Ferrari's 2018 decline summed up by shocking weekend in Suzuka

The helmet of Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the Briton's closest rival, finished only sixth after an early collision with Red Bull's Max Verstappen left the German fighting back from 19th place in a damaged auto.

Shock: From the very first session of Friday practice, it seemed unlikely Ferrari would challenge Mercedes for victory in Suzuka but nobody expected the fastest red vehicle to be 50 seconds off at the finish.

Hamilton, 67 points clear of the Ferrari driver with just 100 left on the table, will secure his fifth title at the United States Grand Prix in a fortnight's time if he wins and his rival is third or lower. The gap was there but as soon as he saw me obviously he defended.

"Kimi chose the wrong line in the chicane, he could have also just waited for me to come back on the track", Verstappen said.

"In that corner you can not overtake", he said. Lewis Hamilton on the other side (at the time of writing) is comfortably ahead and looks good to extend his championship lead by a massive difference.

"It's so hard when the pressure is on to make the right call but that's the big difference between us this year and that's why we're the best and the team deserve it", added Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel claimed Max Verstappen tried to "push when he shouldn't" when the two made contact at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. But I think we have gone from strength to strength this year as a team, so I really hope that we can [win].

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Further down the order, Sergio Perez took seventh for Force India ahead of Romain Grosjean's Haas.

Hamilton was leading from pole position.

The Australian eventually taking a strong fourth place as Red Bull out-strategised Ferrari, who had another disappointing race overall in a season that promised so much but which has unravelled dramatically in its second half.

'We knew we would have a tough battle this year, and you have seen all of the ups and downs, but competition-wise it is one I have enjoyed the most in my career. Force India's Esteban Ocan was ninth while Renault's Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10. Vettel has always been known to handle pressure well, but the latest string of errors from the German proves otherwise.

'I don't even want to think about him breaking a finger. "But I don't think there was an bad big gap".

Vettel was then promoted to fourth at the end of the first lap when Max Verstappen locked his front wheel going into the hairpin, ran wide and pushed Kimi Raikkonen off when rejoining the track, allowing Vettel to slip past his team-mate. I had lost a lot of downforce, but there was not much I could do. "I did long distance running when I was a kid, cross country, and you just run out of stamina to keep hold with those who, for whatever reason, had the stamina at the time".

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