Hamilton wins in Japan and moves closer to F1 title

Mario Isola Pirelli Racing Manager in the FIA Press Conference

Vettel recovered to finish sixth at Suzuka but now trails Lewis Hamilton by a whopping 67 points with four races left this season after his Mercedes rival roared to victory.

"Austin is generally a good track for us, and I can't wait to unleash this beast there".

"I think it's correct that maybe we've been on the wrong side a couple of times but I don't think there was an very bad big gap or an terrible lot to get wrong".

The Mercedes driver, in dominant form all weekend at the Suzuka circuit, pumped in a one minute 27.760 second lap on the super-soft tyres while it was still only just spitting with rain.

Despite his early time penalty, Verstappen was able to maintain third ahead of Raikkonen thanks to Ferrari pitting the Finn first and releasing him into traffic. They pitted quickly, but it may have just shaken the German slightly - his subsequent flying lap was poor, running wide, and clocking only the ninth fastest time, upon which he failed to improve.

"He just looks at me but I think he should keep the overview of the track and we should both try and make the corner in the first place and then sort out who is inside, outside, first, second, whatever".

"If I don't go for that gap and the gap was there then might as well stay at home".

The Briton, victor of five of the last six races had always been favourite for pole having dominated practice but Vettel had looked competitive until the botched tyre choice.

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It's a very mixed-up starting grid, but the sight of Romain Grosjean's Haas leading the third row is an intriguing one.

Verstappen though was unrepentant and called his penalty "stupid".

However, the rain ultimately held off until later in the session meaning Vettel had to drive back to the pits for slicks only for it to start raining halfway round his quick lap. With Charles Leclerc, a new driver coming in, someone who seems hungry to win races and championships, it'll be hard for Ferrari to satisfy him with this mindset. Hamilton complained intermittently of hesitations from his power unit from the lead, but he had no discernable difficulty keeping a five-second gap to his teammate in second place.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were fighting for the rearmost places in the field, but their enthusiasm got the better of them.

Sergio Perez stole best-of-the-rest honours in seventh after Racing Point Force India mugged Haas and Toro Rosso with a superior strategy.

After a virtual safety vehicle, called after Leclerc pulled off with a mechanical failure, Bottas began to run into blistering problems with his tyres. The Sauber driver reported a breakage in his auto before he ran through the gravel and into retirement at the Degner corners.

Hamilton was sprinting away at the front all the while, but Bottas was struggling with rear blistering in his tires and making slower progress, slipping to 10 seconds behind his teammate and into the clutches of Verstappen.

Ferrari, expecting rain, sent Vettel and team mate Kimi Raikkonen out on the intermediate tyres at the start of the final shootout phase of qualifying.

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