Hamilton wins the Japan Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit
One more reader shout out, to Dee Evans. And now I’m going to get Giles Richards’s report up as quick as I can.
Verstappen, who finished third, says switching from the super soft to soft tyres helped him, but he’s not happy with the five second penalty he got, which he says was “really ridiculous”.
Hamilton says his team has “gone from strength to strength this year” and he is looking forward to Austin in two weeks, where he could win the championship.
Hamilton: “I’m proud and grateful for the chance to do what I do.”
Hamilton has thanked his team, Mercedes and said this is the best track in the world.
Hamilton has leapt from his car and into the waiting arms of his mechanics.
Daniel Ricciardo has been announced as the driver of the day. Well deserved given his poor placing on the grid and his fine race.
Bottas finishes second, holding off Verstappen in third. Hamilton has just spoken from his car to say how much he loves this track. And why wouldn’t he?
Lewis Hamilton wins and now has one hand on the drivers’ championship.
Lap 53/53: Hamilton is cruising to another victory.
Lap 52/53: Ferrari still content to leave their drivers as they are and, while some are on the penultimate lap, Hamilton in on the final lap.
Lap 51/53: There are 16km and three laps to go. What a race it has been, on a beautiful day in Japan.
Lap 50/53: A shout out from me to readers Nicholas Butt and William Hargreaves for their nice comments by email.
Lap 49/53: Hamilton is having some trouble with his tyres, but not so much that he’ll be overtaken with four laps to go.
Lap 48/53: Verstappen is closing in on Bottas in the battle for second again. There is a second between them.
Lap 47/53: This grand prix has been as gripping as the choice of tyres, either soft or medium.
Lap 46/53: Ferrari seem content, at the moment, not to swap their drivers – Räikkönen and Vettel – around.
Lap 45/53: Hamilton is still leading, of course, and is almost 10 seconds ahead of Bottas in second, so he’s most unlikely to not win now.
Lap 44/53: In the battle for second, Bottas is holding off Verstappen, who has now fallen to 1.4 seconds behind.
Lap 43/53: Perez is up to seventh after passing Romain Grosjean.
Lap 42/53: There is a serious battle for second between Bottas and Verstappen. There is about two car lengths separating them.
Lap 41/53: Leclerc and Hulkenberg are both out. The virtual safety car has told the remaining drivers to reduce their speed by 40%.
Lap 40/53: Verstappen is now just one 1.6 seconds behind Bottas as each of them lap the stragglers.
Lap 39/53: There are 83 kilometres to go in this race and it’s still Hamilton in first, Bottas second, Verstappen third and Ricciardo fourth.
Lap 38/53: Alonso passes Stroll in an out-of-my-way-son move.
Lap 37/53: Carlos Sainz of Spain has moved up to 11th and is 3.6 seconds behind Gasly.
Lap 36/53: And Vettel is now up to sixth, but he’s 40 seconds behind Raikkonen.
Lap 35/53: Vettel has had the fastest lap so far, at 1.33.243.
Lap 34/53: Hamilton lead Bottas by five seconds, and Verstappen is almost seven seconds behind Bottas.
Lap 33/53: Ricciardo has fallen back to almost three seconds behind Verstappen.
Lap 32/53: And Vettel is up to 9th, having just passed Leclerc. So much overtaking!
Lap 31/53: Vettel is on the soft tyres, and Ocon is on the medium.
Lap 30/53: There is now a big battle for 11th place between Ocon, Hulkenberg, Vettle and Ericcson.
Lap 29/53: Leclerc has now passed Hulkenberg, as has Sergio Perez. Bad news for the Hulk.
Lap 28/53: There is a serious battle for 10th place between Hulkenberg and Leclerc.
Lap 27/53: I think I’ve spelt tyre wrong in most of the posts. Sorry. The top five have all had one pit stop each, and the next five have yet to have a pit stop.
Lap 26/53: It’s Hamilton in first, Bottas second, Verstappen third and Ricciardo fourth. Verstappen and Ricciardo are both still on soft tyres.
Lap 25/53: Hamilton switched to medium tires on that pit stop.
Lap 24/53: Lewis Hamilton is having some blistering on his tires and is in the pits.
Lap 23/53: Ricciardo is up to third. There really is a lot of passing on the track that is very hard to pass on.
Lap 22/53: Alonso gets a five second, as does Canadian Lance Stroll.
Lap 21/53: Hamilton still leading, followed by Valtteri Bottas, then Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Lap 20/53: Ricciardo is up to 4th and pushing close on Verstappen in 3rd.
Lap 19/53: Vettel passes Alonso and is now 12th. This is a very strong comeback from him.
Lap 18/53: Raikkonen has emerged into 10th place and gets caught in traffic.
Lap 17/53: That was a super quick pit stop for Raikkonen, to change to medium tires.
Lap 16/53: Vettel is up to 14th after starting 8th, having a bad start and gradually making his way back up.
Lap 15/53: Just to repeat, the track is dry, which is was not in practise, so this is causing some questions about which tires to use.
Lap 14/53: Vettel is up to 16th and Ricciardo is up to 5th. What a race we have here.
I pressed send too soon. Ricciardo has now passed Gasly.
Lap 13/53: And now Ricciardo is eyeing up passing Pierre Gasly. But not yet.
Lap 12/53: Ricciardo is up to 7th. What a race the Australian is having.
Lap 11/53: It might be time for Vettel to change tires to medium. He may be getting a second penalty.
Lap 10/53: Vettel has moved up to 18th, but it’s a very long way back for him.
Lap 9/53: Vettel is down to 19th place. Magnussen looks like he out of the race.
Lap 8/53: Verstappen spins Vettel around. It’s all happening.
Lap 7/53: Daniel Ricciardo, who started in 15th is up to 10th.
Lap 6/53: Fernando Alonso is also being investigated for a possible time penalty.
Lap 5/53: Five second time penalty for Max Verstappen for leaving the track and not returning safely after an incident with Kimi Raikkonen.
Lap 4/53: Kevin Magnussen has lost a tire. That looks scary. There is debris all over. The safety car has been deployed.
Lap 3/53: Great start for Ferrari.
Looking at a replay of the start, Vettel passed two cars before the first turn.
Lap 2/53: Vettel started in eighth and is now fourth. So much for it being hard to pass on this track.
Lap 1/53: Brilliant start from both Hamilton and Vettel.
Away we go!
This is the only figure of eight track on the circuit, as I’m sure you all well know.
They have started the formation lap to get a feel for the grip on the track.
Some wishful thinking here, perhaps.
We’ve already had the Japanese school kids singing the national anthem, so the race is close.
Several people in the pre-race interviews mention how hard it is to overtake on this track, meaning, of course, that the grid position really makes a difference.
It’s 28 degrees at the track, which is starkly different to the rain they had there yesterday. That’s leading to some changes to the cars.
Getting close to show time now.
Different “sport”, but this gave me a laugh too.
This tweet made me laugh.
Well, they don’t call Suzuka a ‘driver’s circuit’ for nothing…
I have no idea what this tweet is saying, but it looks like they have a good spot to watch the race.
If you were wondering who won that 1976 GP (of course you were), it was American driver Mario Andretti. Frenchman Patrick Depailler came second and the legendary James Hunt came third, winning the drivers’ championship into the bargain. Andretti, now aged 78, is the only one of those three still alive. Depailler was killed in a crash at Hockenheim on 1 August 1980, during a private testing session. He was 35. Hunt died of a heart attack in 1993. He was 45.
Looking up the history of the Japanese Grand Prix, I came across an extraordinary quote from Niki Lauda from 1976. The weather was very wet with fog and running water at several places on the track. There were intense debates as to whether the race should even start, but the organisers went ahead. Some drivers, including Lauda, were not happy with the decision. On the second lap, Lauda drove into the pits to withdraw, as he believed the conditions made the track too dangerous. He later said “my life is worth more than a title”. Can you imagine a driver saying that today?
Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by 50 points in the world championship with five races remaining and if he wins today, he’ll have one hand on the title.
Hamilton has won five of the last six races and taken four of the last six poles. He’s certainly the form driver right now.
As Giles Richard wrote yesterday, Lewis Hamilton’s eighth pole of the season is only his second at Suzuka. He converted pole to a win here last year but scored his previous two poles in Japan when the race was held at Fuji. He has four wins at the Japanese Grand Prix, one at Fuji and three at Suzuka, the latter all with Mercedes who have yet to be beaten here during the turbo-hybrid era.
Quick guide to the Japanese GP: Grid and qualifying times
1 Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 1min 27.760sec
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:28.059
3 Max Verstappen (Neth) Red Bull 1:29.057
4 Kimi Räikkönen (Fin) Ferrari 1:29.521; 5 Romain Grosjean (Fr) Haas 1:29.761; 6 Brendon Hartley (NZ) Toro Rosso 1:30.023; 7 Pierre Gasly (Fr) Toro Rosso 1:30.093; 8 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:32.192; 9 Sergio Pérez (Mex) Force India 1:37.229; 10 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber 1:29.864; 11 Esteban Ocon* (Fr) Force India 1:30.126; 12 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 1:30.226; 13 Carlos Sainz (Sp) Renault 1:30.490; 14 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 1:30.714, 15 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull No Time; 16Nico Hülkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:30.361; 17 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:30.372; 18 Fernando Alonso (Sp) McLaren 1:30.573; 19 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:31.041; 20 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 1:31.213.
Good afternoon, good morning or good evening, depending on where you are in the world. Here’s a look at the grid.
While we wait for the race to start, have a read of Giles Richards’s story about Lewis Hamilton taking pole.