Ros­berg edges clear in ti­tle chase


Mercedes seal the con­struc­tors’ ti­tle at Suzuka, as a poor start costs Lewis Hamil­ton dearly

The back-to-back races in the Far East have played a piv­otal role in the run-up to this year’s ti­tle show­down. Lewis Hamil­ton needed to re­claim lost ground to his Mercedes team-mate Nico Ros­berg, but af­ter that en­gine fail­ure in Malaysia he came to Ja­pan need­ing even more ur­gently to swing the mo­men­tum back his way.

At Suzuka, he tried not to let the events of the pre­vi­ous Sun­day get to him, but clearly they had. On Thurs­day he larked about in the FIA press con­fer­ence. Snapchat im­ages of him and Car­los Sainz in bunny ears spread across the in­ter­net. He was then crit­i­cised by var­i­ous me­dia out­lets.

As dark­ness de­scended on Satur­day evening, Hamil­ton ar­rived at the print me­dia press brieng at the Mercedes hospi­tal­ity unit. There he re­vealed that due to what had been writ­ten about him af­ter the FIA press con­fer­ence, he wouldn’t be speak­ing to the me­dia.

“The smiles on your faces will soon be no longer as I am not ac­tu­ally here to an­swer your ques­tions,” he said. “The other day was a su­per light­hearted thing and if I was dis­re­spect­ful it was hon­estly not the in­ten­tion – it was a lit­tle bit of fun. What was more dis­re­spect­ful was what was writ­ten world­wide. And I don’t plan on sit­ting here many more times for th­ese kind of things.”

Some might ar­gue that the pres­sure was start­ing to show as he re­alised the cham­pi­onship was slip­ping out of his grasp. So when he lit up the rears and fum­bled his start (fall­ing to P8 at the end of lap 1), some ques­tioned his state of mind. Yet, when up against it, he drove bril­liantly to come back to a P3 nish that could have been sec­ond but for a late block by sec­ond-placed Max Ver­stap­pen. And that was enough for Mercedes to se­cure their third straight con­struc­tors’ ti­tle.

On lap 6 Hamil­ton was still eighth, but then he passed Hülken­berg – ini­tially by at­tempt­ing a move into 130R, be­fore us­ing DRS on the start/ nish straight. Then he moved through the eld when Ric­cia­rdo, Ver­stap­pen, Räikkö­nen then Vet­tel all made early pit­stops to switch from softto hard-com­pound rub­ber. On lap 13 Hamil­ton was run­ning sec­ond to Ros­berg, but when he

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