Reuters SUZUKA, Mie (Reuters) — Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton moved closer to his fourth Formula One title on Sunday after winning the Japanese Grand Prix, while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel suffered engine problems and failed to finish.
Hamilton, who started from pole position, crossed the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to move 59 points clear at the top of the overall standings.
Vettel made it no further than the fourth lap before retiring in the pits.
Already 34 points behind Hamilton before the start, the setback was the third in as many races for the German, whose hopes now rest on Hamilton suffering similar misfortune in the last four races.
“I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap,” said Hamilton, interviewed on the podium by Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.
“I wouldn’t say that I have one hand on it [the title],” he added later. “There’s still 100 points available, so I’m still going to keep the pedal to the metal.”
The win was the 61st of Hamilton’s career and third at Suzuka. It came a day after the 32-year-old smashed the track record to seize the pole.
Vettel had lined up alongside the Briton, raising the prospect of the two title rivals racing side by side to the first corner. But clearly lacking power, Vettel fell back through the field before getting the call from his race engineer to retire the car.