Nico Rosberg has won the Japanese Grand Prix to increase his Formula One championship lead to 33 points over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finished in sixth place at Suzuka on Sunday as Rosberg clinched his ninth season victory and 23rd overall as he made the most of the pole position.
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 and Ferrari.
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,” Rosburg said.
Mercedes have been the dominant team of the past years, having won 47 of the 55 grands prix since 2014.
“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.
The last four #JapaneseGP winners have gone on to win that season's title…
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 9, 2016
Rosberg had a solid start from pole while Hamilton met disaster on the right side which was partly damp from overnight rain.
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.
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.
All 22 cars finished the race.