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Notebook – Japanese Grand Prix – Review

Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory to take his fifth win at the Japanese Grand Prix. The four times world champion is now on the brink of taking his fifth world title in Austin after his rival Sebastian Vettel spun on the opening lap.

Hamilton’s form in the last five races has seen him build a lead of sixty-seven points and means victory in one of the four remaining races would see him seal the title.

Hamilton shocked by Ferrari’s “tail off”

Lewis Hamilton says that he never expected that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari to “tail off” in the way they have done in the second half of the season.

Hamilton’s fourth back to back win, both in this season and at Suzuka, means that the Englishman could take his fifth world title in Austin after taking a sixty seven-point lead over Vettel. Asked by Motorsport.com if he was surprised how Vettel has faded from the picture, Hamilton said: “Up until the mid-part of the season they were very strong.”

“Then they got to Monza and after that they were still quite strong at Monza and Singapore, then Singapore was really when things started to tail off. I definitely hadn’t anticipated that they would tail off as they have. The performances have not been coming as strong as they were before.”

“I don’t really have an answer for that, it’s not something I’ve really focused on – I’m sure Sebastian could tell why. We’ve just been focussing on trying to do the best job we can and maximise the potential of our own ability.”

Hamilton has benefitted from Vettel’s season unravelling around him, but says that Mercedes needs to be proud of overtaking Ferrari’s performance advantage.

Saying “We’ve been pushing to make sure we come back even stronger. That’s what you’re hoping to achieve – it’s not always the case that you do. We have, through great hard work from everyone.”

How Lewis can be a five times champion

Hamilton’s dominant win and Sebastian Vettel’s sixth place means that Hamilton could seal a fifth world title in Austin. All the Englishman needs to do is to outscore Vettel by eight points in the next four races.

Vettel could however still equal Hamilton, but Hamilton’s number of wins will see him be crowned champion because he has nine wins to Vettel’s five and more second and third places than the Ferrari driver.

The title permutations:

  • If Hamilton wins in Austin, Vettel must finish second to take the title fight on to the Mexican GP
  • If Hamilton finishes second, Vettel must finish fourth
  • If Hamilton finishes third, Vettel must finish sixth
  • If Hamilton finishes fourth, Vettel must finish seventh
  • If Hamilton finishes fifth, Vettel must finish eighth
  • If Hamilton finishes sixth, Vettel must finish 10th
  • If Hamilton finishes seventh or lower, the title race goes on to Mexico

Hamilton has won in Austin six times and was crowned in the lone star state in 2015, as well as  in Indianapolis in 2007.

 Vettel insists he not responsible for collision  

Sebastian Vettel is insisting that he is not responsible for the incident which saw him collide with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The Ferrari driver started the race eighth, making his way to fourth on the open lap.

His race all unfolded on lap seven when he tried to pass Verstappen for third. Vettel attempted to dive down the inside at Spoon, but the Red Bull ran out of road and they made contact. After the race, Vettel confirmed that the move was on, claiming that once again Verstappen crossed the line of how hard to defend.

Vettel said “I had a good exit and the gap was there, otherwise I don’t do it. But as soon as he realises somebody is close or next to him he tries to, in my opinion, push when you shouldn’t push anymore. I saved my battery, I had more speed, I would make the corner.”

“I was side by side then he didn’t give me enough room and we touched. It’s normal that sometimes it gets close but you’ve got to always leave the space and in that case, I couldn’t go anywhere, then we touched.”

Verstappen was awarded a penalty for another incident, but the stewards ruled no further action for the incident with Vettel. Meanwhile, Vettel fought through the midfield teams to finish P6 and as a result slips 67 points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.

Verstappen says Vettel should be more careful

Max Verstappen says that Sebastian Vettel should be “more careful” following there collision early on in the race.

While the stewards deemed it to only be a racing incident, Vettel was critical of Verstappen, saying he once again over-defended. The Dutchman shifted the blame back onto his rival.

He says that the four times champion “Tried to overtake me in a corner where you shouldn’t overtake, so he understeered into my car and we went off the track. It’s a similar situation to what I had in China with him. Of course, we didn’t spin off the track but he drove straight into my car.”

It wasn’t the only incident Verstappen was involved in during the race. On the opening lap he made contact with Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, after overshooting Casino Triangle chicane. The stewards who determined Verstappen had caused an avoidable collision and as a result, he received a five-second time penalty.

However, Verstappen labelled the stewards’ decision “stupid,” saying he did everything in his power to ensure he re-joined the track in a safe manner. He also believed Raikkonen could have taken measures to avoid the contact.

Adding “He then chose to drive around the outside when he could have easily waited for me to steer a bit wide. I don’t really understand why I get a five-second penalty for that.”

Leclerc labels Magnussen as dangerous

Sauber driver Charles Leclerc has label Kevin Magnussen as stupid following there collision on the fourth lap of the race.

Leclerc race was ended after he was rear-ended by the Dane, that incident also leads to the Haas retiring from the race after a puncher from the incident caused damage to his car. The Monacan also called Magnussen “stupid” on the radio, said he could not understand the decision.

“For me it’s clear from the cockpit, I have to watch back the images, but one or two years ago there was a very similar situation with Kimi and Max Verstappen at Spa, when Max was looking in the mirrors and then as soon as Kimi moved Max moved,” Leclerc told Motorsport.com.

“I think we all agreed at that time that it was a dangerous manoeuvre. I don’t understand why he hasn’t been penalised today. I need to understand because if that’s possible then I’ll do that next time and I will also expect a driver to do that.”

Leclerc has nothing to be upset by

Haas says that Charles Leclerc has no reason to be upset by Kevin Magnussen’s driving in the Japanese Grand Prix, according to Haas Formula 1 team boss Gunther Steiner.

In the incident, Magnussen picked up a left-rear puncture that caused enough damage to the car to force his eventual retirement, while Leclerc damaged his front wing.

Leclerc was angry with Magnussen after the reason but asked if he and his team have reason to be upset, Steiner said: “No. He [Leclerc] ran into him. He ran into him. Kevin didn’t brake. He didn’t push him off or anything, Kevin just moved over to his line and he ran into him. What can he do? Just let him by?”

When asked by Motorsport.com if he felt Leclerc should bear some responsibility, Steiner said: “Exactly, that’s what I think. He [Leclerc] needs to judge what he can do and what he cannot. He [Magnussen] didn’t run into the side of him, he was clearly in front because he could move in in front of him.”

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Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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