There was no happy ending for Lewis Hamilton’s troubled weekend in Suzuka. He lost out once again to teammate Nico Rosberg, who won Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix to extend his lead over the world champion to 33 points with four races to go.
It was Rosberg’s ninth victory of the season as he closes in on his first Formula One world championship and Hamilton had to be content with third place behind Max Verstappen.
It was a happy weekend, ultimately, for Mercedes who won the constructors’ championship for the third time in a row.
For the fifth time this season Hamilton made a poor start, immediately dropping back from his second place on the grid to eighth.
This followed bad starts in Australia, Bahrain, Canada and Italy and it is this, together with his engine failures in China, Russia and Malaysia, which sees him so far off the pace.
For Hamilton, winning this year’s world championship is now out of his control, because victories in the last four races won’t necessarily be enough.
After pulling back Rosberg’s 43-point advantage to lead by 19 points himself, with six wins from seven races, Hamilton has now failed to win since July.
Hamilton worked his way steadily through the field and almost went past Verstappen on the final lap, only to be blocked by the Red Bull driver. But he never got close to Rosberg and now must wonder if he ever will this season.
There was a double stop for Hamilton, as there was with Rosberg, but with such a positional disadvantage from the start there was never going to be any strategy Hamilton could pull to get back in the race.
But for Rosberg, who led from the start, the result capped a perfect weekend, in which he had won all three practice sessions as well as his 30th pole position on Saturday. There now seems a real possibility that he will wrap up the tile before the final race in Abu Dhabi, and maybe even before the penultimate outing in Brazil. He doesn’t have to win another race this year.
This was his first win in Japan. “It’s beautiful to win here,” he said. Hamilton said: “I did the best I could from where I was in the race. I will give it everything I’ve got over the last four races. It’s a healthy margin for Nico, who did a good job today.”
The Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth, and they were followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.
This article was written by Paul Weaver at Suzuka, for theguardian.com on Sunday 9th October 2016 08.20 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010