• REPORT: Lewis Seals Suzuka Victory

Lewis Hamilton took one step closer to the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship with victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, beating Max Verstappen as title rival Sebastian Vettel retired.

Lewis stormed away from pole, while second-place man Vettel immediately started to slide down the pack, dropping to eighth before pitting to retire on lap four.

The Brit built up an advantage over Verstappen in the first stint, stopping to cover off an attempted undercut and re-joining behind long-running team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Valtteri played the team game, allowing Lewis back through into the lead before stopping himself.

Verstappen slowly ate into Lewis' advantage in the second stint, and closed to within a second on the final lap as Lewis was blocked by traffic. But the Dutchman was then caught out by the same traffic, allowing Lewis the breathing space to cross the line for his 61st career victory.

It's Lewis' third victory at Suzuka, his eighth of season and 40th win with the Silver Arrows. Lewis (306 points) leads the Drivers' Championship by 59 points from Vettel (247 points), with 100 points remaining to be scored in 2017.

"The start was okay, although the initial getaway was not spectacularly good, I had a bit of wheel spin," said Lewis. "But from then on I had a good start and it was pretty much under control from there.

"I was trying to manage the pace and the tyres; it was a long way to go, it was the hottest the track had been all weekend, so that was really crucial. With the VSC towards the end, I lost a lot of temperatures in the tyres and waking them up was not so easy. I got stuck behind traffic, I was losing so much time and Max' car was so big in my mirrors.

"It was very close for a couple laps, but I was able to keep it together. It was not an easy walk in the park today, it was a win that I had to work very hard for. Great race by Max, I enjoyed racing him.

"It's almost unbelievable to think we are where we are in the championship. I was excited to race Sebastian today, but he was obviously very unfortunate. It's still a long way to go, there are still a hundred points. I'm just going to keep my head down and hopefully will continue to be in a form like this."

Valtteri set a blistering pace in the closing laps as he hunted down Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. But the Finn narrowly missed out on the podium, having to settle for P4.

"It was a close fight; especially in the end I was getting closer to Daniel, but there just was not enough time anymore and the VSC didn't help either," said Valtteri. "The pace seemed to be okay, but coming to this race we always knew that overtaking is tricky.

"The strategy was good for me today. It created a good opportunity in the end, otherwise it would have been really difficult to even get close. The race was close to our game plan, but it would have been nice to be on the podium.

"We went through all of the scenarios before the race, so when Lewis caught up to me after his pit stop, of course I tried to help him win. I've definitely learned a lot again from this weekend.

"I now want to focus on the last few races, make the most out of them and see where we end up this year. I'm looking forward to Austin. I enjoy the track very much; it's where I got my first points in Formula One and I always love going back there."

The Silver Arrows now boast a healthy 145 points lead in the Constructors' Championship after Japan, but Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says Ferrari's recent bad luck must serve as a reminder that it's not over until it's over...

"This was another perfect performance from Lewis," said Toto. "He controlled the race from start to finish, taking nothing more out of the tyres and engine than he needed to at any point. It got close with Max at a few points, especially in the closing laps when they came up on traffic and were struggling for tyre temperature, but he kept cool and brought it home to the flag.

"As for Valtteri, he recovered well from the gearbox penalty to claim P4 and come within a few tenths of a second of the podium. He had strong pace today and never gave up pushing to the end, it was a real battling drive.

"One look at the points standings might give us some brief comfort but there are still four races to go, 100 points to win in the drivers' title and, if the past weeks have shown us anything at all, it's that anything can happen in motorsport.

"We take no prisoners in how we claim our points - but we are all conscious that we have benefited from our rivals' misfortune and reliability woes in recent weeks. So nothing changes in our approach: we must take the next races one at a time, push to better understand the car and keep our humble attitude.

"That is the approach that has worked for us so far and the way we will continue until the final race in Abu Dhabi."

Technical Director James Allison says the team's Japan performance vindicates all of the effort that was poured into attempting to right the wrongs of Malaysia.

"Having departed Sepang with a good result but in poor spirits because of a tricky weekend, and having arrived here under a bit of a cloud regarding the performance of our car, it is nice to be leaving this weekend with an even stronger result and also off the back of a fine performance in qualifying and the race," said James.

"This was welcome on many levels: first, for both championships; second, because we were able to categorically answer the questions regarding the development direction of our car; third because this was the vindication of a team that, even when it takes a blow, can spring right back up and apply itself to the challenge with fresh vigour.

"We have not exorcised all of our Sepang demons but every result like that is an opportunity to learn and improve. We have seen some of that learning applied here in Suzuka and we will continue to do the same for the remainder of the year."