Nico Rosberg now has one hand on the championship trophy after winning the Japanese Grand Prix with his ninth victory of the season, while a pit error cost Daniel Ricciardo.Rosburg topped the podium from Ricciardo’s Red Bull’s teammate Max Verstappen and Hamilton, who had won the previous two Suzuka races.
The results of Rosberg and Hamilton allowed Mercedes to clinch a third-straight constructors’ world title with four races to spare as they can no longer be caught by Red Bull or Ferrari.
Top three: Nico Rosberg, centre, with runner up Max Verstappen, left, and third placed Lewis Hamilton.
Top three: Nico Rosberg, centre, with runner up Max Verstappen, left, and third placed Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images
The Briton Hamilton had a horror start a week after an engine failure forced him to retire in leading position in Malaysia, dropping from second on the grid to eighth into the first turn.
The two-time reigning world champion recovered to make the podium but now dropped another 10 points behind Rosberg (313-280) who is steadily closing in on what would be his maiden F1 title.
“What an awesome weekend. It’s beautiful to win here and congratulations to my colleagues and the team for clinching the constructors’ championship,” Rosberg said.
Mercedes have been the dominant team of the past years, having won 47 of the 55 grands prix since 2014.
“What an awesome weekend. It’s beautiful to win here.”
“What an awesome weekend. It’s beautiful to win here.” Photo: Clive Mason
“It feels great. After the drama in Malaysia where we tried really hard to do it, it feels very special. Doing a third time in a row, it is very special also,” Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff said.
Rosberg had a solid start from pole while Hamilton met disaster on the right side which was partly damp from overnight rain.
Out in front: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany leads Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
Out in front: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany leads Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. Photo: AP
He hardly got going with lots of wheelspin and once he reached top speed had dropped six places to eighth, apologising via team radio by saying “sorry guys.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel rose to third behind Rosberg and Verstappen by lap three, from sixth on the grid as he made up a three-place grid penalty for causing a collision with Rosberg last week.
A few more points: Aussie driver Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth.
A few more points: Aussie driver Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth. Photo: AP
Teammate Kimi Raikkonen was docked five places as the Finn started from eighth after a gearbox change.
Hamilton meanwhile started his catch-up effort, and was up to fourth after his first round of pit stops, taking full advantage that Raikkonen and Force India’s Sergio Perez were held up by the Renault of Jolyon Palmer.
And once the second stops were completed Hamilton had reached a podium placing in third, as Vettel dropped behind him after cursing about backmarkers who had held him up before pitting.
Hamilton then also closed in on Verstappen but was unable to pass the Dutch teenager as a move in the chicane in the penultimate lap failed, although Hamilton complained that Verstappen had moved under braking.
Up front, Rosberg controlled the race and handily claimed his first Suzuka victory in 1 hour 26 minutes 43.333 seconds for the 53 laps.