Lewis Hamilton wins Japanese GP to extend championship lead to 67 points as Sebastian Vettel hits trouble

Lewis Hamilton has one hand, three fingers and a thumb on the world championship after romping to victory in Japan as his rival Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly sixth following a calamitous collision.

Hamilton's fourth win in succession, and sixth in seven rounds, never appeared in doubt as he raced away from pole and cruised to the line ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Max Verstappen completed the podium as Vettel endured yet another miserable afternoon following his crash with the Red Bull driver in the early stages of Sunday's Suzuka race.

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Hamilton, 67 points clear of the Ferrari driver with just 100 left on the table, will secure his fifth title at the United States Grand Prix in a fortnight's time if he wins and his rival is third or lower.

Hamilton won the downhill gallop to the opening bend, with Bottas slotting in behind, and Verstappen holding off Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari.

Vettel, eighth on the grid after a tyre-choice blunder by his Ferrari team in yesterday's dry-wet qualifying session, was sixth by turn one, and soon up to fifth after a brilliant move on the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 7, 2018 in Suzuka - Credit: getty images
Lewis Hamilton will be pleased with his day's work in JapanCredit: getty images

He was then fourth after Verstappen ran off the road at the chicane, and in rejoining the track, bumped Raikkonen on to the grass. Out came the safety car after debris littered the track following a coming together between Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc.

The race resumed on lap eight, and moments later Vettel was last. The German went for a gung-ho lunge on Verstappen as he slowed down from 190mph at the left-handed Spoon corner. Vettel came from too far back, and clumsily thudded into the side of Verstappen as sparks flew and the Ferrari car spun around.

Verstappen marched on not wounded but Vettel's hopes of finishing at least third here and reducing the points damage to Hamilton were over in an instant. Verstappen was already set to serve a five-second penalty for his earlier altercation with Raikkonen, and Vettel pinned the blame for the accident at the Dutchman's door.

"Is it believable what this guy is doing?" he said over the radio. "I don't think so." The stewards investigated the incident, but tellingly took no action.

Indeed, the move smelled of desperation, and it marked Vettel's second mistake of the weekend, after he ran off track in qualifying, and his seventh of an error-prone campaign.

Afterwards Verstappen said: "You can't overtake in that corner. I gave Sebastian space, but he under-steered into my car."

Vettel fought back to sixth, but for Hamilton, there were no such concerns as he marched towards his ninth win of the year, and crossed the line 12.9 seconds clear of Bottas. Hamilton will now head to Texas searching for a fifth straight victory in the United States, and his sixth in seven years.

"The whole weekend has been incredibly strong," Hamilton said. "It is a great one-two for Mercedes. I have raced a long, long time, but the happiness I have inside is as high as always so it is a great feeling. This win feels like one of the first.

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (L) leads Sauber's Monacan driver Charles Leclerc (R) and Force India's French driver Esteban Ocon (#31) round a turn during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on October 7, 2018 - Credit: afp
Sebastian Vettel had to fight his way through the field and finished a lonely sixthCredit: afp

"I take it one step at a time. Each week you have a positive weekend you go to another grand prix not sure how you will perform, but we have gone from strength to strength and Austin is a good track for me. I can't wait to unleash this beast there."

Verstappen finished hot on the heels of Bottas, while his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo recovered from 15th to fourth. Raikkonen took the chequered flag in fifth.

8:45AM

That's it from me today - thanks for joining me

It was an exciting race, all in all. Plenty of drama, plenty of incidents and plenty of penalties. Lots to discuss.  Of course, the biggest one was Vettel's collision with Max Verstappen into Spoon. That quick double left-hander was the scene of his downfall yesterday as well, as it was there he ruined his qualifying lap.

Still, even if he had not made the move then and come home to finish in second or third, it's not like we'd be talking about him restarting his title charge. But you have to give yourself the best chance of victory and he did not do that today.

The race was a microcosm of the 2018 F1 season in a way. Hamilton drove supremely to victory, unchallenged. Vettel and Ferrari mounted a challenge before making another big error, Bottas was a creditable but distant second, Max Verstappen drove excellently apart from picking up another penalty, Kevin Magnussen was Kevin Magnussen, bullish and maybe even dangerous in his collision with Charles Leclerc, Force India scored quiet but decent points with a double top points finish and Williams were nowhere.

Hamilton continues his title charge. Since his retirement in Austria he has had six wins and two second-place finishes in eight races, dropping just 14 points in that time. Or, to put it another way, he has scored 97.6 of all the points available to him. Incredible.

I'll be back in two weeks for the US Grand Prix, where Hamilton has a very, very good chance of winning the title. Win and if Vettel finishes lower than second it's his. A fifth world title.

8:36AM

Leclerc was not very happy with Kevin Magnussen...

...with their incident on the pit straight which led to the early SC and then Magnussen's eventual retirement. No action was taken but it looked more Magnussen's fault.

"Magnussen is and will always be stupid. It’s a fact. A shame,” is what Leclerc said.

8:34AM

Phil Duncan's race report is now up

In the main section of this blog, so refresh the page and give it a read.

8:22AM

Updated constructor standings

  1. Mercedes - 538

  2. Ferrari - 460

  3. Red Bull - 319

  4. Renault - 92

  5. Haas - 84

  6. McLaren - 58

  7. Force India - 43

  8. Toro Rosso - 30

  9. Sauber - 27

  10. Williams - 7

8:17AM

Ferrari boss Arrivabene reacts to his team's disappointing weekend

It's easy. To be pragmatic, yesterday we had a problem that everybody knows. As I said yesterday, many other times I was a bit disappointed. We win and we lose together and the final response. I have to say that concerning today the team and the driver reacted very well. We had circumstances during the way they impeded us to achieve the podium. I think at least the podium was in our hands today. The car, even if damaged, both of the cars was going quite well.

Concerning the future races I know that the situation looks impossible but our job is to challenge the impossible.

[On the Vettel/Verstappen incident]

Sebastian was doing his job and as far as I know his car was inside. If you want to talk about race incidents I accept this version but we were not able to accept our potential.

Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari team principal - Credit: sky sports f1
Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari team principalCredit: sky sports f1

8:14AM

Updated driver standings

  1. Hamilton - 331

  2. Vettel - 264

  3. Bottas - 207

  4. Raikkonen - 196

  5. Verstappen - 173

  6. Ricciardo - 146

  7. Perez - 53

  8. Magnussen - 53

  9. Hulkenberg - 53

  10. Alonso - 50

  11. Ocon - 49

  12. Sainz -39

8:11AM

Toto Wolff reacts to his team's 1-2

We started off well where we finished in Sochi. The drivers just feel good with the car and as a driver if you have that confidence and you push it hard within the limits then you enjoy it.

Could Ferrari still do something here?

We knew that we had a good race in Monza and we had a good race in Singapore. We thought if we can really do it in Suzuka we can prove that we can do it in all circuits with all kinds of corners.

8:09AM

Vettel reacts post-race

Was he aware of the five second penalty Verstappen had before he made the move? He says yes.

I was obviously pushing to get past but i wasn't desperate to get past. I knew he had a penalty but I thought we were faster. The gap was there but as soon as he sees someone is next to him he tries to push when you shouldn't push any more. Look at with Kimi [when Verstappen got a five-second penalty]. It's not always right that the other guy has to move. I think I got through the whole field without any trouble, sometimes close, sometimes with more margin. I couldn't go anywhere and we touched.

In the end we are all racing. This is part of racing, don't get me wrong. I don't regret the move. Obviously with that outcome you would do different. Inside the car, the gap was there, his battery was clipping, I was boosting. I was side by side, he didn't give enough room and we touched.

On the team's mood:

It's about everybody and I think. I find it quite inspiration. You walk in the garage and the guys are all fired up. It's not been an easy couple of weeks but the spirit within the team is unbroken. What do we have to lose? We give it everything. We are trying our utmost to fight and resist. Let's see what the next races bring.

8:02AM

Christian Horner reacts to a decent points haul for his team, Red Bull

I thought both drivers did a great job today. Particularly Daniel Ricciardo did a good job. Max was putting all the pressure he had on Valtteri but he didn't have enough.

For me it was a racing incident. It was a bit late and obviously it was a bit opportunistic. It's cost Sebastian dear today. Unfortunately that's probably the end of Sebastian's championship.

8:00AM

ANOTHER winner's trophy for Hamilton

His 71st.

7:57AM

ANOTHER 1-2 for Mercedes

No doubt as to who has the quicker car now. No doubt as to who are the better and smarter team, either.

7:55AM

A 67 point lead in the championship for Lewis Hamilton, then

Vettel did himself in in this race with a moment of, well, madness. Or over-eagerness. To be fair, though, even if he would have come in second to Hamilton his championship hopes would not have been a great deal better. Still, he didn't give himself the best chance today and it was an unnecessary and costly move. Again.

7:53AM

Provisional classification

  1. HAM

  2. BOT

  3. VER

  4. RIC

  5. RAI

  6. VET

  7. PER

  8. GRO

  9. OCO

  10. SAI

  11. GAS

  12. ERI

  13. HAR

  14. ALO

  15. VAN

  16. SIR

  17. STR

Out:LEC, HUL, MAG

7:52AM

Hamilton looks on at replays of the Vettel and Verstappen incident

And says the naughty S-word several times.

7:51AM

Verstappen reacts to a very decent third

We didn't really have a chance but in general to nurse the car home in the damage we had was okay. Once we got the soft tyres on it was working really well and you could see at the end we had the pace even with the damage.

[On the Vettel incident]

In that corner you can't overtake. I gave him space but he understeered into my car.

7:48AM

More from Hamilton

Honestly, I take it one step at a time. Each week you have a positive weekend and you go to another race and you're not sure how you will perform. Austin is generally a good track for us.

7:47AM

Vettel on the team radio

Okay, not much to say. I don't know. If I don't go for that gap and that gap was there I might as well stay at home. Sorry for the result.

7:47AM

Hamilton reacts

I loved it. I'm very happy. The whole weekend has been incredibly strong. It's a true showing of the strength we have as a team. This track is the best track in the world. Every second of the run it was great fun. It's really weird because I have been racing a long, long time but the happiness I have is as high as ever.

7:43AM

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE 2018 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

Did he even break into a sweat today? Superb. A class above. Another win for the Briton!

Bottas brings it home ahead of Verstappen and then Ricciardo in fourth from 15th. Kimi Raikkonen finishes fifth and Vettel is a long, long way back in sixth. Disastrous day for Vettel. He sets the fastest lap, though but that is scant consolation.

Hamilton extends his lead.  If Hamilton wins in Austin then Vettel needs to finish second to keep the championship alive. But, really, it's already over.

7:40AM

FINAL LAP

Verstappen gets DRS but he's so far back and with an power deficit. Verstappen is giving it the big one on his engine mode so here we go...Bottas needs to keep his head here. Ah. Verstappen locks up into the hairpin and that could be that...

7:39AM

Lap 52 of 53 - Hamilton cruising to victory

Not a foot wrong all weekend. Verstappen again gets close to Bottas after lapping cars but Bottas puts his foot down and is soon out of immediate danger.

7:38AM

Lap 51 of 53 - Sainz passes Gasly for 10th place

Ahhh. No points for Honda, then. Or so it seems. Hamilton still isn't messing around - he has just set the fastest first sector! Bottas loses a small amount of time to Verstappen but should really be safe.

As we come towards the end we've had three driver retirements: Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Leclercl.

And Hamilton then sets the fastest lap of the race...

7:36AM

Lap 50 of 53 - Gasly under pressure from Sainz for 10th

Verstappen not too pleased with his engine. Bottas now back up to 2.2s ahead once he gets his act together. The Mercedes is just too powerful, really. Hamilton gets a warning about lapping fighting cars.

7:34AM

Lap 48 of 53

Bottas has a job on his hands to keep Verstappen behind.

Top 10:

1. HAM

2. BOT

3. VER

4. RIC

5. RAI

6. VET

7. PER

8. GRO

9. OCO

10. GAS

7:33AM

Oooh, Bottas misses the chicane after a lock up and Verstappen is within a second again!

Bottas has made a few mistakes on these tyres. I think Verstappen could have this.

Hamilton now 11 seconds out in front, so safe from any late attacks.

7:30AM

Lap 46 of 53 - Verstappen goes to "mode 7" on his engine

He drops back in the first sector, though. Lapped cars causing the issue for Bottas. Ricciardo complains about his front left. Is Verstappen on the best tyres here? Raikkonen and Ricciardo struggling for adhesion right now.

Hamilton extends his lead to close to 10 seconds. Will Ferrari swap their drivers? Vettel is 40 seconds behind Raikkonen at the moment...

7:28AM

Lap 45 of 53 - Hamilton sets the fastest lap...

...and extends his lead to nearly nine seconds. Verstappen is again within a second of Bottas...

7:27AM

"Unbelievable how Bottas lapped us. We lost four seconds"

Not sure what he's complaining about there. The mistake by Bottas obviously cost him but it is what it is.

7:25AM

Lap 43 of 53 - Bottas locks up into the hairpin!

Verstappen is closer than ever! A McLaren gets in the way...but Bottas is soon out of immediate danger and out of DRS range towards the end of his lap. Daniel Ricciardo closing on the pair.

7:24AM

VSC ends!

Verstappen has closed up to within a second of Bottas! Mercedes had their mechanics out perhaps in the hope that the VSC was going to last a lap longer but they didn't bring anyone in.

Perez past Grosjean. A bold one around the outside of Grosjean in the chicane. I think Grosjean seemed to think he was "done" by the Virtual Safety Car timings there.

7:22AM

VSC deployed for that incident

Can't see it lasting long or making too much of  a difference.

Charles Leclerc retires - Credit: sky sports f1
Charles Leclerc retiresCredit: sky sports f1

Top 10:

1. HAM

2. BOT

3. VER

4. RIC

5. RAI

6. VET

7. GRO

8. PER

9. OCO

10. GAS

7:21AM

Leclerc runs wide at the second Degner!

Something has broken. He finds his way back to the track, continues to find a gap in the barriers. And retires. Nicely done but that's a shame for the youngster. It seemed to be something at the front of the car that went.

7:19AM

Lap 39 of 53 - Some issues for Daniel Ricciardo

Some engine problems. Doesn't seem too bad but his team suggest a way to get around it. Bottas laps Vandoorne and Leclerc at turn one before Verstappen gets past them and makes up even more time!

7:17AM

Lap 37 of 58 - Verstappen closes in on Bottas

He's close. He's very close. Within two seconds. And on quicker tyres!

7:17AM

"Have you gone for a break Bono because I've not had an update for a while?"

Is Lewis Hamilton's message on the team radio. His engineer is now back in his ear. It has been serene progress for Hamilton this race. Mercedes holding station. Nothing much going on, really.

Vettel up in fifth behind Raikkonen is a whole 40.5s adrift of the Finn.

7:15AM

Lap 36 of 53 - Leclerc pits

It was a slow stop (6.3s) and that drops him down, down, down to last on the road.  Verstappen within five seconds of Bottas. Ricciardo has fallen back from his team-mate, too. Verstappen is going to get the hammer down.

7:12AM

A milestone for Fernando Alonso

Not one of the best records in F1, to be honest.

Vettel finds some pace to get through past Grosjean and Gasly does the same to Leclerc to go 10th. A nice, clean move in the chicane.

7:11AM

The race top 10 and gaps on lap 34

The race top 10 - Credit: formula1.com
The race top 10Credit: formula1.com

7:10AM

Lap 33 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 5.8s from Bottas

Gasly now up to 11th after getting past Ericsson with a nice move. Vettel up into eighth with a similarly decent move around the outside. As Sainz pits he finds himself in P7. Sainz the last of the men to stop.

7:07AM

Lap 31 of 53 - Vettel closes up on Ocon and Leclerc

It's close going into 130R but Vettel gets past the Frenchman into the chicane and then closes up into the chicane. He then gets through Leclerc on turn one of the following lap, being shown an ENORMOUS amount of respect by his future team-mate.

What state would the race be in now if he hadn't collided with Verstappen? Ocon gets himself back into the points as he moves past Charles Leclerc. It's turned out rather poorly for Toro Rosso. 13th and 16th at the moment.

7:04AM

Lap 29 of 51 - Vettel gets past Ericsson and then Hulkenberg

And Perez has a go at Leclerc and nearly gets Grosjean coming out of the pit. Three into turn one! That was close. Very close. So close to a collision. Quite a few changes in the midfield at the moment.

7:03AM

Thinking about that Vettel and Verstappen incident

I can't see how they came to the conclusion of no further action. It was Vettel's fault. Perhaps they didn't want to kick a man when he's down but that's not how you should steward.

Sebastian Vettel driving his Ferrari - Credit: afp
Sebastian Vettel escaped a penalty after a collision with VerstappenCredit: afp

7:01AM

Lap 28 of 53 -  Hamilton leads Bottas by 5.1s

Soft tyres for Vettel, by the way. Ricciardo has dropped back a bit from Verstappen's gearbox. He's lost about a second. Neither Toro Rosso driver has stopped. They are in seventh and ninth.

6:59AM

Lap 26 of 53 - Ricciardo now up to within 1.3s of Verstappen

But on the medium tyres. It wasn't fresh supersofts, as we thought. Hamilton worried about his drivability and his upshifts at the moment. It's looking good for Dani Ric at the moment. And pretty bad for Ferrari. Vettel down in 10th.

Top 10:

1. HAM

2. BOT

3. VER

4. RIC

5. RAI

6. GRO

7. GAS

8. SAI

9. HAR

10. HUL

Vettel pits!

6:57AM

Lap 24 of 53 - Hamilton pits!

He goes onto the mediums. He comes comfortably out in the lead, albeit a slightly reduced one. Verstappen puts his foot down on fresh soft tyres.

We're looking at the incident between Stroll and Alonso. Stroll ran Alonso wide under braking at the chicane and Alonso floored it over the grass, so that is what was his penalty was for.

6:54AM

Lap 23 of 53 - no further action between Verstappen and Vettel

A racing incident. Hmmm. Perhaps.

Bottas pits first! Ricciardo pits! Bottas on the mediums, it says Ricciardo on the supersofts on my timing screen but that's surely wrong?

Anyway, Ricciardo jumped Raikkonen at the stops.

6:52AM

Lap 22 of 53 - Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race

A 1.34.183. He extends his lead to 5.5s.

6:52AM

Verstappen pits and changes to the soft tyres to the end of the race

Serves his five second penalty in the pits. Raikkonen went onto the mediums, by the way. Grosjean becomes an obstacle for Verstappen but the Dutchman gets back into fourth before 130R.

6:51AM

Five second penalty for Alonso for leaving the track and gaining an advantage

Not good. Stroll picks up a five second penalty for causing a collision. Also bad. Interesting race, this one!

6:49AM

Still no word on the Vettel and Verstappen incident

By the way.

6:49AM

Lap 20 of 53 - Raikkonen passes Ocon into the first turn

And up into eighth he goes. Ricciardo with very good pace, the quickest man on the track. He closes up the next Force India towards the end of the lap but can't quite get past. Next time, on the straight on the DRS then? Yes. Indeed. Both cars get DRS but Raikkonen gets through and up into seventh.

6:47AM

The top 10 and gaps on lap 19

Race top 10 - Credit: formula1.com
Race top 10Credit: formula1.com

6:46AM

Lap 18 of 53 - Vettel and Alonso tussle towards the end of the lap

Vettel close into the chicane but he gets the Spaniard around the outside into turn one with the help of DRS. Red five up into 12th.

6:45AM

The damage to Vettel's side pod

Raikkonen emerges in 10th behind the Renault of Carlos Sainz. Vettel up into 13th and past Nico Hulkenberg.

6:44AM

Lap 17 of 53 - Grosjean suffering a little with overheating the rears

He's in sixth and doing okay at the moment, nine seconds from Ricciardo.

Raikkonen pits and he's in a hurry to do so, locking up into the chicane.

6:42AM

Lap 16 of 53  - Hamilton extends his lead, slightly

Vettel gets past Leclerc for 14th. Brendon Hartley, by the way, is now down in 11th. Vettel has a fair amount of damage to his sidepod on the right-hand side. His last lap was nearly two seconds off leader Hamilton's pace.

Ted Kravitz of Sky Sports tells us Mercedes are looking at Hamilton's drivability issue.

6:39AM

Lap 14 of 53 - An outside chance of a podium for Ricciardo?

Yes. Verstappen has a penalty, Raikkonen has some damage and Ricciardo is on fresh softs.

6:38AM

Lap 13 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 2.7s from Bottas

Hesitations getting back on the power in some parts of the track, according to Hamilton. He doesn't sound too worried. Anyway, Ricciardo is up to fifth past Grosjean and we will monitor the Hamilton situation. Vettel past Stroll up into 15th, 32s behind Hamilton.

6:36AM

Top 10 on lap 12

1. HAM

2. BOT

3. VER

4. RAI

5. GRO

6. RIC

7. GAS

8. PER

9. OCO

10. SAI

6:34AM

Lap 11 of 53 - Hamilton leads by 2.6s from Bottas, Vettel 18th

I am shaking my head in disbelief at that Vettel move. Into Spoon. On the inside. I know I mentioned playing F1 on the PlayStation earlier but I don't even think I'd try that. It was pure desperation and so unnecessary.

6:32AM

Lap 10 of 53

That was not a wise move from Vettel. He came from nowhere into Spoon and tried to go through the inside at high-speed. He was closing quickly, Verstappen left him room but Vettel was too far back, really and clunks into Verstappen. Vettel's fault, incident under investigation.

Vettel and Verstappen collide - Credit: sky sports f1
Vettel and Verstappen collideCredit: sky sports f1

In other news, Ericsson ran into the back of Leclerc at the chicane and Magnussen retires. Vettel down in 19th...

6:29AM

VETTEL AND VERSTAPPEN COLLIDE INTO SPOON!

Vettel down to 14th! What was Vettel doing there? He didn't need to do that! Verstappen had a five second penalty, surely he knew that?

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Bad, just met worse.

6:28AM

Lap 8 of 53 - Race restarts!

Hamilton darts off, not really challenged by Bottas. Vettel, though, has a look at Max Verstappen into turn one but doesn't do anything about it as he's too far back. Pierre Gasly complained of a fire before the restart but we didn't have any images.

6:25AM

Lap 6 of 53 - Hamilton leads, Vettel up to fourth under SC

"What the f---, honestly. I tried to do the best I could. He drives around the outside he could have just waited for me to come back," is Verstappen's response to being told he has a penalty.

Verstappen and Raikkonen tussle into the chicane - Credit: getty images
Verstappen and Raikkonen tussle into the chicaneCredit: getty images

It's too early for anyone to pit, really. Anyone without damage, anyway. Leclerc and Magnussen both pitted, of course.

6:23AM

FIVE SECOND TIME PENALTY FOR VERSTAPPEN

For leaving the track and not returning safely. He went right across the racing line when rejoining the track and forced Raikkonen off. I think that's fair enough, even if they were racing.

6:22AM

Ricciardo making the moves, by the way

The SC is because of debris in turn one from the initial incident and Magnussen's discarded tyre carcass just off the track. Possibly more because of the former than the latter as the carcass is not really that dangerous. Investigations for incidents between Raikkonen and Verstappen and the one between Leclerc and Magnussen by the way.

Magnussen's lonely tyre carcass - Credit: sky sports f1
Magnussen's lonely tyre carcassCredit: sky sports f1

Okay, so Magnussen's move was not in the braking zone but it was very, very late. Leclerc was trying to go down the inside on the straight and Magnussen just moved across.

6:19AM

Lap 4 of 53 - SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED

Lots of debris and carbon fibre being flung across the track as Magnussen's tyre wrecked his bodywork. Quick pit stop for Vettel?! Or is it too early?

6:18AM

Lap 3 of 53  - puncture for Kevin Magnussen!

Leclerc goes right in the back of him into turn one. It looked like a late move from Magnussen, possibly even in the braking zone. Not sure what else Leclerc could have done.

Kevin Magnussen's puncture - Credit: sky sports f1
Kevin Magnussen's punctureCredit: sky sports f1

Top 10:

1. HAM

2. BOT

3. VER

4. VET

5. RAI

6. GRO

8. GAS

8. PER

9. OCO

10. RIC

6:16AM

THE 2018 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX IS GO!

FIVE RED LIGHTS AND AWAY WE GO!

Hamilton covers Bottas at the start and leads into turn one, Sebastian Vettel gets close to Gasly through turn two! Vettel has made up places, he's past the two Toro Rossos and is close up on the rear end of Grosjean. He needs to jump Grosjean soon due to Grosjean being on the soft tyres...

VETTEL GETS PAST GROSJEAN AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF SPOON! A great and decisive mood, Vettel up into fifth and behind Raikkonen already!

Verstappen runs wide at the chicane in tussling with Vettel and they touch! And now Vettel is past Raikkonen. Verstappen locked up, ran wide and pushed Raikkonen wide on the outside. Penalty? This is all good news for Ferrari. Vettel could soon be up into third!

6:13AM

Hulkenberg on the medium tyres

Everyone else with a free choice on the softs. The cars form up on the grid. A long wait for the top drivers...

6:11AM

More strategy

6:10AM

Formation lap is go...

Everyone away cleanly. What chance of team orders today, do you reckon? Quite high at Ferrari...

6:04AM

Starting tyre types from the top 10

Tyre types for the starting grid - Credit: fia.com
Tyre types for the starting gridCredit: fia.com

Decent from Grosjean, in fifth, to be starting on the softs. That could be a bit of a problem for Ferrari and Vettel in particular. Vettel starts on the quicker but less durable supersofts. Had he been starting in third, say, which is perhaps where he should have been, then it would have been an advantage at the start. Problem is he isn't. He does need to make up ground quickly, though. The other problem is that Ferrari seemed to be harder on their tyres on the long runs.

We wait until the start to see what everyone else will be starting on. Good chance of hefty points for Charles Leclerc today, starting in 10th on the grid and with a free tyre choice.

6:00AM

Strategy chat from Pirelli

A bit more on the tyres shortly.

10 minutes until lights out. 

5:59AM

The grid for today's race

The top 10 on the grid - Credit: fia.com
The top 10 on the gridCredit: fia.com
The bottom 10 on the grid - Credit: fia.com
The bottom 10 on the gridCredit: fia.com

5:54AM

It was not a good day yesterday, however, for Daniel Ricciardo

He had another power unit failure. He was not happy about it, as you can see and hear from the video below.

5:52AM

Sebastian Vettel's poor Japanese GP qualifying is just another chapter in the slow death of his title hopes

2018 was supposed to be different Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel. Indeed, it appeared to be different for them, as they produced a car that could genuinely match Mercedes for pace. And even beat them.

But after 16 rounds and a disastrous qualifying session, the season has turned into nothing short of a wreck for Vettel. His chances of a fifth world drivers' title are hanging by the weakest of threads.

Read more, from me, here.  

5:50AM

A pretty fine day for Toro Rosso and Honda yesterday

They brought an upgraded power unit here and it helped them to sixth and seventh on the grid for Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly. Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, will be happy with Honda's progress, giving their engines will be in the back of his cars next year.

Brendon Hartley is driving for his F1 career at the moment and a sixth place in qualifying - his best ever - was more than welcome. If he can convert it into a good points haul today then Helmut Marko may be convinced to sign him for next year alongside the returning Daniil Kvyat.

Fans dressed as Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia Toro Rosso and Brendon Hartley of New Zealand and Scuderia Toro Rosso pose for a photo before the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 7, 2018 in Suzuka
Never let it be said that a good qualifying performance inflated the Toro Rosso drivers' egos...

 

5:45AM

Constructor standings

  1. Mercedes - 495

  2. Ferrari - 442

  3. Red Bull - 292

  4. Renault - 91

  5. Haas - 80

  6. McLaren - 58

  7. Force India - 35

  8. Toro Rosso - 30

  9. Sauber - 27

  10. Williams - 7

Looking very healthy for Mercedes at the moment, especially as they have jumped Ferrari again as the quickest package on the grid. Renault and Haas fighting for fourth place, just nine points in it with Haas looking the faster car at the moment.

5:42AM

The drivers' standings heading into the Japanese GP

  1. Hamilton - 306

  2. Vettel - 256

  3. Bottas - 189

  4. Raikkonen - 186

  5. Verstappen - 158

  6. Ricciardo - 134

  7. Magnussen - 53

  8. Hulkenberg - 53

  9. Alonso - 50

  10. Perez - 47

5:40AM

Video: Hamilton takes pole at Suzuka, his 80th in F1

Can't say it wasn't an anti-climax when the rain came but the session had enough drama beforehand, to be fair.

5:37AM

The Suzuka International Circuit

It's a great one. I love playing it on the PlayStation anyway. I'm sure the F1 drivers feel much the same in real life. Certainly Lewis Hamilton did on Friday, declaring "this track is awesome!" on the team radio.

Suzuka International Circuit - Credit: formula1.com
Suzuka International CircuitCredit: formula1.com

5:35AM

The pit lane is open!

35 minutes to go!

5:34AM

David Coulthard's Inside Track: Suzuka rewards the best and bravest... no wonder Lewis Hamilton likes it so much

Lewis Hamilton said over the radio how much he loves driving at Suzuka. It is a high-speed, narrow circuit that, in my opinion, ranks alongside only Spa-Francorchamps and Monaco as the most challenging on the calendar.

When you are on the motorway you will notice that drivers slow down as they go through a tunnel. The width of the road may remain the same, while there is enough height to get a car through, but it feels as though you're driving into a more confined space. The perception is the same at Suzuka because a driver's senses are heightened.

Read more from DC here.  

5:30AM

Final times after qualifying

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 27.760secs

  2. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:28.059

  3. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:29.057

  4. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:29.521

  5. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:29.761

  6. Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:30.023

  7. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:30.093

  8. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:30.126*

  9. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:32.192

  10. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:37.229

  11. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber-Ferrari 1:29.864

  12. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:30.226

  13. Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:30.490

  14. Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 1:30.714

  15. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull No Time

  16. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:30.361

  17. Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:30.372

  18. Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:30.573

  19. Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:31.041

  20. Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 1:31.213

*Esteban Ocon receives three place grid penalty for not slowing down sufficiently under red flag conditions

5:27AM

Sebastian Vettel will start in eighth place on the grid today...

...not ninth, by the way. Esteban Ocon takes a three-place grid penalty for now slowing sufficiently under red flags caused by Nico Hulkenberg's shunt at the end of FP3. P8 is obviously better than P9 but, you know, with Hamilton in pole it's still not great, obviously.

5:24AM

There were some tricky moments for the drivers yesterday in final qualifying

As the rain came down. Mind you it was fairly dry when Vettel made his mistake, running wide into Spoon.

5:17AM

Just under an hour to go and the drivers' parade is in full swing

5:05AM

Good morning F1 fans - welcome to our live updates from the 2018 Japanese GP

It's quite early, isn't it? Well, for those of you in Europe, anyway. Still, it's never too early for F1 in my book. The Japanese Grand Prix gets underway in just about an hour and it's all looking very good for Lewis Hamilton. Not only does he have a 50-point margin to Sebastian Vettel but he starts on pole, a whole seven places above his rival after errors from his team and a mistake of his own cost him dearly.

Phil Duncan reports from qualifying in Suzuka:

It did not help that Vettel was also culpable of another error as, in attempting to make amends for his team's mistake, he ran off the circuit at Spoon and finished 4.4 seconds down. His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth.

Despite only a smattering of raindrops in the moments before the shootout for pole, Ferrari elected to put Vettel on wet tyres. Hamilton headed out on the slick rubber. While the Englishman posted the pole lap, Vettel had to dash back to the pits for a change of tyres. By the time he was ready to set his best effort, a rain shower left him terribly exposed.

The track became increasingly damp, and there would be no challenge to Hamilton who, barring a disaster, will now extend his title lead and further tighten his grip on championship number five.

It is another blow to Vettel in a series of blows. Whilst Vettel defended his team in the aftermath of their decision to send their drivers out on intermediate tyres, team principal Maurizio Arrivabene was not so kind.

"From the way things were done, I do not think that pole position was within our reach, but what happened today is unacceptable. I am very angry. It is not the first time that these mistakes have occurred. I do not feel like pointing my fingers at someone in particular, but I'm very disappointed," he told Autosport.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H runs wide during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 6, 2018 in Suzuk - Credit: getty images
Sebastian Vettel endured a tough qualifying, finishing in ninth positionCredit: getty images

"Unlike on other occasions, it was easy to understand what was happening on the track, as all our opponents left the pits with slicks," he added.

True, it was the wrong decision but the costlier error came with Vettel's mistake on his one hot lap (Mercedes also only had one hot lap each) going into the double left-hander at Spoon, which left him four seconds down from Hamilton's time. Anyway, Vettel starts in ninth and we have a bit of a mixed up grid because of it.

Both Toro Rossos are in the top ten, which is obviously very good news for Honda with their new specification power unit and at their home race. Vettel's only hope seems to be a Hamilton retirement.

I'll be here for the next few hours with all the build-up, live updates and reaction from the Japanese Grand Prix