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Hamilton aiming to build championship lead at Japanese GP

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SUZUKA, Japan (AP) Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton can widen his lead when Formula One wraps up its Asian leg at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

With five races remaining, Hamilton leads Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by 34 points after finishing second at the Malaysian GP. Vettel, despite starting last on the grid, finished fourth in Sepang.

Hamilton has won twice before in Suzuka, in 2014 and 2015, and was runner-up to former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in last year’s race.

A win in Suzuka would move Hamilton a step closer to a third F1 title in four years with Mercedes and his fourth overall.

Mercedes was slower than Ferrari and Red Bull for the second straight race in Malaysia after similarly struggling for pace in Singapore.

“We’re still leading the championship, we’ve still got a great car,” Hamilton said Thursday. “Each race is just really trying to understand more about the car because there’s constantly something new thrown in the mix, (that) can catch us off guard.”

Mercedes was debating whether to run the team’s latest aerodynamic package for the Japanese GP.

“After Malaysia, we have found ourselves analyzing our problems, beginning to understand their causes and working on solutions,” Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said.

“While we work to improve in those areas, we must not forget the many strengths we have shown this season,” Wolff added. “Our car has taken more pole positions and race wins than any other and we lead both championships.”

Vettel, who had a new engine for the race in Malaysia, is a four-time winner in Japan.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who overtook Hamilton with ease early on to win the race in Malaysia, is sixth in the standings and will be looking to build on his momentum in Japan.

“Suzuka will always be a special place for me because I made my Formula One debut there,” Verstappen said. “It’s a proper old-school track.”

Takuma Sato’s likeness revealed on Borg-Warner Trophy (PHOTOS)

Photos; Walt Kuhn
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INDIANAPOLIS – Rather than the traditional December unveil, this year’s reveal newest likeness added to the Borg-Warner Trophy came Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Takuma Sato got to see the result of the sculpting done by William Behrends and then turned from wax, clay and ceramic into sterling silver on Tuesday evening, as the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil saw his face revealed on the trophy.

Sato took the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport to the win in thrilling fashion this year over Helio Castroneves, denying the Brazilian his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the process. It atoned for his near-miss in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team he’ll return to in 2018.

It’s been a whirlwind last week-plus for Sato, doing the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, reflecting on his Indianapolis 500 triumph, then sharing the victory spoils with another Japanese pilot in Yoshihide Muroya, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis this weekend.

Photos of Sato’s face on the most unique trophy in sports are below. This post will be updated following tonight’s full unveil. (All photos: Walt Kuhn)