Lewis Hamilton has won the Japanese Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel retired with yet more engine trouble.
It was nearly another disaster from the start for Ferrari with Vettel’s car having no engine cover on the grid, but it appeared to be a minor issue and he was able to start as normal.
Interestingly both the demoted cars of Bottas and Raikkonen started on the Soft tyres compared to Supersoft for the rest of the top 10.
Both Hamilton and Vettel got good starts as they kept positions at the start.
Verstappen, on the other hand, dived down the inside of his teammate and then overtook Vettel for 2nd.
Sainz went off the track and hit the wall at the s’s, eventually causing a safety car.
Meanwhile, Vettel had dropped down to 6th and complaining of engine trouble over the radio.
On lap 4 we got going again as the Force India of Ocon easily overtook Vettel at turn one with the German’s straight line deficit.
At the end of the lap Ferrari told Vettel to retire the car, his championship hopes fading even more.
All the mayhem had allowed Ocon to get up into rd place ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Lap 9 and the yellow flags came out in sector 2 as Marcus Ericsson had gone off and crashed at the second Degner which caused a VSC.
As they got back up to racing speed, Ricciardo was right on the tail of Ocon and swooped around the outside at turn one to take the podium position.
Bottas was too charging up the field and got up to 4th by lap 12 while Raikkonen was in 8th and chasing down Massa in the Williams.
Raikkonen then made a big diving move around the outside of Perez t turn one to move himself up into 6th.
Ocon then pitted for Soft tyres on lap 20 coming out just behind Alonso, he soon got back past at Spoon.
A lap later Verstappen cam in for the Softs as he came very close to hitting Raikkonen on the pit exit but just stayed ahead. Hamilton came in after for the same tyres, putting Ricciardo into the lead.
I what could be his last F1 race Palmer got caught in a Force India sandwich, being overtaken by both at turn one on subsequent laps.
On lap 29 Mercedes gave the order for Bottas to let Hamilton through as Verstappen got ever closer to the two Mercedes cars. Bottas then finally made his pit stop for Supersofts allowing Verstappen to chase Hamilton, the Dutchman the only one seeming to challenge the championship leader.
On lap 38 Gasly got a very excited radio message for the team telling him to try and overtake the 3 cars in front with points on offer if he could. He then pitted having locked up at the hairpin.
The classic Force India civil war seemed to be alive and well as Perez (in 7th and behind Ocon) came over the radio saying “Ca I attack Ocon” to which the team replied “No”.
With 13 laps to go Hulkenberg was getting right up the back of Grosjean and tried a move at turn one but failed to do so. He later had to pit when his DRS became jammed open, but despite the mechanics managing to shut the flap, he was retired from the race.
Magnussen en made a move down the inside of Massa at turn one, nearly crashing with the Brazilian as he swerved to avoid him.
On lap 47 Lance Stroll went for a slide across the gravel at the S curves, coming within inches of sideswiping Daniel Ricciardo. Replays seemed to show a potential suspension failure and then puncture was to blame for the off.
The incident brought out the VSC again as there was no immediate recovery point where he stopped.
3 laps later the VSC came to an end and the race was back underway.
With one lap to go Verstappen was less than half a second behind Hamilton after Alonso held position and didn’t let him by until the hairpin. Massa then showed the same treatment to Verstappen allowing Hamilton to open the gap back up to 1.6 seconds while Alonso and Massa had their own battle.
But it was Lewis Hamilton who crossed the line first to extend his championship lead to 59 points with 4 races to go. Meanwhile Red Bull secured a double podium.
Final results are as follows