Lewis Hamilton on title race and possibility of winning in Austin

Vettel beat Alonso but had help along the way. Image Red Bull Content Pool

Ferrari's reliability issues reared their ugly head again at Suzuka as an engine problem led to an early retirement for Vettel, leaving Hamilton to take full advantage for a crucial race victory that leaves him 59 points ahead of his rival.

Verstappen pitted a lap earlier than Hamilton, then produced some good laps to cut the lead to 1.7 seconds midway through the race.

However, the latter's Ferrari started losing power due to a failing spark plug, dropping him to sixth place.

For a moment it seemed as if Verstappen, the Dutch driver who turned 20 last week and won for Red Bull in Malaysia a day later, would steal an unlikely second successive win.

The Australian is regarded as one of F1's most entertaining characters, with his legendary "shooeys" on the podium delighting the masses, so it should come as little surprise that the Red Bull star opted to have a little bit of fun with Hamilton's Instagram account. Nevertheless he maintained a 2-3 second cushion over Verstappen as the race headed into its final phase. Vettel finished fourth in Malaysia, but Hamilton extended his lead anyway with a second-place finish.

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He was near Hamilton, and pressured him, but to be honest, this was just a lesson for the young driver, with rude behavior, and what he did before came back at him now like a boomerang. He crossed the line 1.2secs ahead.

In fact, if Hamilton wins the next race in Austin and Vettel has another poor outing it will be job done and another title for Hamilton and Mercedes.

Vettel has only a thin chance to catch up with Hamilton in the drivers ' championship.

"It is great to have a lovely day here - the track was fantastic and the team did an incredible job. Max didn't make it easy for us though", Hamilton said. Red Bull is in third place with 303 points.

"Seb got a great start, but shortly afterwards we had to call him back to the garage prior to retiring the auto".

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"I think it is unbelievable really to think that we are where we are", he said.

We predicted that a one-stopper would be effective in cooler conditions, but this strategy proved to be equally strong in warmer weather, thanks to the flawless consistency of both compounds and the early safety vehicle periods (both real and virtual).

"All I can really say is my guys do such a phenomenal job". Whether Max could have passed Lewis if these two backmarkers hadn't been there is a question we'll never have answered, but given the pace differential we saw before the leaders encountered these two, you wouldn't have bet against it.

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel suffered the agony of another retirement on Sunday as his Formula One title hopes disappeared nearly over the horizon. It's just a pity in the two races with the reliability issues. "It looks like we are not going to have the exciting run in to the end of the year that going into the summer break it looked like it would be".

Now he requires something special to happen if he is to claim his fifth crown, and Hamilton can scarcely believe where he is positioned with just four races remaining. I think we have got further than people thought.

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