Ferrari's Vettel Out Of Japan Grand Prix

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Hamilton, though, was not about to take his fourth driver's championship for granted.

Hamilton entered the Suzuka weekend leading by 34 points, but was given the chance to stretch it out after Vettel was forced to retire early on due to an issue with his Ferrari engine.

Vettel returned to the pits and stepped out of the vehicle after four laps of the Japanese Grand Prix, leaving Lewis Hamilton to win for Mercedes and forge 59 points clear with four races remaining. "We retire the vehicle", he was told. Max Verstappen was quick to pass Daniel Ricciardo for P3 and was now trying to close in on Vettel to take P2.

Revised sporting rules for 2017 state: "14 minutes before the scheduled start of the formation lap, all drivers must be present at the front of the grid for the playing of the national anthem". Vettel's title hopes came to an end when he encountered a spark plug problem, which was changed. The safety auto was then deployed. The form he's on, the auto he's got and the speed he has. The German made the start but soon dropped back, complaining of a lack of power.

Verstappen pulled close over the final two laps but wasn't to able close the gap.

In Q2, Hamilton raced ahead of the rest of the pack, setting 1:27.819s.

"I wouldn't say I have one hand on it", Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. If Renault finds some gains on the performance side of its engine going into 2018, Red Bull is going to be a tough team to beat. Bottas pulled the same move at the same place a lap later to move up to fourth. He was also not helped by being left out a few laps longer than Verstappen as the battle with Bottas became the focus.

"My DRS is stuck open, my DRS is stuck open", cried Hulkenberg on lap 41. However, an early safety auto and virtual safety vehicle reduced the amount of degradation slightly, lengthening the opening stint. All I can really say is that I have to put it down to my team. Replay showed that something broke at the right front of the Williams which was now being recovered under the VSC.

While Hamilton easily got past Alonso's McLaren, Verstappen was held up slightly (resulting in an investigation into Fernando ignoring blue flags) and this gave Lewis a bit of breathing room.

While third practice session was washed out by rain, Hamilton started Q1 on a good note clocking 1:29.047s, followed by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen (1:29.163s) and Malaysia GP victor Max Verstappen (1:29.181s).