Sebastian Vettel keen to 'protect' Ferrari after Suzuka retirement

Valtteri Bottas crashed into the barrier after making a mistake by running wide of the track

With four races to go and a lead of 59 points, It can be assumed that Lewis Hamilton will in all possibility win the 2017 Formula one season unless nearly everything goes wrong with Team Mercedes.

The Ferrari had already been the centre of attention from the engineers before the start, with worries over a faulty park plug.

Carlos Sainz was also having a bad day. That triggered a safety vehicle while the auto was recovered.

"From there, he was able to move up the order as far as fifth place". It wasn't supposed to be easy for the Mercedes cars! Ricciardo then pitted a few laps later and while Bottas stayed out longer - holding up his team-mate before letting him by on lap 28 and then making amends by also backing up Verstappen, he finally pitted on lap 30. However, an early safety auto and virtual safety vehicle reduced the amount of degradation slightly, lengthening the opening stint. The cause was Marcus Ericsson's Sauber, which had planted its nose into the barrier after running off at the second Degner corner. And Bottas passed Ocon as well as he began his campaign for a possible third place which was now held by Ricciardo.

Starting from the pole alongside Vettel, Hamilton has maintained its gains into the first turn.

"I could see Lewis managing his tyres and, with traffic, it seemed hard for him to follow other cars compared to me", Verstappen said. "But Lewis drove a spectacular race".

Hamilton came on the radio following the chequered flag to say that he had experienced a vibration with his power unit in the latter stages of the Japanese Grand Prix and had been short shifting. By the start of the second lap the German was down to sixth and in the fourth lap team Ferrari were calling him in for a terminal pit stop.

Sunday's win was the 61st of Hamilton's career and third at the Suzuka circuit. Esteban Ocon ended the race in sixth spot ahead of his Force India teammate Sergio Perez to win a closely fought encounter, with the latter finishing seventh. He quickly picked off Gasly, who flat-spotted his tyres into the hairpin.

"My DRS is stuck open, my DRS is stuck open", cried Hulkenberg on lap 41. "They made a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017, their auto is super fast - it just lacks reliability and that is the next step".

Hamilton continued to lead but his advantage over Verstappen was down to under three seconds.

Third-placed Daniel Ricciardo: "This is my first podium here".

With seven laps remaining, battle was suspended by another virtual safety vehicle period.

The Quebec Lance Stroll had to give up to six laps from the end, his Williams having mechanical trouble, the right front side. Hamilton ultimately crossed the line 1.2s clear of the Red Bull, taking his fourth win in five races.

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