Verstappen narrowly misses out on victory in Japan

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

It became apparent on the grid, where there was fevered activity around Vettel's auto.

Back at the front, Hamilton was in control easing away from Verstappen's Red Bull, despite a Virtual Safety Car period on lap 8 when Marcus Ericsson put his Sauber in the barriers at Degner.

"I'm reasonably happy", said the Ferrari driver. "They just told me when to do it really and I kind of got the point, I understood completely the situation".

"I think we will just try to continue to do what we are doing, of course, we want to look after the vehicle and the engine, but we are already doing that throughout the races".

Hamilton leads the German by 34 points with just five races to go.

However, there was always a feeling Hamilton had something extra in the tank, and infuriatingly for Verstappen, a late run-off from Lance Stroll prompted another virtual safety auto in the final stages.

Verstappen closed to within a second at the start of the final lap, but traffic allowed Hamilton to escape again and seal the narrow win.

"I don't honestly think there is anything wrong with the engine, I just felt a couple of things", he said.

"I hope he's not out for too much longer, this is compromising my pace", said Hamilton in regard to Bottas who was in the lead and yet to stop. My team have done a great job. "They are so meticulous, and that is why we have the reliability we are having".

Ricciardo took third place, a further eight seconds back, while Bottas recovered from his gearbox penalty on Saturday to finish fourth. Williams' Felipe Massa completed the top ten. "Hopefully with no penalties, and from our usual grid position, and with some better luck". The other Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo finished at third place competing the podium. He could clinch the title as early as the next US Grand Prix.

Can Ferrari salvage some self-respect after their season imploded in Asia and delay Hamilton's now apparently inevitable coronation - at least until the penultimate race in Brazil?

"There is also some positives, but for sure now you don't look at the positives because it is not the day to look at them". The track was fantastic.

"The track was fantastic and the team did an incredible job. It wasn't an easy one at all". "Jeez he looked so big in my mirrors, but I'm really grateful the vehicle stuck in and I didn't make any mistakes, so I'm really proud of that", he said. We need to really understand what he meant.

"I tried everything on the last run, I knew I had to take a bit more risk", he continued.

"It is a circuit I have always enjoyed and now with this year's cars it is a lot of fun".

For Verstappen who drove a phenomenal race from start to finish, a final attempt to overtake Hamilton was thwarted by McLaren's Fernando Alonso, who blocked him while the blue flags were being waved.

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