Vettel and Verstappen collide in Japan

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"I am racing not just him, I'm racing also the guys in front ideally", he said referring to Hamilton and Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton screamed over team radio after his sixth win in the last seven races.

"Each week you have a positive weekend and you go to another Grand Prix and you're not sure how you're going to fare and how you're going to perform, because there are still gaps in between".

Shocker: Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari needed to take some risks in Japan to keep their championship chances alive, but gamble after gamble failed to pay off.

Indeed, the move smelt of desperation, and it marked Vettel's second mistake of the weekend, after he ran off track in qualifying, and his seventh of an error-prone campaign.

"I can't wait to unleash this beast in Austin", he added, pointing at his vehicle. "At the end of the year, we will take stock and when it is necessary then we will intervene", he said.

Daniel Ricciardo recovered from 15th to fourth, while Kimi Raikkonen was fifth on a desperately torrid afternoon for Ferrari.

"Honestly, I'll take it one step at a time", said Hamilton moments after securing his ninth win of the season. Even Dr. Helmut Marko of Red Bull admitted that Vettel lost the championship because of his own blunders.

"It was a bit late and obviously opportunistic", he said.

"If I don't go for that gap and that gap was there, I might as well go home".

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"I had the speed".

"When we were having the race like Monza - for me, I loved that race".

Force India's Sergio Perez won the battle for best of the rest, from Haas' Romain Grosjean, the second Force India of Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly.

Under braking, Vettel barged into the side of Verstappen's Red Bull before spinning round in a flurry of sparks. "In my opinion, he tries to push when he shouldn't", Vettel told Sky Sports. He was just 5.2s off teammate Verstappen as he crossed the line, but the important part of the race was around the pit stops when he managed to move himself ahead Kimi Raikkonen, whose pace disappeared after contact with Verstappen on the opening lap.

"I knew he had a penalty", insisted Vettel.

"That's what we were hoping to achieve, it's not always the case, it's really not always the case that you achieve your target but I think we have through really great hard work from everyone".

After Ferrari's error in qualifying which saw Vettel start the race in eighth, he made up to fourth on the first lap before his race-defining attempt to pass Verstappen dropped him down the field.

But his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is guarding against late complacency, and says he can not even bring himself to think of Hamilton's championship victory before the title is fully in his grasp.