The title race took a dramatic turn at the end of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton delivered another emphatic performance to take one step closer to his fourth world championship in Formula One.
From the start till the finish, it was an enticing contest at the Suzuka-based circuit with the Brit securing his eighth win of the season while Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took the two remaining podium places.
However, it was a late show near the end of the race between Hamilton and Verstappen, with Felipe Massa also playing a crucial role in the display.
With two laps remaining, Hamilton managed to deal with the traffic involving McLaren star Fernando Alonso and Williams ace Massa relatively easily.
It wasn't quite so straightforward for his Dutch rival, though.
Matching the Mercedes car, Verstappen was well in contention to register back-to-back wins after Malaysian GP, yet it was not meant to be.
The traffic played in favour of Hamilton, who was also complaining of vibrations as the team waited patiently to see their driver home in first.
Massa initially gave way to the leader in Mercedes on the straight but could not do so for the Red Bull behind him and later explained his reasoning.
“The problem is that I let Lewis by on the straight and then you had so many Esses," Massa said, as per PlanetF1.
“I was behind Lewis, losing being very close to him so I was going to let Max past after corner seven, which is what I did."
He added that he also had a battle for places with Alonso – which he also had to focus on.
“So at the end when I get to sector one it is very difficult to park the car, I was fighting with Fernando [Alonso] as well,” the 36-year-old continued.
“I understand that maybe it was the last lap a nice fight for you guys to see on the television but I did maybe five corners, one after the other and then I let him by.”
Verstappen ended the race just 1.211 secs behind Hamilton [306 points], who now has a mammoth 59 points lead over title challenger Sebastian Vettel [247 points], who retired within the first few laps of the race.
The German suffered another big setback as he was forced to retire after just a few laps.
The rivalry resumes in two weeks’ time at the United States Grand Prix on October 22.
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