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Nico Rosberg has extended his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' championship to 33 points after easing to victory in the Japanese Grand Prix.
With just 100 points to play for, the German can afford to finish second in each remaining race to clinch his first world title.
Hamilton desperately needed a victory to cut his team-mate's lead but after a terrible start to the race the defending champion did well to finish third.
Overnight rain meant Hamilton's side of the grid - he was beaten to pole position by Rosberg by just 0.013 seconds - was damp and this may have played a part in his dreadful start which saw him drop to eighth position, although he insisted afterwards that he simply made a mistake.
With Rosberg coasting at the front of the race, Hamilton's aggressive driving saw him climb up the places to the point where with nine laps left he only had Max Verstapen between him and Rosberg but despite the Mercedes being a faster car on tyres fresher by five laps, the Dutchman did superbly to prevent Hamilton passing him.
Rosberg completed a dominant week with a comfortable win and Hamilton is now reliant on him retiring or making big mistakes to have any chance of catching him to retain his world title.
The first and third place for both their drivers ensured Mercedes have clinched another constructors' championship.
Sebastian Vettel drove a smooth race to finish fourth with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen finishing behind him, the latter holding off a strong challenge from Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.
The Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg came home in seventh and eighth respectively with Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas completing the top 10.
After the race Mercedes announced they would lodge a protest against Verstappen for driving 'erratically and in a dangerous manner' when defending his second position from Hamilton late on.
A decision from the FIA, the sport's governing body, won't be made until
the US Grand Prix in two weeks with neither driver available "to give
or refute evidence" and if Hamilton is promoted to second place, he would then trail Rosberg by 30 points.
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