Hamilton seizes victory in Japan and the F1 title is now firmly within his grasp.

Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan yesterday and managed to rack up a very significant 59 point lead in the world championship title challenge. What was looking to be a closely fought battle to the bitter end between the top two Formula One teams Mercedes and Ferrari now appears to be a foregone conclusion. Ferrari were looking stronger than ever this season but have since suffered a string of disappointments with ongoing failures to their million pound cars in Malaysia and Japan and that devastating crash on the opening lap in Singapore. Their fall from grace has been an embarrassing one and surely crushing for their top driver Sebastien Vettel who was having such a promising 2017 season up until recently.

Friday's practise session was met with heavy rain and was almost declared a complete wash-out. There was a vast improvement in the weather however on Saturday when Lewis Hamilton displayed a flawless drive and took the fastest lap securing the 71st pole of his career. His Finnish team-mate Valtteri Bottas claimed the second fastest lap but unfortunately was penalised with a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change and had to start the main event in seventh as was Kimi Raikkonen in his damaged Ferrari who had managed to take sixth position but was put back down to eleventh. The Red Bull drivers Ricciardo and Verstappen qualified in fourth and fifth on the grid but benefited from Bottas being penalised and were pushed back up to third and fourth.

There had been a bout of very obvious frantic chaos in the Ferrari camp just before the race with a sea of engineers all over Vettel's car in the pits resulting in the German driver being reprimanded for failing to join his fellow F1 drivers for the obligatory Japanese national anthem. Vettel had started the race in a very promising second place but was forced to retire after just four laps with a spark-plug failure. He had been losing power from the very start and was quickly overtaken by both of the Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo and also Esteban Ocon in his Force India car and Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes. "It is normal to be critical, especially when things go wrong", said a crestfallen Sebastien Vettel talking about his team after his race came to a very premature end on Sunday. "I think I need to protect them. We have done an incredible job so far. It is like that sometimes, of course it hurts and we are all disappointed". The championship is slipping from the German's grasp and his arch-rival Hamilton now only needs to score sixteen more points than him at the American Grand Prix in a few weeks time in order to seize the title.

Hamilton switched to soft Pirellis for the latter part of the race, a move which almost cost him his win as his tyres failed to reach the correct temperature with a charging Max Verstappen hot on his heels and gunning for a back to back win. McLaren Honda's Fernando Alonso, who was locked in a battle with Felipe Massa for tenth place and about to be lapped by the race leaders, seemed to ignore the blue flags and flashing blue lights on the penultimate lap and unfortunately interfered with the battle for first place. He was later called in by the stewards and received his first reprimand this year for not having let Hamilton and Verstappen through at his earliest opportunity and was handed two penalty points. Max Verstappen had to settle for second place with Daniel Ricciardo claiming third and Valterri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen taking fourth and fifth respectively.

When Hamilton was questioned about his huge lead in the championship after the race, he admitted to reporters that it was a very good feeling. "Honestly, I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap", he said after his win in Japan. "Ferrari have put on a such a great challenge all year long. All I can really say is that I have to put it down to my team. They've done a phenomenal job. Reliability has really been on point". His Team Principal Toto Wolff echoed these sentiments but also declared his sympathy and respect for his rival Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. "The Ferrari guys must feel awful at the moment", he said. "I get on very well with them and with Maurizio, it is not a situation you want to be in. Maybe it is the development slope of the team. They made a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017. Their car is super-fast, it just lacks reliability and that is the next step".

There was unusual and entertaining end to the Japanese Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton celebrated his outstanding victory on the podium when he suddenly spotted a familiar face in the crowd, none other than olympic legend Mo Farah. The beaming British driver who was enjoying basking in his glory immediately performed Farah's signature move the 'Mobot' much to the delight of the cheering crowd, a gesture to which Mo Farah happily reciprocated.

 

Fifteen of the twenty drivers managed to complete the 53 laps round the Suzuka circuit yesterday with DNF's for Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg, Marcus Ericsson, Carlos Sainz and of course a very unlucky Sebastien Vettel. British driver Jolyon Palmer announced his final race for Renault on Sunday and will be replaced for the rest of the season by Carlos Sainz whom will part ways with Toro Rosso. Daniil Kvyat will once again drive for Toro Rosso for the United States Grand Prix with Frenchman Pierre Gasly.

Lewis Hamilton is now poised to make history as he becomes the most successful British driver of all time with his now highly likely fourth world championship title overtaking Jackie Stewart's record. With only four races to go in the 2017 season, the next fixture on the F1 calendar is the US Grand Prix in two weeks time at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, a track on which the British driver has taken first place four times in five years.