Hamilton has title in sight after another Ferrari failure

2017 Japanese Grand Prix summary

Posted on

| Written by

Lewis Hamilton has a fourth world championship title in his sights after winning the Japanese Grand Prix while rival Sebastian Vettel failure to score.

Ferrari discovered a spark plug fault on Vettel’s car shortly before the start of the race. Although he was able to take the start his car did not have full power and he retired shortly afterwards.

2017 Japanese GP in pictures
That left Hamilton to head off a challenge from Max Verstappen to take his eighth victory of the season. The threat from the Red Bull driver increased suddenly in the final laps after Hamilton reported a tyre vibration, but Verstappen lost time lapping Felipe Massa, which broke his charge.

Daniel Ricciardo joined the pair on the podium after holding of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. A late Virtual Safety Car period, caused when Lance Stroll’s Williams suffered a failure, delayed Bottas in his pursuit of the Red Bull.

The sole remaining Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen rose to fifth place, jumping ahead of Esteban Ocon through the pits to claim his final place. Sergio Perez in the other Force India was eager to take on his team mate but was ordered to hold position.

Behind them Massa lost his grip on eighth place when he was mugged by the Haas drivers. Kevin Magnussen put a daring pass on him at turn two which also allowed Romain Grosjean to follow him by.

Hamilton leaves Suzuka with a 59-point lead over Vettel which means he can clinch the championship at the next round in the USA. The only concern for him may come from his power unit, which he reported was vibrating on his in-lap.

2017 Japanese Grand Prix reaction

    Check back shortly for more race reaction

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

81 comments on “Hamilton has title in sight after another Ferrari failure”

  1. Lewis, lord of the rings, hhh

    1. krxx If I was Takuma I’d have been like “NO! MY PRECIOUS!!”

    2. It was quite funny watch him fixate on that ring.

    3. Well it was Takuma’s Indy 500 winner’s ring!

      1. The championship ring is one of those Americanisms which wouldn’t be out of place in F1. I wonder if the new owners of F1 were paying attention. Hint hint….

  2. Robbed of a classic championship fight by Ferrari’s failured to gve Vettel a reliable car 2 races in a row… When Vettel could’ve had 2 wins out of those races.
    And then this race, robbed of a fight for the win by backmarkers not getting out of Max’s way. (Although it was Renault v Mercedes so he probably couldn’t have overtaken anyway, but then again, it is Verstappen).
    What can Vettel do. The stars have aligned for Hamilton this year, everything’s gone his way, and he’s won the title pretty much. Sigh. I was so looking forward to a showdown in Abu Dhabi with them very close on points.
    And Hulkenberg with yet more bad luck… How are they supposed to catch Williams and Toro Rosso in the constructors when he’s lost over 20 points in the last 3 races alone. And the DRS stuck open as well, not even a normal retirement.
    I may be very crabby because I had to wake up so early but still…

    1. @hugh11

      robbed of a fight for the win by backmarkers not getting out of Max’s way.

      To be honest I think the only reason Max got as close to Lewis as he did was because of those back markers.

      In clear air Lewis was faster & it was also clear watching his OnBoard at points during the race that he was managing his pace. For instance he was lifting through 130R & coasting to the chicane for most of the race so he clearly had a lot more pace if he needed it.

      1. Verstappen was catching Hamilton before he got to Bottas too. It’s all a bit ‘what if’ but the RB matched the Merc on the softs I reckon

        1. Yeah, the RBR looked strong again. Since Monza they’re kinda suddenly a lot better in race trim.

        2. More proof of the Merc’s narrow “sweet spot”. No wonder they’ve termed it a diva. Any time it gets out of the groove… SC, VSC, traffic… the performance seems to drop way off, & requires a couple laps at least to get back up to normal warp speed, if they can at all.

      2. Alex McFarlane
        8th October 2017, 8:47

        Max himself stated afterwards that this was pretty much the case, yes he got held up but only really closed the gap in the first place because of them and the Merc being uncomfortable behind traffic.

    2. Hulkenberg did lose a lot of points but for sure Massa lost a lot many of them. So yeah, Williams had to be ahead. For example, take the race at Baku, had it not been for the damper issue, Massa would definitely be on podium whereas Hulk made a driver error. So, i guess overall Williams are a touch ahead of Renault but always catchable.

      The best part is the developing Force India, I loved the opening few laps, Ocon drove the best today. Probably a strong contender for Driver of the Weekend.

  3. Now the Championship is officially Hamilton’s to lose as winning all the remaining races alone won’t be enough for Vettel.

    1. @jerejj Indeed, even if Seb wins all 4 remaining races Lewis can afford to finish 4th, 5th, 5th, 5th.

      1. If Hamilton outscores the Golden boy by 18 points at next race championship is over.

        1. 17 would be enough (perhaps 16 but not sure)

          1. I wonder if Bottas will suddenly regain his form, the way Rosberg did when Lewis secured the championship.

            To be fair, Lewis would by now have had more points, had Mercedes not seen fit to Man managed the start of this season. Not that I blame Mercs, if that’s how you get the best out of both drivers.

          2. Perhaps, Hamilton will slack off a little again after he got the WDC yes.

  4. Until Singapore it was looking like we were going to have a nice fight to the end with momentum swinging back & forth between the 2 depending on circuit/conditions. But the various mistakes/problems Vettel has had the past few races have really taken a lot of the fun out of the championship fight sadly.

    Just the way things go sometimes but still a shame.

    1. Well said

      1. True and also a shame KR and VB weren’t able to keep in the mix too, and that Max had so much unreliability. That’s racing.

  5. Max and Lewis as future teammates pleasee. Max does it again to Ricciardo..

    1. Hamilton won’t let it happen – as long as he wins WDCs Merc will accommodate him.

      Ferrari is a different story – Vettel may has no doubt lost some clout with Red because of Baku and Singapore screw ups.

      Max in Red more likely.

      1. What makes you think he has any choice in the matter?

      2. I see it the other way around. Ferrari has always been more about having one driver go for the WDC and the other in a backup role. They make sure the #2 driver doesn’t come too close to the #1 driver. Much like what Red Bull did after 2010.

        Mercedes seem to be intent on having 2 top drivers competing for the WDC. Hedging their bets so to say.

        Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but Mercedes would be more likely to field two WDC capable drivers.

        1. “Mercedes seem to be intent on having 2 top drivers competing for the WDC”
          So you consider Bottas a top tier driver?

  6. Congrats to HAM for winning his 4th title, he has the best car overall anyway. Also to Mercedes for winning the WCC. Now BOT really has some chances to detrone VET from 2nd place.

    Ferrari is quite a joke lately, not the fastest car no matter if it’s Quali or Race, not at all reliable. Even podiums started to look like a distant memory. Given how much RBR raised their game in race trim, I’m starting to think Ferrari might not win any race at all this season.

    Really great job by RBR. They raised their game in race trim a lot. VER is the man, RBR should try everything to keep him in the team.

    1. @mg1982 Ferrari has had the better car for most of the season. They just failed to capitalize on this way too often. Apart from some scruffy Q3’s and average starts, it was especially in Singapore when Vettel threw the WDC away.

      Ferrari probably went too far in their need for more powertrain gains to compensate for all these driver errors and lost sight of reliability. Although today would seem to have been a spark plug failure, but the WDC was already over after Singapore really.

      1. @patrickl Yeah, it’s not like the tyre failure in Silverstone, or not participating in Malaysia qualifying, or DNF’in today played any part. It has to be that very common defensive move that you persistently want to brand as a terrible mistake by Vettel,…

        Hamilton has 8 wins now, and Bottas adds 2 to the Mercedes tally. Together with 12 poles out of 16 races I clearly see how the Ferrari was the better car…granted Vettel surely would’ve won in Malaysia and most likely qualified on pole too, but it’s not like Vettel had Singapore in the pocket, Verstappen would’ve most likely been a serious threat.

        Mercedes can brand the car whatever name they want and call it a diva but that even in Sochi and Monaco when the term really got speed Bottas was right on it.

        I completely agree the Mercedes has not been dominant but surely ahead of the Ferrari overall. I’m fully expecting Bottas to claim second in the standings by Dubai.

        1. @flatsix You mean the tyre failure that was brought on by Vettel having a poor Q3 and a poor start, ending up behind Verstappen, not getting past and taking a massive undercut, resulting in a much too long stint with the inevitable blown tyre again? Yes, I blame Vettel for that.

          Mercedes has the pace, but it’s hard on the tyres. Which means they cannot go flat out during the race. Ferrari is much easier on the tyres and should therefore be able to win races. But then Vettel messed up in Q3 a couple of times and like I said he had some poor starts too. So then he drops back massively and instead of fighting for the win it becomes a recovery race.

          The car was fast enough. The driver just made too many mistakes.

      2. Ferrari have thrown points away like sweet wrappers, but that’s almost excusable given they managed to finally produce a good car this year. Mercedes had a lot of reliability issues in previous seasons too, but since nobody was near them, it didn’t matter.

        What does matter is Vettel’s needless throwing away of points. He would still be within very easy striking distance now (around 14 points off Hamilton?) if he hadn’t lost his temper for a perceived but non-existent brake test from HAM at Baku, and the similar blood rush that saw him try to block Verstappen at Singapore. Ferrari should be advised that Verstappen is a better driver than Vettel – and already more mature.

  7. Well, it wasn’t a bad race, but Vettel not being there from almost the start took some wind out of it, and then Verstappen wasn’t really able to put much pressure until the very end, when Massa and Alonso pulled the plug on that, and before that, Stroll’s car going meant Bottas couldn’t really put a move on Ricciardo. The scrap around 10th was good though, Raikkonen had a good race (after quite a bad start, it has to be said), Ocon was great, and Perez fun the way he wanted to have a go, but his team wisely held him off. Still, Suzuka does look great.

  8. I’ve been trying to be optimistic about the championship recently. A retirement for Hamilton would have undone much of the damage done to Vettel in Singapore and Malaysia.

    But this looks like a death blow to the title fight now. I’m shocked how badly Seb and Ferrari have crumbled. This time 3 weeks ago we were anticipating a Singapore Grand Prix where Vettel would snatch back the championship lead. Ferrari have been looking about as competitive as we’ve seen them in the past decade and yet they’ve well and truly thrown it away. Expect heads to roll at Ferrari…

    It’s not over, but we’re now heavily relying on a string of disasters for Merc to reignite this fight.

    I suppose with the title fight looking over, it follows that we should now seek reasons to get excited for next season. Thankfully, based on the last few races, Red Bull are giving us plenty of reasons to look forward to the future. They’re finally looking as good as we expected them to be with the new cars.

    1. Expect heads to roll at Ferrari…

      I’d still hope not, despite their response to such problems in the past (I mean, firing Aldo Costa was such a brilliant move, wasn’t it?)

      1. but yeah, wouldn’t be exactly unexpected.

      2. Well said @davidnotcoulthard, I think the current issues are part of them moving up, they need to work on QA, I guess, but apparently they were already working on that – let them stay on the current path, iron out the problems but keep it on track so we will really have three teams at the head in 2018!

      3. @davidnotcoulthard
        I think we should agree on the following 2 points :
        – Aldo Costa was sucked from his role in Ferrari as a technical director.
        – Aldo Costa was recruited by Brawn in Mercedes to occupy the role of head of chassis development.
        The firing of Aldo Costa, who is a brilliant chassis engineer btw, from Ferrari was of his own making. After Brawn/Byrne quit Ferrari in 2006 (Byrne was partially employed till 2009 as a consultant), Costa insisted badly on the role of the technical director and with little help from Domenicali he was promoted by Montezemolo.

        The role of the technical director in F1 requires a lot of knowledge about all the engineering aspects of car design (In a Nutshell, someone like Adrian Newey….) something Costa didn’t have since he’s only good chassis wise.
        In Mercedes Brawn knew that Costa could be a great asset for Mercedes so he put him in his natural role and he contributed a lot to the development of their chassis.
        To this day Costa was never considered as a serious candidate for the technical role in Mercedes even though the role was vacant many times (Bob Bell, Paddy Lowe, James Allison).

        firing Aldo Costa was such a brilliant move, wasn’t it

        The main element of Mercedes success in the hybrid era is their Power Unit and the way it delivers the power in qualifying and in the crucial stages of the races (special engine modes), their chassis is still not as good as the Ferrari/RBR chassis this year and their running away with both championships (even if we suppose that Ferrari didn’t suicide in the last 3 races, Mercedes would still have a realistic chance to clinch both championships with 4 races to go despite not having the best chassis)

  9. People are quick to blame Ferrari’s reliability- sure that has had a significant impact. But Vettel’s driving, at the very least in Baku and Singapore has also contributed. I would actually say, Vettel and Ferrari have imploded this year under title pressure. Both team and driver have cracked.

    On a more positive note- giant step by Hamilton and Merc to both titles. Red Bull seem to be back. So does Bottas. It was quite a tense race in the end I really thought Hamilton was toast after the VSC but he kept it together when it would have been so easy to throw it all way under immense pressure.

    1. But Vettel’s driving, at the very least in Baku and Singapore has also contributed

      …to a spark plug failure. I assume Vettel’s driving all 2009 contributed to his engine failure in Bahrain 2010 too?

      (I am coming from the POV of totally not getting how VES might at all have had to do with his failures this season though so I guess there’s that)

      giant step by Hamilton and Merc to both titles. Red Bull seem to be back

      Heh, yeah. Though it’s not like Red bull got a better result today than last week but I guess today indicated that that one wasn’t much of a flash in the pan

      So does Bottas

      After Russia and Austria this wouldn’t be my idea of “back” – not sure how he was better than the few preceding races actually.

      he kept it together when it would have been so easy to throw it all way under immense pressure.

      Not necessarily a first this season at all (Bottas survived worse I’d say – twice) but yeah. That was some good driving.

      1. to a spark plug failure. I assume Vettel’s driving all 2009 contributed to his engine failure in Bahrain 2010 too?

        Stop mixing oil and water. I’ve clearly stated- reliability has had a big impact. Vettel’s hot had a hot head. Hence my fundamental point- both the team and the driver have contributed to the 59 point deficit. It would be wrong to solely point the finger at reliability because that alone isn’t why Vettel is losing this championship.

        Not necessarily a first this season at all (Bottas survived worse I’d say – twice) but yeah. That was some good driving.

        Where did I say it was a 1st? Hamilton was under pressure at the end on cold tyres. Fact. Could have cracked under pressure but he didn’t. Fact. How you can possibly find some way of spinning that off into an emotive rant I don’t know.

        I know the GP was early and that might have resulted in some getting up on the wrong side of the bed but jesus.

        Perhaps taking a bit of emotion out of it would do you some good?

        1. *Vettel’s had a hot head.

        2. Where did I say it was a 1st?

          Where did I say you did? it’s just that in your position I wouldn’t have found it notable since not cracking under pressure is something HAM, ALO, MSC, VES, tbh even VET, etc usually manage in such positions anyway – making them remarkable drivers – much better than I am and probably you as well (though I might never know :)

          I’ve clearly stated

          Hence my fundamental point- both the team and the driver have contributed to the 59 point deficit.

          No you hadn’t clearly stated that (e.g. contributed to what, exactly? how was I supposed to know you were referring to the points deficit – I thought you were referring to the retirements!) – though now that you’ve cleared that one up my reply was indeed irrelevant. My bad.

          I know the GP was early and that might have resulted in some getting up on the wrong side of the bed but jesus.

          Perhaps taking a bit of emotion out of it would do you some good? :p

    2. Yeah, Red Bull is back and all the stars align for them to be very competitive next year.
      Renault will double their efforts as they are now a factory team, expect the Renault engine to be competitive next year. At Red Bull the improvements through the season shows Newey still has what it takes. For some odd reason Red Bull allowed him to focus on other projects than F1 in the run-up to the 2017-season. That’s not gonna happen this time around, if Red Bull is unable to produce a Championship-winning car next year they’ll lose their biggest asset Verstappen. They will not let that happen, they’ll throw the kitchen sink in for 2018.

      We have seen it for a while now, Verstappen actually is the class of the field. He was able to challenge Hamilton in a clearly inferior car today. When he gets a truly competitive car it will be game over.

      1. How was the Red Bull clearly inferior to the Mercedes today? I seem to remember the other one being ahead of the other Mercedes.

      2. to focus on other projects than F1 in the run-up to the 2017-season.

        That was exactly how McLaren kept him so…unsurprising, I guess?

      3. “Verstappen … able to challenge Hamilton in a clearly inferior car” – a bit harsh on Bottas, who was beaten by both of the Red Bulls.

      4. How is it clearly an inferior car when it’s easily quicker during the race?

        Of course Hamilton benefits from the pure pace which is in the Mercedes which they (or at least Hamilton) can use over a single lap, but they can’t use that for a full race. If anything Red Bull have been faster on race pace than Mercedes since Red Bull had their update.

        Verstappen clearly had the superior car for the race, but he lacked track position which on a track where overtaking is difficult, ultimately meant that Verstappen couldn’t get ahead.

  10. Ferrari just can’t get it right, so much reliabality issue. They can only hope that mercedes face the same fate as them now cause it’s all over otherwise.

    It’s a shame we can’t see vettel battle it out with Lewis’s cause seb liked like having the edge over hamilton all year long.

  11. I find it hilarious most of the people i’ve come across that complain about Seb’s engine unreliability losing him the championship (despite the unreliability only coming in the last 2 races while being behind in the championship) are the same one’s who refuse/d to accept that Hamilton reliability woes (which was by FAR! worse) last year lost him the championship.
    Many people claim/ed that all the engine issues and grid penalties Hamilton had before Malaysia 2016 and the eventual retiring at Malaysia 2016 whilst comfortably leading a race and a resultant 28 (?) point swing (at that race alone) had no bearing on the outcome of the WDC, whilst every other Mercedes engine from Rosberg’s car, Williams cars, Manor’s cars and Force India’s cars were bullet proof.
    The same people are now saying Sebastian is going to lose the championship because of unreliability. Damn lol, how things change in a year.

    1. If you adjust for car issues Vettel would still be 45 points behind Hamilton. Anyway its too early to say that reliability has cost him the championship, obviously with 4 races to go that could change.

  12. Great start from Max ones again. To bad Mercedes had Valtteri Barrichello in their sleeve to hold up Max after the pit stops. They won the race there although Max would of course not have passed Lewis easily. But still I wanted to see him at least try. Now Max had to settle behind Lewis at 2,5 seconds too to keep his downforce ok

  13. Who else thought Carlos Sainz intentionally sabotaged STR’s chances of scoring any points today so that Renault make the most of it in the form of Hulkenberg (sadly didn’t happen) ??

    1. @webtel, given that it would also have damaged his reputation to appear so error prone this weekend and potentially give a negative impression to a team that he would hope to impress, I would have thought it rather unlikely to say the least.

      1. I understand. His reputation shouldn’t go for a toss. But what if Renault wanted him to do something to ensure STR don’t get points today ? Just a theory.

        1. @webtel – Renault +a deliberate crash to favour another driver… I can’t see that happening. Well, not again.

    2. I didn’t go that far, but I will easily believe he knew this would be his last race and that knowing that led to two completely avoidable mistakes. When he doesn’t care, he really doesn’t care.

    3. It’s abundantly clear from social media that Carlos is extremely close with his engineers and the other staff around him, so I doubt he’d intentionally sabotage the people closest to him on their final race together.

      Feels like people have twisted Tost’s words earlier in the season into making Sainz look like some maniacal sociopath with no regard for anyone but himself.

      1. @davef1, “a maniacal sociopath with no regard for anyone but himself” high praise indeed, real champion material.

      2. I’d be surprised if any driver at that level didn’t show some sociopathic tendencies.

  14. Those 3 points Hamilton gave back to Bottas in Hungry really came back to help him today. I don’t like drivers playing second drivers but can completely understand it from the teams viewpoint. I’m sure Rosberg wouldn’t have been so quick to move aside which could have cost Hamilton the win. 59 points is a fantastic lead to have at this stage, but it’s not over yet. After qualifying in Singapore no one would believe Hamilton would have this lead just three weeks later so don’t rule Vettel out just yet.

    1. It is somewhat ironic that Ayreton Senna’s biggest fan, Lewis Hamilton, is actually less like his hero than is Sebastian Vettel.

      Senna would never have given back the place to Bottas as Hamilton did; in contrast Vettel has disobeyed team orders in favour of Mark Webber, he has also used his car beligerantly on a number of occasions to dangerously intimidate other drivers and he never admits he is any percentage in the wrong in any coming-together with another driver (even when the factual evidence shows he deserves some blame).

      In contrast Lewis is open to admitting his mistakes and usually aims for a clean overtake rather than lunging at his competitor; so although Lewis is in love with the idea of Senna as a racing driver he does not behave like him on the track (apart from being fast that is).

    2. Rosberg did move aside for Lewis in Monaco last year when it was clear he was Rosberg was not able to compete for the win that race.
      It helped Hamilton gain at least 7 pts last year.

    3. In fairness Hamilton attempted to actively back Rosberg into the opposition to serve his own result last year.

      1. @philipgb

        That was different. They were the only drivers in contention and Hamilton waited till the last stint of the last race.

        Seems like exactly what we should expect of champions. He was competitive but not out of control. It was entertaining to watch too.

        1. @slotopen

          I completely agree Hamilton was right to do so. Just highlighting that a driver will at times put their own interests above the teams.

          I don’t think Rosberg is quite as fair a sportsman as Hamilton, but they’re both willing to work against a teammate.

  15. Regardless of Ferrari’s problems I have the feeling Hamilton will win this championship due to his performances on saturdays. Yes the mercs have a magic button, but still, comparing to his team mate’s performances he has been outstanding. Congrats to him on that amazing record.

  16. After the last 2 races in 2007 I still don’t think this is over.

  17. as i said from the start DNFs will decide this

    and so its shown

    you really have got to hand it to Merc reliability 4? engine failures from 150 starts in the hybrid era just from the factory team

    my question will ferrari do their normal disintegration with blaming culture in the team as they fail again

    1. It was already decided after Vettel threw Baku, Spa and especially Singapore.

  18. I can’t believe the amount of bashing Ferrari is getting now that they’ve shot themselves twice in the foot.
    Let’s not forget that they failed to win a single race last year. And the step they’ve made with their car this year is just incredible. Teething problems are inevitable but next year if they get their act together in terms of reliability then Mercedes will have something very serious to worry about.

    1. I think Red bull will be more of a threat to Mercedes next year than Ferrari.

      1. Only if Renault power unit comes good. The chassis and aero side of the things looks fine.

      2. @Rai 1

        I guess that is what you believed last year as well ;)

        1. No,you’re just assuming

    2. As a rule, can commenter on here advise, when Ferrari have developed a good car capable of winning both the drivers and constructors championship in consecutive years?

    3. I think its because we all think Mercedes have had an easy or relatively easy time of it in the last few years. From been nowhere last year, to been in a position to win races, not perhaps on 1 lap qualy speed, but on race pace all year, we were expecting them to do so much better. I think its even worse than that. The reliability problems were all at races where it was at least possible they had the race pace to win. If Renault they can supply a better power unit (more horse power and qualy modes like Ferrari and Mercedes have) next year, with red bull (and the works team) 2018 could be a classic.

    4. I wonder if Ferrari recently decided they had to take more risks than usual in the engine department, having lost the lead of the drivers’ championship and in the belief that the majority of the remaining circuits would play more to Mercedes’ strengths than their own. Ferrari reliability earlier in the season didn’t seem to be much of an issue.

    5. @sravan-pe – Absolutely. The Ferrari may be a little fragile but it has great race pace on many tracks, a huge improvement over last year. Notwithstanding random glitches, they are clearly heading in the right direction. Unless there are serious hidden issues, there is no need for any meltdowns.

  19. Hamilton won’t let it happen – as long as he wins WDCs Merc will accommodate him.

    Ferrari is a different story – Vettel may has no doubt lost some clout with Red because of Baku and Singapore screw ups.

    Max in Red more likely.

Comments are closed.