Vettel Was Aware Of Verstappen’s Penalty Before Making Race-Defining Error

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       Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton nearly collides with Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso in Practice One at the Japane

Verstappen continued without losing much time but Vettel spun to the back of the field and was now consigned to a long afternoon fighting back. For me, the gap was there - otherwise I wouldn't do it.

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix to stand on the brink of a fifth Formula One title on Sunday while Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel finished sixth after colliding with Max Verstappen.

"I have seen that he has said he wishes he had Michael Schumacher available to ask for advice, and I can understand why".

The Ferrari downfall coincides with the appointment of Sebastian Vettel in 2015 after the German won four straight Championships with Red Bull from 2010-13 in a supremely fast auto under the guidance of race engineer Adrian Newey.

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. I saw a gap and went for it on the inside, he obviously tried to defend and I couldn't go anywhere, so we touched. Now he has a monumental task of overtaking the cars ahead in a hope of finishing the race in points.

Crowning Lewis Hamilton as the Formula 1 champion for 2018 appears to be just a formality.Mercedes' Hamilton won his ninth Grand Prix of the 2018 season, while extending his lead to 67 points in. I think at least a podium was in our hands today and the auto was going quite well.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley.

"I locked up and I could easily have cut the track, [but] I made my best effort to get back on track", Verstappen argued. Up until the mid-part of the season they were very strong and then we obviously got to Monza and then after that they were still quite strong from Monza.

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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.

"He drove into the side of my vehicle".

Speaking after the race, he insisted he had no regrets in terms of making the move, but blamed the Dutch driver for the outcome.

The Raikkonen clash had been triggered by Verstappen locking his right front approaching the final chicane and missing the corner, skipping across the grass to return to the track.

"He ran wide and went off the track and I just went on the outside at the next corner, leaving him space", growled the Finn, who finished fifth.

"Of course we didn't spin off the track [like in China], but he drove into the side of my vehicle".

Told by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner that the Ferrari mechanics might be looking for him in the pit lane, Verstappen shrugged: "That's not my problem, they were too aggressive".

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