Published: Sun, October 07, 2018
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

Sebastian Vettel: Max Verstappen completely to blame for clash

Sebastian Vettel: Max Verstappen completely to blame for clash

After cruising to a lights-to-flag victory in Japan, on a day when chief rival Sebastian Vettel was left to rue coming off worse in another on-track tussle, the Mercedes star now leads the German by 67 points in the championship race with just 100 still to play for.

Sebastian Vettel tore into Red Bull's Max Verstappen for a hair-raising collision in Japan on Sunday that all but killed off the German's fading Formula 1 title hopes.

Ferrari's decision to begin Q3 on intermediate tyres instead of supersofts backfired spectacularly as the rain they expected held off just long enough for Hamilton to set a fastest lap of one minute, 27.760 seconds - three-tenths quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas. He was up to sixth by the third corner, passing both Toro Rosso, then fifth when he passed Romain Grosjean's Haas into Spoon.

Mercedes' biggest threat comes from Max Verstappen at the start. While the Englishman posted the pole lap, Vettel had to dash back to the pits for a change of tyres.

After starting from eighth following a horror show in qualifying, Vettel carved through the field and made a daring lunge inside Verstappen at turn 13 to take third but his Ferrari clipped the Red Bull and spun off in a shower of sparks. The Ferrari was mostly alongside entering the corner, only for the two to collide.

The pace advantage of the Ferrari meant he easily climbed back up to sixth by half-distance but that was as far as he could get - and Ferrari declined to order Raikkonen in fifth to slow to let his team-mate by, to gain a couple of extra points.

After a virtual safety auto, called after Leclerc pulled off with a mechanical failure, Bottas began to run into blistering problems with his tyres.

When the safety auto period ended on lap eight Vettel attacked Verstappen, who had been handed a five-second penalty for the Raikkonen incident.

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"Keep him [Bottas] under pressure, keep it clean".

Daniel Ricciardo raced to an excellent fourth place from 15th on the grid, with Kimi Raikkonen seeing his strategy fall flat as he went backwards to fifth.

The Honda-powered team had set a target of having both cars in Q3 after using its "Spec 3" engine for qualifying for the first time, and Hartley slotted in ahead of teammate Pierre Gasly in sixth. Hamilton was supreme, driving superbly and overshadowing Bottas in what has become in recent races a dominant vehicle.

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"I'm not the one who makes the rules otherwise a lot of penalties would have been avoided in F1", he said, "but I think it is a similar scenario to what I had in China with him".

The German is now 50 points behind his championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who leads the driver standings with 306 points.

In the first instance, Verstappen was given a 5-second time penalty and a single penalty point on his license as the stewards had ruled that he had "cut the chicane and rejoined track on the racing line in turn 17 and in the process collided with auto 7".

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