Lewis Hamilton closes in on fifth Formula One world title
PUBLISHED: 11:41 07 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:51 08 October 2018
© Paul Ripke for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.
Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of a fifth Formula One world title after winning the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix.
The 33-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire claimed a lights to flag victory at Suzuka to extend his lead in the World Drivers’ Championships to an emphatic 67 points with four races to go.
Hamilton made it six wins out of seven with his 71st career victory today as main title rival Sebastian Vettel trailed home sixth for Ferrari.
It was also Hamilton’s 50th with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, ninth of the 2018 season and fourth at the Suzuka International Racing Circuit.
Hamilton said: “I was having so much fun driving this track. I was really able to just embrace the moment and enjoy every single lap, every single corner and the feel of the car.
“Suzuka is such a unique circuit, you go down a hill into Turn 1, then uphill, you go underneath the track – it’s one of my favourite circuits.
“The pace was really great and this is definitely the best weekend I’ve had here and the best feeling I’ve had here balance-wise, it was really lovely.
“Everyone at the track and back home in the factories deserves a huge thank you for their continued efforts, they just continue to push and deliver, weekend after weekend.
“This result was really the best way to repay all their hard work.”
To complete a perfect day for the Silver Arrows, the Mercedes team scored a 1-2 victory in Suzuka with Valtteri Bottas coming home second ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
It was the Finnish driver’s first podium at the Japanese Grand Prix and 30th podium finish in Formula One.
Hamilton, with 331 points, now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 67 points from Sebastian Vettel (264 points) with Bottas (207 points) in P3 – with 100 points left to be scored in the season.
And the four-time world champion from Herts could make it five F1 titles in Austin, Texas, at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, October 21.
Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “There’s still 100 points available, so we have to try and focus and never be complacent.
“The team has done such an amazing job the last few weekends, we need to bring the same focus and performance and keep pushing.
“The harmony in the team and the performance of every single individual in the team is the best it’s ever been.
“But we’ve always got areas that we can improve on, collectively and for me personally, so we will keep pushing and keep raising the bar.”
Silver Arrows colleague Bottas was runner-up for the second week running.
He said: “This is a perfect result for the team and a great reward for an amazing performance from the entire team this weekend.
“I’m happy that we could bring it home like this after qualifying on the front row yesterday.
“This was my first podium here in Suzuka which was great; I get a lot of support from the local fans, I can really feel it and it means a lot to me.
“My race was pretty straightforward, we actually had a bit of margin to save the engine.
“It probably looked much closer on TV than it actually was. I had one lockup going into the last chicane where Max got a bit closer, but otherwise I was just managing and it was all under control.
“The first stint on the Soft tyres was a little better than the second one on the Mediums, where blistering was a bit of an issue, but no drama. Overall, this was a great weekend for the team.”
While Hamilton has one hand on the F1 drivers’ title, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (538 points) lead Ferrari (460 points) by 78 points in the Constructors’ Championship with 172 points up for grabs.
Today’s result in Japan marks the fifth consecutive win in Suzuka for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and tenth win at the Japanese Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz Power.
Chief mechanic Matt Deane accepted the Constructors’ trophy on behalf of the team – and got a soaking from Hamilton and Bottas on the podium.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “That was a very tense Grand Prix for us. It might have looked pretty smooth from outside but within the team we were managing blisters in the tyres, some driveability issues with Lewis’ power unit and very competitive Red Bulls behind us.
“So to take a 1-2 for the second race in a row is pretty special – not just for the trackside team here after a tough back-to-back, but for everybody back in Brackley and Brixworth who have poured their efforts into developing this car and power unit.
“There hasn’t been a single silver bullet – just a lot of hard work, creativity and a mindset to channel the pressure of the competition and keep pushing hard to achieve our objectives.”
Despite seemingly on the way to both the drivers’ and constructors’ trophies, Wolff added: “The approach will remain the same in the coming races: we will not let up one single bit when it comes to bringing more performance to the car, and keep taking everything day by day.
“It has been an important week for the team and we have come out of the challenges we faced even stronger than before.
“From here, every race is like a mini-championship and we need to keep aligning our race weekends in the same way we achieved in Sochi and Suzuka.”
Mercedes chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin hailed “a great result” for the team after “a really strong weekend”.
He said: “The car has been fast and reliable which is just what we have needed over the last few races.
“We didn’t really know what to expect going into the race as we’d not had a chance to practice in hot conditions, so in the first stint we were getting the drivers to go easy on the tyres as we weren’t sure how long we were going to have to take them.
“The race behind us seemed to be fairly entertaining with Max and the Ferraris and after the penalty and there was a period where we weren’t sure whether it would be Seb or Max would presenting the biggest threat.
“We were able to stay out longer than the other runners and cover off the safety car threat before coming in for the medium with both our cars.
“The soft seemed like the best tyre, which helped us in the first stint but allowed Max to put Valtteri under a bit of pressure in the final stint, although Valtteri seemed pretty relaxed about it after the race.
“This has probably been the closest we have come to perfect weekend all year, in terms of reliability, car performance the drivers and how we’ve worked as a team.
“We are taking it one race at a time at the moment and just trying to do the best job we can in each weekend so hopefully we can carry this momentum into Austin.”