Hamilton in charge of championship destiny after winning Japanese GP

Hamilton in charge of championship destiny after winning Japanese GP

Lewis Hamilton moved within reach of a fourth Formula One world championship on Sunday after winning a Japanese Grand Prix that saw Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel retire with engine problems.

The Mercedes driver crossed the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen, after picking up vibrations on his tyres in the dying stages of an otherwise trouble-free race.

Verstappen's Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished third.

Hamilton started on pole position and now leads Vettel, who retired on the fourth lap, by 59 points in the standings with four races remaining.

With Vettel gone, it quickly became a showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Hamilton built a comfortable four-second lead before his first pit stop on the 23rd lap.

Verstappen pitted a lap earlier than Hamilton, then produced some good laps to cut the lead to 1.7 seconds midway through the race.

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

Vettel's early retirement put a serious dent in his fading hopes of coming back to win the championship.

Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson also retired early when he ran across the gravel and dived nose-first into the barriers.

Carlos Sainz lost control of his Toro Rosso and spun across the gravel into the wall on the outside and retired after the second lap.

Mercedes also increased its lead in the Constructors' standings to 145 points over Ferrari. Red Bull is in third place with 303 points.

The next race is October 22 in the United States.

AP/Reuters