Hamilton on brink of fifth title after Japan win

Lewis Hamilton wins Japanese GP & closes on fifth world title

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a fine day, climbing from 15th place after engine trouble in qualifying to finish ahead of the Ferrari duo in fourth.

The most simple way for Hamilton to win the title would be to replicate the results of the last two races, in Russian Federation and Japan, by leading home Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in a one-two finish.

Vettel tried to sound optimistic, saying "there are a lot of races in which we can improve this season and next" but the hopes of the German four-time world champ are all but dashed for this year.

Starting from pole, the Mercedes driver was never seriously challenged and crossed the finish line 12.919 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Attempting a gung-ho and unrealistic move on Verstappen, Vettel barged into the side of the Red Bull before spinning to the back in a flurry of sparks.

But team principal Wolff has warned Hamilton that despite holding an nearly unassailable points lead the title race is not over - and revealed he did not want to contemplate his star driver breaking a bone.

The British driver has been in scintillating form following the summer break, winning six of the last seven races, while he has not been beaten on American soil since 2013. "It's a great 1-2 for Mercedes and shows you the strength and depth of our team".

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"Obviously our last few races didn't go well and because of that we've made it very easy for Mercedes".

Hamilton now has 331 points to Vettel's 264, while Mercedes lead Ferrari in the constructors' standings with 538 points to 460 for the Italians. "Austin is generally a good track for us and I can't wait to unleash this beast there", said Hamilton after leading every lap at Suzuka for his 71st career win. "We've gone from strength to strength this year as a team but I'm taking it one step at a time".

If Hamilton finishes 7th though, even if Vettel does not score, the title fight will move to Mexico. He was then fourth after Verstappen ran off the road at the chicane, and in rejoining the track, bumped Raikkonen on to the grass.

"I even gave him space but he understeered into my vehicle", said Verstappen.

Mexican Sergio Perez took best of the rest honours for Force India in seventh while Romain Grosjean was eighth for Haas.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner put it even more bluntly when asked to assess Vettel's rush of blood.

The second Force India of Esteban Ocon came in ninth with Renault's Carlos Sainz Jr 10th.

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