Published: Mon, October 09, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Vettel sets early pace from Hamilton in Suzuka

Vettel sets early pace from Hamilton in Suzuka

Vettel retired on the fourth lap after an engine glitch left him short of power and the German struck a resigned note after the race.

He first lost a place to Max Verstappen at the hairpin and then Esteban Ocon, before falling down the field. Ricciardo then pitted a few laps later and while Bottas stayed out longer - holding up his team-mate before letting him by on lap 28 and then making amends by also backing up Verstappen, he finally pitted on lap 30. Nevertheless he maintained a 2-3 second cushion over Verstappen as the race headed into its final phase. Massa clung onto tenth despite coming under attack from Alonso in the closing stages as the McLaren-Honda driver battled back from last on the grid to 11th at the finish.

Hamilton soon built up a four-second lead at the front. He crossed the line 1.2secs ahead. Just four races ago the German led the championship by sevenpoints, but with four grands prix remaining he now has a 59-point gap to recover.

Contrastingly, just six weeks ago Vettel was top of the championship.

"The track was fantastic today and the team did an unbelievable job", Hamilton said. "Great race by Max, I enjoyed racing him." . What we have to do now, and I said also to the guys: 'Let's get back, get some rest. Red Bull is in third place with 303 points.

"We still have a chance but obviously it's not as much in our control as we'd like". It was very close for a couple laps, but I was able to keep it together.

"I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap", said Hamilton.

"We just need to collect the points but I can relate to how it feels for Ferrari and it is certainly not very nice. They've done a phenomenal job". Engineers tried to beat it into submission, but the fault meant they had no option but to retire the auto.

"So a big thank you to everyone back at the factory you do an incredible job and I hope I'm making you proud". He looked so big in my mirrors but really grateful the auto stuck together and I didn't make any mistakes. We need to really understand what he meant.

Verstappen overtook teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the start and quickly moved past the hobbled Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

"If four races ago I would have told you that Sebastian is going to DNF (not finish) two times and not score well one time, you would have said that's nearly impossible", said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

"Of course it hurts, and we're all disappointed", the four times world champion, who hugged his mechanics and gave the crowd a quick wave after returning to the pits, told television reporters. "It looks like we are not going to have the exciting run in to the end of the year that going into the summer break it looked like it would be".

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