Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to the 2018 Formula 1 championship title, winning the Japanese Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver won the race amidst high octane action, which included a clash between Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen of Red Bull. With a 67 point deficit over Hamilton, Vettel's home of taking winning the championship this year seem to be diminishing faster with about 100 points left for grabs. Joining Hamilton on the podium was teammate Valtteri Bottas followed by Verstappen in third place. Vettel finished a distant sixth in the race.
Hamilton started from pole and held on to the position till the end of the race. Bottas, who also had a front row start was a few seconds off his teammate. The safety car was out in the race early on with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen picking up a puncture after being rear ended by Charles Leclerc of Sauber. The incident led to both drivers retiring from the race. Meanwhile, Vettel gained pace in the opening stint and was quick to take fourth from eighth place.
He was further helped by Verstappen's first incident with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. The Red Bull driver locked up on the final corner of the opening lap and ran off track, only to rejoin in the second part of the chicane. Verstappen made light contact with Raikkonen in the process, which led to the slight damage to the latter. The driver was handed a 5-second penalty for the incident.
When the safety car went back to the pits, Vettel attacked Verstappen for third but ended up carrying too much speed and made light contact with the Red Bull. The move led to Vettel spinning onto the run-off, with little effect on Verstappen's position. However, Vettel dropped to 18th but wasn't awarded a penalty for the incident by the stewards.
Meanwhile, Verstappen was able to maintain third ahead of Raikkonen but soon dropped to fourth behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who started 15th on the grid. The top drivers remained largely the same for the rest of the race, with Hamilton extending his lead followed by Bottas. The latter though did face pressure from Verstappen but did not succumb finishing a 1-2 for Mercedes, second time in a row.
While Mercedes and Red Bull occupied the top four spots, Raikkonen finished a distant 50 seconds behind the race leader, while Vettel, who climbed back to sixth was over a minute behind Hamilton and 48 seconds behind his teammate.
In a good result for Racing Point Force India, Sergio Perez finished seventh behind Vettel backed by a strategy to pit earlier than the rivals. Esteban Ocon finished ninth behind Romain Grosjean of Haas and Renault's Carlos Sainz Jr. beat Pierre Gasly of Torro Rosso to take 10th.
Sponsors for the Japanese GP, Honda did not have the best result as team Torro Rosso's Gasly finished 11th and Brendon Hartley secured 13th. Marcus Ericsson of Sauber took 12th as the lone car for the team post LeClerc's incident early in the race. The final spots were taken by McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne at 14th and 15th, followed by Williams' Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll.
The Japanese GP marks Hamilton's ninth win of the season and has a significant edge over Vettel for the championship title. With four races to go, Hamilton will have to outscore Vettel by eight points to seal the world title in the US Grand Prix later this month.