Title now out of Lewis Hamilton's hands, while Max Verstappen will never back down... five things we learned from the Japanese Grand Prix
- Nico Rosberg win in Japan hands him significant title advantage
- Red Bull's Max Verstappen maintains controversial defensive driving style
- Ferrari star Sebastian Vettel brands blue flag situation 'ridiculous'
- Click here for more F1 news, features and points tables
The Japanese Grand Prix could prove a defining point in the championship race as Nico Rosberg's Suzuka victory saw him extend his title advantage over Lewis Hamilton to 33 points.
A poor start from Hamilton allowed his Mercedes team-mate to inflict maximum damage, despite the Brit's impressive comeback to finish third.
Sportsmail looks at the implications of Rosberg's win as well as the other major stories from Suzuka as we look back at the five things we learned from the Japanese Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton (second right) now faces a huge fight to retain his world championship
Hamilton now needs favours to win the title
The significance of Rosberg's victory means that no matter what Hamilton does now, the German has the keys to unlock his maiden world championship.
Even if Hamilton wins the final four races, the German can finish second in all of them and still pip his Mercedes team-mate to the title.
That's far from certain to happen as Mercedes have only collected four one-two finishes all season long but it does underline just how healthy Rosberg's advantage is.
Hamilton attempts to pass Max Verstappen at the final chicane on the penultimate lap
But the Dutchman cut across in the braking zone to deny the Brit who was forced off the track
Verstappen maintains controversial defensive stance
After dropping to eighth, Hamilton quickly picked off his rivals through overtakes on the track and in the pits until he was right on the gearbox of Max Verstappen.
FINAL FOUR F1 RACES
Oct 23: USA (Circuit of Americas)
Oct 30: Mexico (Mexico City)
Nov 13: Brazil (Interlagos)
Nov 27: Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)
It looked to be a matter of when and not if the Brit would dart past the teenager for second place, but like many others this season the world champion was thwarted by the unrattled Dutchman.
A dive down the inside of the final chicane on the penultimate lap was as close as Hamilton got, but he was cut up by Verstappen who moved late in the braking zone to block the pass.
It's a move Verstappen has performed to criticism from other drivers many times this season but it's key to note that the Dutchman is refusing to allow others dictate how he should drive - and that includes the FIA who have warned him over his on-track conduct.
Sebastian Vettel called the blue flag situation 'ridiculous' during the Japanese Grand Prix as he attempts to get past a Manor while in a crucial battle with Hamilton
Should the blue flag system be under review?
There was plenty of team radio during the race - an estimated 90 per cent of it consisting of either Sebastian Vettel or Verstappen raging to their teams over trying to pass backmarkers under blue flags.
It's not the first time lead drivers have become frustrated at getting stuck behind lapped drivers. Vettel in particular can often be heard singing his own blue flag song in happier times.
So does the situation need a review? Do lapped drivers need harsher punishments for not allowing lead cars through, should more blue flags be waved... or should they be abolished altogether? It wouldn't hurt the sport to consult the drivers on what the best way forward is.
Williams cars of Felipe Massa (left) and Valtteri Bottas battle with Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz
Williams' season decline summed up in one race
The end of the season can't come soon enough for Williams who have been sliding down the championship for a long time now.
Their race at Suzuka was a rather fitting demonstration of how it all happened. From a position of battling with Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were passed by Hamilton along with Red Bull and Ferrari before even Force India effortlessly eased both their cars past.
The championship shows the Grove outfit in a battle for fourth with Force India but Suzuka's evidence suggests they could end up scraping for just minor points in the final few races below the four teams.
McLaren struggled throughout the weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix as Jenson Button (front) finished a disappointing 18th while Fernando Alonso (back) was 16th
No home comforts for Honda as McLaren fluff their lines
Ron Dennis described McLaren's season as 5/10 before the race, but the team boss would be extremely kind to give the Woking outfit a similar score assessing their Japan performance.
An updated Honda power unit made no difference at the home of their engine supplier, as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso never looked like even getting close to the points.
McLaren have made gains this term but they picked the worst possible venue to have one of their most disappointing races of the season.
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