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'Dream gap' for Hamilton in title battle after Suzuka

Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, Japanese Grand Prix
© XPB 

After scoring a crucial victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has pulled out a 59 point lead over Sebastian Vettel in the world championship standings.

While not unassailable, it's a big advantage to have with just four races remaining in the campaign. Theoretically he could clinch the title as early as the next race in the United States in two weeks time.

"Honest, I could only have dreamed of having this kind of gap," Hamilton said after taking his eighth Grand Prix win in the 2017 season.

"I wouldn't say I have one hand on [the title]," he insisted. "There's still a hundred points available, so I'm still going to keep the pedal to the metal."

Hamilton was able to almost double his points advantage after an early retirement for Vettel due to a faulty spark plug. That prompted Hamilton to praise the reliability shown my his own Mercedes team this year.

"Ferrari has put on such a great challenge all year long," he said. "He's been very unfortunate through no fault of his own. Reliability things with these engines are so complex.

"What I can really just say is that I have to put [my success] down to my team," he continued. "They have done a phenomenal job. Reliability has really been on point. They are just so meticulous and that's really why we have the reliability we have, and the results we're having.

"They're just so meticulous and faultless with their procedures and processes back at the factory," he added. "So a big thank you to everyone back at the factory, both Brixworth and Brackley, who do an amazing job. I hope I'm making them proud."

The first half of the race in Suzuka had looked straightforward for the race leader. However, Hamilton admitted that things had got a lot trickier for him toward the end.

"For the first part of the race it was very, very well under control," he said, having successfully rebuffed an early attack from Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"The Red Bulls just seemed to be rapid in race trim," he admitted. "Obviously we're quick in the qualifying trim. Still, I was just able to hold him behind.

"The second half was a lot harder. Tyres, the balance of the car, the traffic that we were getting a lot of the time.

"It definitely got very close a couple of times, particularly at the end with the VSC," he added. "With the VSC, the front tyres weren't working so I had massive understeer.

"When we restarted, tyres were cold, had a bit of traffic so he caught up - so it was very, very close," he said. "All of a sudden he was on me. I mean, geez, he looked so big in my mirrors."

It was a relief to Hamilton and everyone in the Mercedes garage when he was able to hold on long enough to seal the victory.

"Really grateful that the car stuck together and didn't make any mistakes," he said. "So I'm really proud of it."

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