RESULTS: Japanese Grand Prix - Race results

Nico Rosberg has taken a potentially significant step towards the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship with a dominant fourth win in five races in the Japanese Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton could only manage third.

Starting from pole position, Rosberg got away cleanly and was never troubled thereafter as his main threat in Hamilton was effectively eliminated at the lights by a terrible getaway that left him down in eighth after the opening lap.

Putting Hamilton onto an immediate back foot, though the defending champion would claw his way back to third place - spurred on by a blistering charge during the final stint - Rosberg's victory has nonetheless added another 10 points to his championship lead, putting him 33 points clear with four races remaining and a maximum of 100 points available.

The result does also secure Mercedes a third consecutive F1 Constructors' Championship crown with ease.

Indeed, for Rosberg his race would be defined by his strong getaway from pole position, easily grabbing the initiative at the start and maintaining his form thereafter.

By contrast, it was another frustrating afternoon for Hamilton - whose winless streak stretches to five races -, the Briton getting a woeful getaway from second on the grid to be swallowed up by the field into the relatively short run to turn one, shaking out in eighth place.

Up front, Verstappen held second from the fast-starting Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn having started eighth after a late five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change dropped him from his original third.

From here Rosberg would eke out his lead over Verstappen during the first stint, with Perez doing just enough to hold back the field behind him to allow the top two to establish a comfortable advantage before the Mexican was demoted by faster machinery over the ensuing laps.

Hamilton's afternoon, meanwhile, would be partially engineered by strategy as he made his tyres go slightly longer on the first stint to immediately pick up two positions after the first stop from Perez and Raikkonen, which along with passing Hulkenberg had him up to fifth before swiftly passing Daniel Ricciardo for fourth by lap 14.

From here the race would settle with Rosberg out front, controlling a slim but static advantage over Verstappen at around three seconds, with Vettel third but coming under pressure from Hamilton as the second stops began. With Hamilton pitting first on lap 34, Vettel responded by pitting on lap 35 but a poor in-lap - hampered by traffic - would allow the Mercedes to get the undercut and ascend to third.

Though Ferrari attempted to roll the dice by placing Vettel on soft tyres to Hamilton's hard rubber, the German couldn't make it count in the crucial immediate laps and would promptly fall away from his rival.

Hamilton on the other hand was charging with Verstappen now in his immediate sights and catching at a rate of more than a second a lap. On the Red Bull's tail by with six laps to go, Hamilton arrived with momentum but it would find himself stalled in his rival's turbulent air, while Verstappen's canny ability to save battery and deploy down the home straight would ultimately leave his rival with few options to pass.

Despite this, Hamilton attempted to surprise the Dutchman with an aggressive attempt into the final corner on the penultimate lap after a good run through 130R, only to have the door shut firmly by his rival and forcing the Mercedes to take the escape road.

With Hamilton complaining that Verstappen moved under braking - a criticism levelled at the youngster more than once this year -, his challenge was nonetheless over and he would have to settle for third.

Up the road, meanwhile, Rosberg was cruising to an ninth win of the season, one that secured Mercedes its third straight constructors' title and moves him ever closer to that elusive first world title.

Behind Verstappen - himself enjoying a sixth podium of the year - and a frustrated Hamilton, Vettel faded to a distant fourth, with Raikkonen an unrewarding fifth on a weekend that had initially promised much for the Finn. Seemingly struggling for power, Daniel Ricciardo was sixth and more than half a minute adrift of the top spot.

Though not able to make their strong getaways count, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg still picked up solid points for Force India in seventh and eighth to offset Williams efforts in ninth and tenth, Felipe Massa leading Valtteri Bottas for the final points. Force India now leads Williams by 10 points for fourth overall.

Despite strong starting positions, Haas were left just outside the points once again with Romain Grosjean in 11th position, while Esteban Gutierrez suffered a spin en route to a lowly 20th.

In a race that would see every driver reach the finish line, Jolyon Palmer produced another eye-catching drive to finish 12th, ahead of Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson. On a dismal day for McLaren-Honda, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button would cross the line 16th and 18th.


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