Hamilton closes on championship with Suzuka win as Vettel retires

Hamilton closes on championship with Suzuka win as Vettel retires

Hamilton closes on championship with Suzuka win as Vettel retires

The Finn, who is already set to receive a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, clocked a fastest lap of one minute, 29.055 seconds ahead of afternoon qualifying at Suzuka.

This elevates Sebastian Vettel, who set the third-fastest time of the session, to second on the grid.

He is looking to hit back after being stunned by Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Malaysia last weekend.

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Hamilton won twice at Suzuka in 2014 and 2015, and he finished second behind his team-mate Nico Rosberg past year.

LEWIS HAMILTON will look to extend his lead over Sebastian Vettel at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Their battleground will be 5.8km technical Suzuka circuit, which on paper appears as a "figure of eight" - but, is very challenging with its variety of high-speed corners.

In the end he managed a 1 minute 27.345 second lap, to leave him 0.332secs up on team-mate Bottas and 0.472secs up on Vettel's Ferrari.

Hamilton leads Vettel by 34 points in the overall standings with five of the season's 20 races remaining. It was Hamilton's 10th pole of the season and the 71st of his career.

"I missed a lot of chances to get this pole and I was determined 'today will definitely defend it". Hamilton also has three runner-up finishes in 2017.

"He's just one of the best of all time, in qualifying at least", said the German. The second session has nearly completely been canceled by the rain, although we managed to complete one or two laps with our cars in rain tires, which has enabled us to perform some experiments and to obtain valuable information. His first sector - the most demanding and rewarding of the lap - especially through the esses, was absolutely mighty and he used every inch of the track and the enhanced engine mode Mercedes is able to employ over a single lap.

It was a record-breaking qualifying session for Hamilton, who shattered the track record of 1:28.95 held previously by Michael Schumacher. Vettel, also now on the quicker rubber, could not come close.

Vettel got slightly closer, but was still more than four tenths slower than his rival.

"It's about ultimate performance from myself and also from the vehicle, so it is definitely great when it comes together on days like this. It felt good on the soft tyre, perhaps less so on the supersoft".

The four-time champion's Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen brought out the second red flag of the session.

Felipe Massa remains very much in consideration for a seat at Williams in 2018 despite the team confirming they will be evaluating Paul di Resta and Robert Kubica.

Mercedes has outlined the reasons it believes were vital in the team's recovery from its Malaysian Grand Prix "disaster", after setting the pace during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

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