Verstappen at odds with Japanese GP stewards' calls

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But I think we have gone from strength to strength this year as a team, so I really hope that we can [win].

"With Seb, it's just not a corner where you can overtake", he said, while an unrepentant Vettel obviously begged to differ.

"The whole weekend has been incredibly strong", Hamilton said.

"If it starts to rain five, six, seven minutes earlier, we did a miracle", added the German, who trails Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by 50 points with just 125 left in play.

"For me it was a bit similar to China this year where I made the mistake".

It's a very mixed-up starting grid, but the sight of Romain Grosjean's Haas leading the third row is an intriguing one.

Referring to the first lap clash with Kimi Raikkonen, which saw the pair touch - forcing the Finn off track - as the Red Bull driver recovered after locking up at the final chicane and cutting across the grass, subsequently being handed the time penalty, Verstappen said: "I locked up, I could easily have cut the track, I made my best effort to get back on track".

Verstappen though was unrepentant and called his penalty "stupid".

Magnussen takes no prisoners: Kevin Magnussen's reputation for hard racing is growing by the race and his move on Charles Leclerc was the ideal example of why.

That allowed Vettel to get between them, with the stewards penalising Verstappen for failing to rejoin safely.

Ricciardo was now the man on the move, having moved from 15th to 10th before the safety vehicle.

The Haas eventually shed the damaged tyre, and bodywork that splintered thanks to the flailing rubber, and the safety auto was deployed while the debris was cleared.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo who ended up 15th after failing to set a time in the second qualifying, heading into the pits at the end of his outlap with what appeared to be an engine problem.

The top five cars settled into a rhythm for the middle stint of the race, but behind them the midfield was chaotic, with a combination of different tire strategies and Vettel trying to rise through the field creating all sorts of action.

Lance Stroll of Williams made it into Q2.

After a virtual safety auto, called after Leclerc pulled off with a mechanical failure, Bottas began to run into blistering problems with his tyres. The Sauber driver reported a breakage in his auto before he ran through the gravel and into retirement at the Degner corners.

Hamilton was sprinting away at the front all the while, but Bottas was struggling with rear blistering in his tires and making slower progress, slipping to 10 seconds behind his teammate and into the clutches of Verstappen.

Racing Point Force India duo Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were eighth and 10th, sandwiching Vettel's Ferrari.

His aggression paid off in the opening laps before he went a step too far while attempting to slide his Ferrari past Max Verstappen into Spoon corner on lap eight.

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