Lewis Hamilton defended the move with which he took the lead from Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who had his first retirement of the season at last weekend’s Singapore GP, capitalized on a strong start and surged ahead of Rosberg at the first corner.
The Briton squeezed past his Mercedes team-mate in the opening seconds of Sunday’s race before pulling clear, while Rosberg slipped back to fourth behind Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany was second and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany third.
Today’s win is Lewis Hamilton’s 41st Grand Prix victory – which means he has now equalled Ayrton Senna for the total number of victories in Grands Prix. I had to win today but it did not work out.
Hamilton, who won the race, said: “The inside line is the inside line, so it was my corner”.
Had it ended badly, either on track or in the stewards’ office, then Hamilton’s bid to retain his title would have been plunged into genuine jeopardy. I aspired to one day drive the way he drove, and achieve something similar to what he achieved.
It was a day of embarrassment for McLaren, at engine partner Honda’s home race. Rosberg didn’t even listen – he promptly caught Bottas napping and overtook him on the inside.
As a outcome, Rosberg falls further behind Hamilton in the title race, and his hopes of preventing the world champion claiming a third crown are receding with a 48-point deficit and only a maximum 125 left to be won.
On the podium, the 30-year-old went on: “I’m so happy right now”.
Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Force India. “Not enough to be a real challenger, especially for Lewis, but there were no safety cars or anything and we were a lot closer than in previous races on that type of circuit”.
They were followed by Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado for troubled Lotus, who spent the week locked out of their paddock hospitality unit because of unpaid bills. The closely-matched Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz completed the top ten.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams’ Felipe Massa also touched at the start, both picking up punctures as a result and finishing a lowly 15th and 17th, sandwiching Jenson Button’s McLaren Honda, while Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson were 13th and 14th.