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Japanese GP: Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win, Vettel retires

10 October 2017 - Motorsport

Japanese GP: Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win, Vettel retires

Lewis Hamilton took another step towards this year's Formula 1 title with victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, narrowly beating Max Verstappen, while Sebastian Vettel's championship hopes suffered a blow.

Hamilton's 61st career win, and his eighth of the season, came as he converted pole into an early lead, while second-placed Vettel began to drop back immediately.

There were signs that all was not well with the German driver's car when it was seen on the grid with its engine cover off, as the Ferrari mechanics checked for a potential spark plug problem.

Verstappen, who passed Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo off the line, picked off Vettel at the hairpin on the opening lap, before the Ferrari dropped another three places along the start/finish straight at the start of the second tour.

After a brief safety car period, caused by Carlos Sainz crashing his Toro Rosso at Turn 6, Vettel slumped to eighth before getting the call on the radio to pit and retire the car on lap 4.

Hamilton at this stage held a small lead of 1.3 seconds over Verstappen, although by lap 10 this was out to 2.8s and then 4.1s after another five laps.

Verstappen pitted to change his supersofts for softs on lap 21, with Hamilton following suit the next lap, the gap between the pair dropping to 1.8s as Ricciardo took over the lead.

The Australian stopped on lap 25, handing the lead to Valtteri Bottas, who started on soft tyres.

Bottas began to hold up Mercedes teammate Hamilton, allowing Verstappen to close with in a second of his rival, but the gap grew once more when Bottas allowed Hamilton through at the Casio Triangle on lap 28 and started to hold up Verstappen.

It wasn't until lap 30 that Bottas pitted for supersofts, by which time Verstappen had fallen 3.4s adrift.

The Dutchman managed to cut Hamilton's advantage to a little over two seconds in the ensuing laps, but couldn't keep up the pace until Hamilton found himself impeded by Fernando Alonso on lap 51.

That allowed Verstappen to close to within 0.8s at the start of the final lap, but more traffic helped Hamilton escape once more and seal the win by 1.2s.

Ricciardo completed the podium in third, 9.6s behind Hamilton and 0.9s ahead of Bottas, who set a succession of fastest laps on supersofts late on but couldn't quite close down the Red Bull driver.

In the sole surviving Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, recovering after dropping to 15th on the opening lap, the result of being forced wide at Spoon by Nico Hulkenberg.

The Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished sixth and seventh. A fast-starting Ocon had run as high as third early on after passing Ricciardo on the opening lap, but was soon demoted to fifth on successive laps by Ricciardo and Bottas.

Raikkonen then rejoined ahead of the Frenchman after making a relatively late stop on lap 28.

An aggressive late move at Turn 1 on the Williams of Felipe Massa gave Kevin Magnussen eighth place, with Haas teammate Romain Grosjean following through to grab ninth.

Nico Hulkenberg, another late stopper, was also in this group before the DRS on his Renault got stuck open and he was forced to pit and retire.

Fernando Alonso finished 11th in the final home race for Honda as engine partner to McLaren, ahead of Renault's Jolyon Palmer and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly.

Stoffel Vandoorne came home 14th in the second McLaren after dropping to the rear on the first lap.

Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein was the only other finisher in 15th, his teammate Marcus Ericsson crashing out of the race on the eighth lap at Degner 2.

Lance Stroll was also forced out when an apparent failure on the front-right of his Williams sent him skating across the gravel and into retirement in the closing stages.

With four grands prix and 100 points left up for grabs, Hamilton's lead over Vettel is now up to 59 - with teammate Bottas just a further 13 points adrift of the German.

2017 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX - RACE RESULT

06- 08 Oct 2017 Suzuka International Racing Course, Suzuka

144Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES531:27:31.19425
233Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER53+1.211s18
33Daniel RicciardoRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER53+9.679s15
477Valtteri BottasMERCEDES53+10.580s12
57Kimi RäikkönenFERRARI53+32.622s10
631Esteban OconFORCE INDIA MERCEDES53+67.788s8
711Sergio PerezFORCE INDIA MERCEDES53+71.424s6
820Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI53+88.953s4
98Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI53+89.883s2
1019Felipe MassaWILLIAMS MERCEDES52+1 lap1
1114Fernando AlonsoMCLAREN HONDA52+1 lap0
1230Jolyon PalmerRENAULT52+1 lap0
1310Pierre GaslyTORO ROSSO52+1 lap0
142Stoffel VandoorneMCLAREN HONDA52+1 lap0
1594Pascal WehrleinSAUBER FERRARI51+2 laps0
NC18Lance StrollWILLIAMS MERCEDES45DNF0
NC27Nico HulkenbergRENAULT40DNF0
NC9Marcus EricssonSAUBER FERRARI7DNF0
NC5Sebastian VettelFERRARI4DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzTORO ROSSO0DNF0

2017 DRIVER STANDINGS

1Lewis HamiltonGBRMERCEDES306
2Sebastian VettelGERFERRARI247
3Valtteri BottasFINMERCEDES234
4Daniel RicciardoAUSRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER192
5Kimi RäikkönenFINFERRARI148
6Max VerstappenNEDRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER111
7Sergio PerezMEXFORCE INDIA MERCEDES82
8Esteban OconFRAFORCE INDIA MERCEDES65
9Carlos SainzESPTORO ROSSO48
10Nico HulkenbergGERRENAULT34
11Felipe MassaBRAWILLIAMS MERCEDES34
12Lance StrollCANWILLIAMS MERCEDES32
13Romain GrosjeanFRAHAAS FERRARI28
14Kevin MagnussenDENHAAS FERRARI15
15Stoffel VandoorneBELMCLAREN HONDA13
16Fernando AlonsoESPMCLAREN HONDA10
17Jolyon PalmerGBRRENAULT8
18Pascal WehrleinGERSAUBER FERRARI5
19Daniil KvyatRUSTORO ROSSO4
20Marcus EricssonSWESAUBER FERRARI0
21Antonio GiovinazziITASAUBER FERRARI0
22Pierre GaslyFRATORO ROSSO0

2017 CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

   
1MERCEDES540
2FERRARI395
3RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER303
4FORCE INDIA MERCEDES147
5WILLIAMS MERCEDES66
6TORO ROSSO52
7HAAS FERRARI43
8RENAULT42
9MCLAREN HONDA23
10SAUBER FERRARI5

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