Lewis Hamilton called his 59-point advantage over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship “unbelievable” after taking a big step towards a fourth title in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton entered the Suzuka weekend leading by 34 points, but was given the chance to stretch it out after Vettel was forced to retire early on due to an issue with his Ferrari engine.
Hamilton led the majority of the race at Suzuka en route to his eighth win of the season, fully capitalizing on his rival’s demise.
“The start was OK, although the initial getaway was not spectacularly good, I had a bit of wheel spin. But from then on I had a good start and it was pretty much under control from there,” Hamilton said.
“I was trying to manage the pace and the tires; it was a long way to go, it was the hottest the track had been all weekend, so that was really crucial.
“With the VSC towards the end, I lost a lot of temperatures in the tires and waking them up was not so easy.”
Hamilton was given a late scare when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was able to move to within a second at the front with two laps to go, but managed to hold on and cross the line 1.2 seconds clear.
“I got stuck behind traffic, I was losing so much time and Max’ car was so big in my mirror. It was very close for a couple laps, but I was able to keep it together,” Hamilton explained.
“It was not an easy walk in the park today, it was a win that I had to work very hard for. Great race by Max, I enjoyed racing him.”
Until four races ago, Hamilton had trailed Vettel in the drivers’ championship, with a dramatic change in fortunes putting him in a position to win the title at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas in two weeks’ time.
“It’s almost unbelievable to think we are where we are in the championship. I was excited to race Sebastian today, but he was obviously very unfortunate,” Hamilton said.
“It’s still a long way to go, there are still a hundred points. I’m just going to keep my head down and hopefully will continue to be in a form like this.”