SUZUKA • Nico Rosberg romped to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix yesterday, piling more pressure on Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton as the German closes in on a maiden Formula One world title.
He claimed his first Suzuka win from pole as defending champion Hamilton took third after a horror start, and stretched his lead over his main title rival to 33 points with just four races left this season.
Rosberg hollered in joy over the team radio after clinching his ninth victory of the season, and his fourth in the last five races.
"Thanks a lot, guys. An amazing weekend and congrats on winning the constructors (championship)," he added after he and Hamilton wrapped up a third successive team title for Mercedes.
"It's 33 points, but I'm not focused on that. There's still a long way to go so I'm just keeping my head down."
LEWIS WON'T LET UP
I'm well aware of the points: 33 points - it's better that way than the other way round but it's still Lewis and he's going to be going for it in the last four races.
NICO ROSBERG, Mercedes driver, weighing up the race for the drivers' championship.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen held off a furious challenge from Hamilton in the final few laps to take second place, five seconds back, after his runner-up finish in Malaysia last weekend.
JAPANESE GP RESULTS
1. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1hr 26min 43.333sec
2. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull +4.978sec
3. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +5.776
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +20.269
5. Kimi Raikonnen (Fin) Ferrari +28.370
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +33.941
7. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India +57.495
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India +59.177
9. Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams +1:37.763
10. Valterri Bottas (Fin) Williams +1:38.323
1. Rosberg 313pts
2. Hamilton 280
3. Ricciardo 212
4. Raikkonen 170
5. Verstappen 165
6. Vettel 165
1. Mercedes 593 (Champions)
2. Red Bull 385
3. Ferrari 335
4. Force India 134
5. Williams 124
6. McLaren 62
Rosberg, whose Finnish father Keke won the 1982 Formula One title, had failed to convert pole position into victory in Japan the past two years, both times losing out to Hamilton.
But he got away cleanly this time.
"I got everything right," said Rosberg, who had been quickest all weekend in Japan.
However, he insisted that the title was far from being sealed and predicted that his feisty team-mate was not about to give up.
"I'm well aware of the points: 33 points - it's better that way than the other way round but it's still Lewis and he's going to be going for it in the last four races," he said.
Hamilton cut a forlorn figure on the podium, the 100th of his career.
"I did the best I could with where I was in the race," he said glumly.
"I was happy to claw back some points and I'll give it everything I've got (for the rest of the season). It's a healthy margin for Nico - he did a great job today."
He was perhaps the only Mercedes employee not quite in the mood to celebrate the team's third consecutive world championship.
"Congrats ... to all my colleagues in the team, for clinching a third constructors' world title," said Rosberg on the podium after the race.
"So absolutely deserved, definitely it's been an unbelievable effort all these years, so let's celebrate hard."
Mercedes have been the dominant force in Formula One since the introduction of the 1.6-litre turbo hybrid engines in 2014.
The team have won 47 of the 55 races held since and yesterday's win in Japan was their 15th from 17 races this year. Only Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Red Bull have won three or more constructors' titles in a row, with the Italian outfit the only ones to achieve the feat twice.
Whether Mercedes can carry on their winning run into next year will depend on how they adapt to sweeping rule changes being introduced next season.
Cars will feature wider tyres and bodywork, in changes aimed at making them faster and more exciting to drive, which could shake up the current order.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS