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Happier Hamilton full of confidence going into Japanese GP

Lewis Hamilton has finally taken the lead in Formula 1’s Drivers’ Championship race after his victory in the last race in Singapore, to go three points ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg going into the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. The latter pulled out last time out early following a mechanical failure.

Englishman Hamilton is now odds-on at 8/15 with Coral to claim his second title, but knows with five GP’s of the season to go and 150 points still on offer, nothing is assured and there is no guarantee he’ll pip the declining German (6/4).

Exciting Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, is just 60 points off the lead, and will hope to try and take advantage of any more Mercedes issues, either between Hamilton and Rosberg or technical problems which have hindered them. The Australian is 8/1 to win in Japan and 40/1 to take the Drivers’ Championship.

However, Hamilton (8/11 for victory in this upcoming GP) has surprisingly praised his teammate Rosberg (9/4) ahead of Japan, to give the indication that the duo have set aside their differences for the sake of Mercedes.

“In general, things are going okay in the team,” he said. “The fact is, it is an intense battle and for sure there will be difficulties in the future, that’s a given, we just need to navigate them as we have done before this year.

“Nico is a true professional, he’s shown incredible strength mentally, and speed and talent, and I thought he handled the last race with dignity. I’m sure he will come here just as strongly as he comes anywhere.”

Hamilton, who won the Japanese GP in 2007 at the old track in Fuji, then added on his own ambitions: “My plan is to continue doing what I was doing before, nothing has changed for me. It’s a great feeling coming here knowing that I have a great car, and also that we will be racing. We’re still starting again and I feel like I am still chasing.”

Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, has finished top of the podium the last two times here and four overall, and the German is 12/1 fourth-favourite to win again. He has yet to taste victory this season so far, but is a 7/4 chance to be in the top three.

Elsewhere, there is exciting news surrounding 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who will be the youngest ever driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend. The Dutchman has a confirmed seat in Red Bull’s sister constructor Toro Rosso for 2015, and Coral offer special odds on him.

Verstappen is 100/1 to win the first practice session in Japan, while he is a 12/1 chance to finish on the podium in any F1 race next season, and 66/1 to win any. Odds of 7/1, meanwhile, say he can be the youngest ever world champion – beating Vettel – and 50/1 to do so in the next three years.

The youngster spoke ahead of this ground-breaking opportunity. “For sure everyone is watching, but I just stay calm and have to do my thing,” he said. “I am just preparing for next year and I need to get experience of the new engine as it is a bit different than the last few years. I just laps and to get used to all the stuff.

There is a chance, though, that the race may not go ahead at all this weekend, with weather forecasts suggesting Typhoon Phanfone could hit the area on Friday’s practice.