From the moment that Sebastian Vettel qualified ninth for the 2018 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix, most every observer could that his chances of victory were virtually non-existent. Indeed, the German Scuderia Ferrari driver and five-time World Champion finished the race in sixth, and even that required a tremendous amount of skill and effort.
Vettel started eighth on the grid, as a result of Force India driver Esteban Ocon being bumped after incurring a grid penalty. He managed an aggressive start, passing the two Toro Rosso cars within the first couple of corners, before quickly reeling in and passing Romain Grosjean’s Haas car. Then, up in third place, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen ran off-track, and reemerged without consideration for Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen in fourth. The two made contact, and although the damage wasn’t significant enough to out either driver, it did slow Räikkönen enough that Vettel was able to slip past.
That was just the first lap.
Over the next several laps, Sebastian Vettel worked to close the gap with Max Verstappen in third, finally finding a chance to pass on Lap 8. It was no good; Verstappen closed the door on him, and with nowhere to go, Vettel crashed into the Dutchman and spun off-track. Vettel had to wait for the entire pack to cross before he could rejoin the action, finally getting back on track in 19th. For him, the race quickly turned from a fight for the lead to a trying attempt at damage control, as he slowly worked his way back up to sixth place over the next 45 laps.
His teammate, Kimi Räikkönen, finished one place ahead in fifth, allowing both Mercedes drivers and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to populate the grid. Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, claimed fourth.
The results of the Japanese F1 Grand Prix helped put an even bigger buffer between Hamilton and his title rival, Sebastian Vettel, with the gap now standing at 67 points. Mercedes is even further ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ standings, with 538 points to the Italian outfit’s 460. It would take a miracle for Ferrari to grab either the Constructors’ or the Drivers’ Championships, and if Hamilton outscores Vettel by just eight points in the next round, he’ll secure his sixth championship title.