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Verstappen marched on not wounded but Vettel's hopes of finishing at least third here and reducing the points damage to Hamilton were over in an instant.

"If I did that, I would have to describe Ferrari's auto and then the rest of the teams will understand some more things about it". The result opened up the gap between the pair to 67 points with four races left.

A fourth win in a row and ninth of the year, on a wretched weekend for Vettel and Ferrari in Japan, has moved the Mercedes driver to the brink of more F1 history. "We started off where we left off in Sochi and the drivers just feel good with the auto and I think that, as a driver, if you have that confidence and you are able to pushing it had within the limits and you feel it, then it's enjoyable to drive, and this is what we have achieved, I think". "I even gave him space".

Verstappen was already set to serve a five-second penalty for his earlier altercation with Raikkonen, and Vettel pinned the blame for the accident at the Dutchman's door.

F1's points are awarded to the top ten finishers - 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 - meaning he effectively needs to out-score Vettel by eight points in Austin to secure the championship.

Despite Ferrari locking out the front row with what seemed a faster auto, Hamilton won after passing Vettel on the opening lap and then Kimi Raikkonen after chasing down the leading Finn.

Verstappen gained a penalty after leaving the track and returning in an unsafe matter at the Casio chicane, leaving Vettel's team-mate Kimi Räikkönen to go off the track and compromising his position.

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Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have shown the "stamina" for Formula 1's "marathon" title fight - but admits he would have welcomed Ferrari's challenge remaining fierce.

Vettel spun around and resumed at the back. "All the team is fired up and that certainly helps, as the last couple of weeks haven't been that easy", said Vettel.

The incident was investigated by the stewards, with no further action taken, but Verstappen felt it was clear Vettel had been at fault.

Vettel, whose dreams of pipping Hamilton to five world titles now look all but over, had barely left the garage on the harder compound tyres when he informed Ferrari of the error over team radio.

On the one side, reportedly, is team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, and on the other is technical director Mattia Binotto, with both camps attempting to exert their influence on the Scuderia as a whole. "As soon as he saw me obviously he defended but I had the inside". The Ferrari was mostly alongside entering the corner, only for the two to collide.

Force India's Sergio Perez won the battle for best of the rest, from Haas' Romain Grosjean, the second Force India of Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly.