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Lewis Hamilton has one hand, three fingers and a thumb on the world championship after romping to victory in Japan as his rival Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly sixth following a calamitous collision.

After Hamilton won the downhill gallop to the opening bend ahead of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, the ninth win of his impressive year was never in doubt.

If Hamilton wins at the next round in the USA Vettel must finish second to ensure the fight even goes to Mexico City.

Bottas dropped back from Hamilton and Verstappen was soon on Bottas' tail but although he pressured the Finn to the end, the Red Bull driver could not get through.

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"Each week you have a positive weekend and you go to another Grand Prix and you're not sure how you're going to fare and how you're going to perform, because there are still gaps in between".

Hamilton has surged clear of Sebastian Vettel in what for most of the season had proved an unpredictable championship fight for a fifth world title between the grid's two most successful drivers.

Verstappen gained a penalty after leaving the track and returning in an unsafe matter at the Casio chicane, leaving Vettel's team-mate Kimi Räikkönen to go off the track and compromising his position.

"In that corner you can not overtake", he said. The top drivers remained largely the same for the rest of the race, with Hamilton extending his lead followed by Bottas.

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"We seem to have the stamina this year". Vettel banged into the side of Verstappen at Spoon Curve, sending him into a spin and to the back of the field. But I think we have gone from strength to strength this year as a team, so I really hope that we can [win].

Max Verstappen managed to get on the podium despite a time penalty for contact with Kimi Raikkonen, and then the incident with Vettel - both of which caused him very little concern. The Briton needs to outscore Vettel by just eight points to make the 2018 trophy his, but despite his form in the United States - he has a record six victories there - he isn't getting carried away.

Was the Vettel and Verstappen collision a result of the German's desperation? The stewards investigated the incident, but tellingly took no action. For me, the gap was there - otherwise I wouldn't do it.

Despite Ferrari locking out the front row with what seemed a faster vehicle, Hamilton won after passing Vettel on the opening lap and then Kimi Raikkonen after chasing down the leading Finn. I think the whole weekend's been very strong from the team, it's a great 1-2 from Mercedes, it a true showing of the great strength in depth we have as a team.

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Told by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner that the Ferrari mechanics might be looking for him in the pit lane, Verstappen shrugged: "That's not my problem, they were too aggressive".


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