Vettel and Verstappen collide in Japan

The win puts his fifth world championship firmly in his grasp.

His 67-point advantage means that if he wins the next race in Austin, and Vettel is...

The 2018 Japanese Grand Prix is done, Lewis Hamilton emerged as victor for the sixth time in seven races and has a metaphorical hand on the trophy.

But behind him, there was action aplenty, much of it focused on Vettel.

Ferrari and Vettel have made mistakes in 2018, but for team boss Arrivabene, Suzuka was beyond the pale.

And he drove well in the early laps.

That resulted in light contact with Kimi Raikkonen, who was forced wide as he tried to pass the Red Bull on the outside, and allowed Vettel to sneak ahead of his team-mate.

The safety auto was deployed on lap five after Kevin Magnussen left debris on the track after clashing with Charles Leclerc, however when racing resumed on lap eight, Vettel's valiant efforts were promptly wasted.

Having quickly progressed from eighth on the grid following his poor qualifying, Vettel was attacking Verstappen for third at Spoon corner on the first lap after an early safety vehicle at Suzuka when they tangled and the Ferrari spun.

"I was obviously pushing to get past but I wasn't desperate to get past", Vettel told Sky Sports F1.

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However, the most noticeable error came from the Ferrari garage in Suzaka. I don't regret the move, but obviously with that outcome, you would do different. Although Vettel can still match Hamilton's tally of nine race wins this year by winning the season's final four rounds (he now has five victories), the Mercedes driver would still have one more second place to his name (three to two).

The fresh-tyre advantage allowed them to jump Gasly, before Perez caught and passed Grosjean after a virtual safety auto called to deal with Charles Leclerc's stricken Sauber.

Referring to the first lap clash with Kimi Raikkonen, which saw the pair touch - forcing the Finn off track - as the Red Bull driver recovered after locking up at the final chicane and cutting across the grass, subsequently being handed the time penalty, Verstappen said: "I locked up, I could easily have cut the track, I made my best effort to get back on track".

"Keep him [Bottas] under pressure, keep it clean".

He was quick off the line and had passed the Toro Rosso's of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley by the time he was into the esses to take sixth and the Haas of Romain Grosjean fell swiftly afterwards.

Driver of the day Tricky one, this.

With five races to go, Hamilton leads Vettel by 50 points in the standings.

Sergey Sirotkin was 17th, just 0.011s slower than Hulkenberg, with McLaren's Fernando Alonso 18th on his first taste of the fastest supersoft Pirellis of the weekend. Judgement reservedWhat happen next? "I was just trying my very best to still make the corner and not make it look like I'd locked up and just cut the corner". He's going to do it soon.

Mercedes's brilliant use of team orders - controversial as they may be - made the title all-but impossible for Vettel last weekend, and his disappointing showing here combined with yet another pole for Hamilton suggests that tomorrow's race might underline that.

"We've gone from strength to strength as a team this year". There's plenty of driver love to spare in Japan Marcus Ericsson has been involved in 11 spins or collisions during races in his career.

  • Lawrence Cooper