Britain’s Lewis Hamilton has vowed to finish the season in style after tightening his grip on a fourth drivers’ championship with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
Rival Sebastian Vettel’s early retirement allowed Hamilton to extend his lead to 59 points with just four races remaining. The Mercedes driver can clinch the title at the next race in Texas if he wins and Vettel fails to finish in the top five, yet even with a sizeable advantage Hamilton is in no mood to ease up.
“I wouldn’t say I have one hand on it,” he said. “There are still 100 points available. I’m still going to keep the pedal to the metal. I just have to keep my head down and keep doing what I’ve been doing. We’ve still got to win the next four races.”
Hamilton endured a scare in the final laps at Suzuka as engine and tyre problems allowed Max Verstappen to close to within just over a second but he held his nerve to complete an eighth win of the season. Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third.
The result continued a violent swing in momentum towards the Englishman, who trailed Vettel by 14 points heading into the Belgian Grand Prix little more than two months ago.
Victories in Belgium, Italy, Singapore and Japan as well as a runner-up finish in Malaysia have seen Hamilton pull away from Vettel, who accrued just 45 points to his rival’s 118.
“I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap,” added Hamilton, whose podium celebrations included a Mobot in honour of watching British athlete Mo Farah.
“Ferrari have put on such a great challenge all season long. My team have done a great job. They are so meticulous and that is why we have the reliability we are having.”
Vettel retired on the fourth lap after an engine glitch left him short of power and the German struck a resigned note after the race.
“Of course it hurts and we’re all disappointed, but now we need to get back, get some rest and then go flat out for the last four races and see what happens,” he said.
Hamilton’s Mercedes colleague Valtteri Bottas was fourth ahead of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari, followed by the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.