Lewis Hamilton is closing in on his fourth world championship after he secured victory at the Japanese Grand Prix as title rival Sebastian Vettel retired.
The Mercedes driver can now tie up the title at the US Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time, having turned a deficit in the battle with the Ferrari of Vettel into a 59-point lead.
We look back at the five things we learnt after another memorable Sunday at Suzuka.
Hamilton aiming to be F1’s lone star in Texas
Hamilton celebrated his last title success with victory at the Circuit of the Americas and will be determined to give himself every opportunity to repeat the feat two years on. The Briton can take the crown if he wins and Vettel finishes sixth or lower – while second would be enough for Hamilton as long as the German was to come home no higher than ninth. His recent blistering form, both in 2017 and in previous US Grands Prix in Austin, seems to point to Hamilton holding up his end of the bargain at least.
When it rains, it pours – and Vettel is soaking
The old adage is that bad things come in threes and Vettel must now hope he has suffered his trio of woes. Crashing out at the first corner in Singapore was followed by engine trouble in Malaysia which meant he started last and recovered to finish a respectable fourth. A spark plug failure is almost unheard of in F1 these days but Vettel’s Ferrari was downed by such a rudimentary issue in Japan. The four-time world champion needs to avoid black cats, mirrors, ladders and salt between now and the US Grand Prix if he is to achieve the improbable of overhauling Hamilton.
Four-ce India clearly best of the rest
While Red Bull have improved to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in recent races, Force India have cemented their place as the fourth-best constructor in F1. Esteban Ocon was running as high as third for parts of Sunday’s race and came home sixth, with team-mate Sergio Perez a place further back. This was the team’s fourth double-points score in succession and takes them onto 147 points in the constructors’ championship – 81 points clear of Williams in fifth.
Jolyon Palmer was on borrowed time even before the F1 circus rolled into Suzuka. The only other Brit on the grid this year has struggled in his second season at Renault and it was announced last month he would be replaced by Carlos Sainz for 2018. But Palmer, who finished 12th this weekend, did not make it that far and has lost his seat to the Spaniard for the remainder of this year. He remains hopeful of a drive elsewhere but he may find himself surplus to requirements in a market where those few teams with seats available have the pick of a vast array of driving talent.
Williams open to options for 2018 line up
Williams confirmed over the weekend that they will hand test drives to Robert Kubica and Paul Di Resta in the coming weeks. The team are looking for a partner for Lance Stroll for 2018 and, while current driver Felipe Massa could yet be retained, it appears increasingly likely the experienced Brazilian will be ousted. Kubica is on a remarkable comeback trail after a rally accident in 2011 seemingly ended his F1 career, while Di Resta raced in Hungary this year for Williams but has not had a full-time drive since 2013. Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe said the “range is almost unlimited” when it comes to who could come in, with Palmer remaining hopeful his name is also in the frame.