In Summary
  • Seconds after exiting his car, Hamilton went on his knees and patted the front part of it, as though to thank the machine for its reliability.
  • The weight of the gap he had opened with only four races to go sunk in and it hit him hard.
  • Bottas is just 13 points behind the German.

Two moments stood out at Suzuka in Japan where the race for the championship between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was expected to see the points gap between the two narrow, but instead went in the opposite direction.

First, on the 17th lap, and following Vettel’s agonising exit from the race, Ferrari’s F1 chief Maurizio Arrivabene and Vettel were having a chat, a candid assessment of what had just transpired.

Both men had an arm on each other’s shoulder and seconds later, the quick hug they exchanged had more of the boss giving Vettel a shoulder to lean on as he did his best to console the four-time champion.

RELIABILITY

The other moment came after the race, when Hamilton, having been chased for the better part of the 53 laps by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, had just parked his car at the winner’s spot.

Seconds after exiting his car, Hamilton went on his knees and patted the front part of it, as though to thank the machine for its reliability.

The weight of the gap he had opened with only four races to go sunk in and it hit him hard.

As recently as August, Hamilton had trailed the German in the race for the championship.

Since the start of the year, the Brit had not tasted the lead in that race, something which happened a week later at Monza.

In a span of three races, all in Asia, Vettel’s title challenge has swung from within grasp to almost well beyond reach, twice for reasons beyond him and once for an aggressive start that saw him and Verstappen cause a spectacular collision that took out the two as well as Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen.

It is unfortunate that the championship should be decided by unreliable engines, but 2017 seems to be the case rather than a closely fought battle right to the very end as was initially panning out to be.

It should also be remembered that Hamilton lost last year’s title to Nico Rosberg by five points, with the three-time champion having suffered an engine failure in Malaysia while he was comfortably leading the race. The spark plug failure on Vettel’s car saw him lose positions in uncharacteristic fashion.

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