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Japanese Grand Prix 2018: All eyes on pole-sitter Hamilton, who inches closer to a 5th world title

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One World Championship with originally two front-runners, only Lewis Hamilton could’ve made it a one-sided show given his prowess in the latter half of the 2018 F1 season.
Last year, when Lewis Hamilton entered Suzuka, the home of the Japanese Grand Prix, he had a 34-point advantage over second-placed Sebastian Vettel.

Hammertime is certain for the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix

Hamilton will collect his 5th win at Japan, should he manage to top the race (Image: Telegraph.co.uk)

He would end the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix as expected, with a win, taking the lead to 59 points.
This year, as he enters the same track where he’s previously won on four previous occasions, he will begin the race sitting 50 points ahead of Vettel.
Who knows the lead, by the end of the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix could well be over 70 points to Vettel?
With Mercedes locking out the front row, yet again, for the second time in a row starting Russia, the biggest gainer, it seemed, was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. In clinching a third, the Dutchman looks all set to add to his tally of podiums at Japan, aiming for a third at Suzuka.
The Orange army and fans of mercurial racing would certainly hope to see the familiar smiling figure on the podium, given the menacing form Max has enjoyed at Japan starting 2016. He will begin the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix eyeing at least a repeat of his last two finishes, both of which have resulted in second.
Not bad for a 21-year-old, is it?
There wasn’t much in it for Ferrari, at least in the rain-hit qualifying session, on Saturday as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton clinched his eightieth pole, producing another golden run in his Silver Arrows.
In taking his phenomenal pole tally to 80,  25 more than rival Sebastian Vettel, it seems there’s only going to be a one-way street at the land of the Samurais unless of course, the ever-gripping Typhoon threat produces a thunderous and unpredictable Japanese Grand Prix.

Some impressive runs at Suzuka’s qualifying

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Sunday’s race could be a real thriller, especially as wet weather is predicted (Image: FIA.com)

Starting from fourth will be Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who, in terms of his qualifying form in 2017 has improved 2 places and jumped 5 places ahead of teammate, Sebastian Vettel, who, in the wake of team blunder begins ninth.
That said, among the biggest surprises for the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix audiences, it could be said, is Romain Grosjean starting from fifth, the Haas driver clocking his best qualifying start of the year. I
t will take a lot of undoing from either his Haas or himself to put himself down and away from the points, considering the previous year’s Grand Prix saw Grosjean gather only a sixteenth at Suzuka, a position that he’d massively improve on, collecting a ninth, in the end.
That said, what’s truly wonderful is to see the usual runners at the back of the grid- Toro Rossos, Renaults, Saubers- collecting a fantastic place at the remainder of the grid at Suzuka. In going under half a second behind Grosjean was Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley, also collecting his best start of the year, followed by teammate Gasly, Ocon with Vettel on ninth separating the two Racing Point Force Indias, with Peres starting from tenth.
In what seems an utterly interesting race, not that the previous runs haven’t been fantastic, with both Red Bull drivers doing a brilliant second and third, led by Max, the only heartbreak, it seems is Daniel Ricciardo, who begins fifteenth, nearly a second behind Williams’ Lance Stroll.

What’s going to happen to Seb?

Sebastian Vettel could qualify only 9th due to wrong tyre choice

That said, how and why Sebastian Vettel managed a modest ninth in qualifying has less to do with his own craft and more to do with a team management that now, in the wake of choosing the wrong rubber for a decisive battle, seems worthy of a sharp scrutiny.
When you have a driver running in contention of a world title- regardless of how dominant his arch-rival has been in the last four Grands Prix- you cannot put the wrong choice of tyre, leaving a four-time world champion facing the ignominy of finishing only just inside the top ten.
Having said that, a possibly precarious run, the chances of which seem absolute given Sunday’s weather alert with there being a high chance of rain, Ferrari and Vettel’s task is to fight a two-way battle, with the weather gods on the one hand and a bloke who’s driving like a god himself: Lewis “Still, I rise” Hamilton.
Lights out, visors down, and away we go at Suzuka!

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