Lewis Hamilton on cusp of winning fifth world title and other talking points from Japanese GP

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Cruise control: Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday to move to the brink of a fifth Formula One world title.

The Briton dominated at Suzuka, stretching his lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to 67 points with just four races left as the German’s hopes were dashed by a collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas then held off the young Dutchman and secured second.

Here, we look at the key takeaways from the race in Asia.

Hamilton in control (again)

It feels like repetition every week but the Briton is simply been the superior driver and not even someone of Vettel’s calibre has come close to him in the second half of the season.

Starting from pole, he led from the front to secure his ninth win of the season – with the result in Japan only strengthening his grip on a fifth world title pursuit even more.

Around Suzuka, the 33-year-old looked comfortable and did not encounter any difficulty, finishing 12 seconds ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton, 67 points clear of the Ferrari driver with just 100 on the table, will now secure his fifth title at the United States Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time if he wins and Vettel is third or lower.

That is indeed the likeliest of outcomes given Hamilton’s superb recent record of five wins from his six previous visits to Texas.

Error after error for Vettel

The four-time world champion is becoming desperate and hot-headed in his race craft and it is his poor mistakes that have effectively cost him the world title.

Starting from P8, the German had a chance to challenge Mercedes and moved up to fourth, but then dropped to 18th after a collision with Verstappen on lap eight.

Although he did move through the traffic, he still finished 70 seconds behind race winner Hamilton in sixth place in what was another poor display for the Ferrari team.

The reason we’ve been denied great races this season hasn’t been due to the sheer dominance of Hamilton, but the errors every weekend from Ferrari and the experienced Vettel.

Red Bull revival

It was notable to see the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finish in the top five for the first time since the French Grand Prix back in June.

Verstappen secured his seventh podium of the season, keeping third place after serving a five second penalty for leaving the track and not returning safely on lap one.

The 21-year-old did challenge Bottas briefly for second spot, but the Finn had too much pace and control to stay ahead during the second half of the race.

With Ricciardo sailing home in fourth after starting from P15, it proved to be a successful day for Christian Horner and Co.

Still, their results need to stay consistent after a mixed campaign to date, where engine troubles reduced their title chances. Remember, this was supposed to be the most exciting driver line up on the grid, but they are failing to deliver this season due to the Honda engine issues.

Penny for thought of Lando Norris

The 18-year-old – who is set to join McLaren next season – had his first chance to drive the F1 car on Friday in free practice and was welcomed with a warm reception from the fans at Suzuka.

But, what must the Bristol native be thinking after watching Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso struggle to 14th and 15th respectively in Japan on Sunday.

The prospect of racing in Formula One is any young driver’s dream, but it is hard to know what hope Norris has in a car that continues to be miles off the pace, even with a driver like Alonso – at present – behind the wheel.

If Norris can even flourish for a year or two at McLaren then there is no doubt a bigger and faster team will come calling for his services.

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