Daniel Ricciardo has claimed a career-best ninth podium of the Formula One season, finishing third at the Japanese grand prix in Suzuka.
It is the first time Ricciardo has reached the podium in Japan, with his previous best finish a fourth in 2014.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton won the race from pole on Sunday and took a big step towards the Formula One world title as rival Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire early in the latest Ferrari drama.
Hamilton coasted to an eighth season victory and 61st overall ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Ricciardo.
He increased his championship lead over Vettel to 59 points with just four season races left as a spark plug failure led to the latest Ferrari setback.
Hamilton can now wrap up a fourth world title at the next race in Austin, Texas, on October 22, the place where he clinched his most recent title in 2015 and has won the past three races.
“I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap. The Ferraris have put on such a great challenge all year long but I have to put it down to my team,” Hamilton said.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job, reliability has been on point. They’re just so meticulous and that’s really why we’re having the reliability and results we’re having.
“There’s still 100 points available, so I’m still going to keep the pedal to the metal. Of course Seb’s been very unfortunate through no fault of his own and these reliability things. These engines are so complex.”
Vettel led the championship until a month ago but has since gone out in a first-lap crash in Singapore along with Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari.
Last weekend in Malaysia an engine problem forced him to start from last place on the grid. He did well to finish fourth and limit the damage but all hopes effectively ended on Sunday in Suzuka.
“We realised there was a problem. I had no power in the formation lap and at the start. We all work at the limit, sometimes things break. It happens,” Vettel told reporters before leaving the circuit mid-way through the race.