun moments today and I had to make a lot of overtaking moves. When you had fresh tires there was a big pace advantage and our strategy paid off in the end. I was close to catching Grosjean during the final few laps, but there wasn't a chance to make a move."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "I think we made the most of our opportunities this afternoon. We had to fight all the way to the flag to score eight important points. Our strategy required both cars to pull off various overtaking moves to come back through the field, but it worked out well. Sergio made a fantastic move on Grosjean to finish as the 'best of the rest'. Considering our starting positions, we recovered well today and the team did an excellent job with the strategy calls. We have unlocked some significant performance recently and we just need to keep up this points-scoring momentum in the final few races."
Williams Martini Racing
Sergey Sirotkin (16th): "Today was a difficult day. We had to turn our strategy around to a two-stop, which in the end looked like it could be the quickest strategy to the flag. However, with traffic and other things happening on the track, we didn't really get chance to fully exploit it, so it was a difficult race. We were able to avoid some of the trouble on the track and gain some positions here and there, so it's been good in these terms, but at the end of the day we didn't finish as high as we probably wanted. A very difficult race but I think we as a team did the absolute maximum from what we could today. With our situation, none of us could do any better, so with this in mind I'm very proud of all the boys effort."
Lance Stroll (17th): "With Fernando, I just went around the outside of 130R, I got on the grass and then back on the racing line, we made some contact and then he just went straight on, so we both got penalties. It was just a typical first lap racing incident when things get heated. I just wanted to say to him I didn't push him intentionally or anything like that. After that, the race was quite bad. Nothing went our way today, as races go, it was just a really bad one."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: "A disappointing day. We had the pace and grid positions to beat some cars today, but we didn't manage to do so overall not the result we hoped for. We had good reliability with both cars coming home. Lance received a penalty for an incident at turn 16, and on top of that in his second stint, which needed to be a good, long stint, he flat spotted one of his tires, so effectively that ruined his opportunity today. On Sergey's side, he lost quite a few places in the opening laps, therefore, we chose to gamble with an earlier stop, but for various reasons that didn't work out, so we had to make a second stop."
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Nico Hulkenberg (DNF, Retired): "We tried a different strategy today, starting from sixteenth on the Medium tire. We were able to show respectable pace relative to the others on softer tires, but it was always going to be a tough battle starting from where we did. We thought we could make the Medium last a little bit longer than it did, and then it was unfortunate that I had to retire the car as something didn't feel right at the rear after the pit stop. Whilst there were no points for me today, Carlos and the team had a great race so it was a good effort at a crucial time in the championship battle. We know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us until the end of the season, but we're still fighting hard."
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director: "Today is an important result for the team. After Sochi, it is further evidence that our race pace is competitive at this stage of our development. We've also shown that the Power Unit is capable of doing great things in race conditions at high-power sensitive circuits, like Suzuka, with Red Bull Racing fighting for second place in these track conditions. Carlos drove strongly throughout and never relented for that final point, whilst Nico unfortunately had to retire. It's clear what needs to be fixed and that's improving our qualifying pace. We've seen that small differences can play a huge role in starting between seventh or fourteenth. We absolutely need to get on top of this and get the car back where it belongs at circuits which should be better for us."
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
Pierre Gasly (11th): "It was a good start as I managed to overtake Brendon and the first stint was great. I felt good with the car behind Romain and I was pretty close to him, but then we went too long on the first stint as we didn't want to pit into traffic but then several cars undercut us. We put the Soft tires on during the pit stop and I enjoyed the battles and overtakes on the first few laps, but then I started to have massive blisters on the rear tires and I was trying to survive at the end. It could have been better today so we need to analyze more deeply what happened. We probably didn't make the best decisions, but that happens sometimes, it's easy to say in hindsight that we could have made different choices. It's just a shame after such a good Qualifying yesterday, it would have been great to reward the team and Honda here in Japan for their home race with some points today."
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: "Today's result was disappointing, given our excellent showing in qualifying yesterday. Pierre ran in the points for much of the race, so it was unfortunate that he was unable to fight off Sainz in the closing stages and dropped down to eleventh. Since we arrived in Suzuka, we have had fantastic support from the Toro Rosso Honda fans, which was a great boost for all of us. So it was a shame that we were unable to repay them with a point or two. However, the frustration we all feel at the lack of points will be turned into motivation as we carry on working for the final four races and, at this point of the year, even looking to 2019."
Haas F1 Team
Romain Grosjean (8th): "We need to analyze what happened with the Virtual Safety Car restart. I was right on my delta time and Perez, when the gap was 2.4 seconds before, overtook me straight away. We need to check and see if there is not a problem in the system there. I thought I had done the job on my side. We did our best. We had a few technical issues on the car, which didn't make our life easy. I think without those, we clearly had the pace to be in front of all those guys. Onto the next one."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal:
McLaren F1 Team
Fernando Alonso (14th): "In spite of the poor result, I did enjoy driving around this track today. The first lap was quite good and intense, and in the Esses especially we were overtaking each other inside and outside and we recovered a few places. In the last couple of laps there was also a good battle with the Williams and [Marcus] Ericsson who were struggling on old tires, so we had to fight a little bit. Even though we were too slow all weekend, in the end it was an enjoyable race. Unfortunately, the five-second penalty I received in the first part of the race dropped me down several positions. It wasn't a big drama, because we were out of the points anyway, but it's difficult to understand the stewards' decision as I had nowhere to go but off the track when Lance [Stroll] came across not having seen me, as he said."
Stoffel Vandoorne (15th): "It wasn't a great race for us. It was pretty difficult at the beginning, and there wasn't really any possibility to resist the quicker cars. We were more or less passengers on the straights. At least the race turned out a little bit better towards the end, and we managed to beat a few cars on pace. With the tire degradation, we were able to make them last and make a one-stop work, catch up with some cars and hold some other cars behind us. I think that was more or less the maximum possible today."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "Despite our lowly starting position, Fernando's penalty and the fact that we come away with no points, it's fair to say that today was still positive. Stoffel struggled a little in the first stint, but finished quite strongly to elevate himself to the fight immediately ahead. Fernando had a brilliant first lap, and strong pace throughout the race, showing his customary inimitable race-craft. We sit here wondering what could have been, nevertheless we go home with a better feeling, given that we genuinely beat cars that started ahead of us. In addition, our race pace once again proved to be stronger than qualifying. On a cheerful note, I'm glad the great Japanese fans were rewarded with a very exciting Japanese Grand Prix that was full of overtakes. I can't wait to return to Suzuka in 2019."
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team
Marcus Ericsson (12th):
Charles Leclerc (DNF):
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal:
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