Marc Marquez secured a third-straight MotoGP crown – and fifth of his career – with victory in Japan.
The win at Motegi was the eighth of the season for the Spaniard and drew him level on five titles with Mick Doohan and only Valentino Rossi and Giacomo Agostini have won more.
Marquez started from sixth but it did not take him long to find his way to the front of race.
Pole-sitter Andrea Dovizioso took advantage of a Marquez error to move into the lead but with just three laps remaining the Spaniard claimed the lead once again.
Dovizioso lost control and slid onto the grass as he tried to pass Marquez handing the Honda rider victory and the title.
Alex Connor took a big step forward in his racing career following a successful debut test in British F4 at Croft.
The championship is designed as a low-cost entrance to motorsports racing and is aimed at young racing drivers moving up from karting, with Dubai-based teenager Connor following in the footsteps of Lando Norris who will be racing in Formula One for McLaren next year.
Not only was it Connor’s first test in a British F4 car, it was the first time he had driven a car of any kind.
However, the 14-year-old took the challenge in his stride and his graduation from karting couldn’t have got off to a better start, with the rookie impressing during two days of testing in the UK at the end of September.
Although he had no prior experience in a car, Connor had been working hard to prepare for the test. As part of the Young Racing Drivers Academy (YRDA) programme for the past 18 months, he has spent time at the Arden Motorsport factory simulator facility.
Under the guidance of Steve Hutchinson, he had been putting in lots of laps of the Croft and Anglesey circuits during the summer.
By the end of the first session, Connor’s confidence was there for all to see. He was adapting to the car a lot quicker than usual and given he had never been in a car before, his lap times were very impressive.
Following day two’s testing, everyone in the Arden Motorsport team and the YRDA were extremely impressed with Connor’s commitment.
“Overall the two days were really good and I was happy with what I had achieved,” said Connor.
“I left the track with a big smile on my face wanting to drive again. A second test session had been arranged in Anglesey.”
Academy director Steve Hutchinson was thoroughly impressed by what he saw from the teen.
“Alex Connor’s journey in single seater racing may only just be beginning but looking back on his first test at Croft, there are already so many positives and things to look forward to,” beamed Hutchinson.
“Over both test days he never put a wheel wrong and we were all very impressed with not only his progress, but his ability to implement our feedback and his consistency too.
“He had no fear on track and that allowed us to progress very quickly, something that doesn’t always happen with a driver of his age. He’s already showing all the traits of someone who can be successful in this class. There’s no doubt he has a bright future ahead.”
Ferrari driver Vettel is facing an almost impossible task of stopping Hamilton from galloping towards a fifth world title after the Briton extended his lead to 50 points.
Indeed, Hamilton can now afford to finish second at the concluding five rounds, and still win the championship.
Mercedes courted criticism for manufacturing the 70th win of Hamilton’s career, but Vettel defended their controversial decision.
“Lewis and Valtteri played the game together as a team very well,” he said. “In the position they are in, what Mercedes did today was a no-brainer.”
The Sochi Autodrom was expected to suit Ferrari’s package over Mercedes’, but despite bringing a heavily-revised car to the Black Sea coast, the Italian team were no match for their rivals.
Vettel qualified a distant third, and despite managing to leapfrog Hamilton during the only round of tyre stops, he was unable to keep the Mercedes car at bay.
For the first time this year, the championship is now out of Vettel’s hands, and the German admitted he is running out of time to stop Hamilton.
“I wasn’t a genius in maths, but I was clever enough to pay attention and realise that it isn’t getting easier if we lose points,” he added.
“We tried our maximum and there was a slim chance to finish ahead of Lewis, but we have to be happy with third and settle for that.
“I still believe in our chance. Yes, it is not getting bigger, but who knows? It takes one DNF, and then all of a sudden things look different.
“So, we need to stay at the top of our game and make sure we focus on winning the last races.”