Britain's Lewis Hamilton rejected suggestions of dangerous driving after he tightened his grip on a third world championship with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix.
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Hamilton pipped team-mate Nico Rosberg in an eighth Mercedes one-two of the season to record the 41st success of his Formula One career – equalling the tally of his idol Ayrton Senna.
Rosberg insisted he had been forced to take evasive action as Hamilton made the decisive pass at turn two of the first lap, but the reigning champion was unapologetic.
“The inside line is the inside line, so it was my corner,” said the Englishman, who now leads the drivers’ standings by 48 points with five race remaining. “I can imagine Nico was running out of road but that’s what happens when you’re on the outside.”
Mercedes chiefs warned their duelling drivers to take greater care not to end the other’s race after Rosberg collided with Hamilton at the Belgian Grand Prix last year.
Rosberg dropped to fourth after Hamilton’s controversial overtaking manoeuvre at Suzuka, although he fought back beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to second place.
“It got really close on the exit of turn two and I had to back out of it there and that lost me the race,” the German said. “I haven’t seen it on TV. For sure it was close. I had to avoid a collision.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff exonerated Hamilton over the incident. “Lewis had a better start and stuck his nose in,” Wolff said. “It was a tough corner for both of them.”
Hamilton also celebrated matching Senna’s achievement. “For me to come to a race where I use to love watching Ayrton drive and to match his wins, I can’t really describe. It does not feel real at the moment.”