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SUZUKA, Japan (AP) – Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won a rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix today, claiming his third straight Formula One victory in a race marred by a serious crash.
With Hamilton leading teammate Nico Rosberg, a red flag ended the race on the 44th of 53 laps due to a crash involving Marussia driver Jules Bianchi. With heavy rain falling and visibility poor, race officials elected not to re-start and Hamilton was declared the winner. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel finished third.
Hamilton widened his lead over Rosberg in the race for the drivers’ championship but the race celebrations were subdued as Bianchi was taken to a hospital and is in critical condition.
“Our first thoughts go to Jules,” Hamilton said. “It overshadows everything else when one of our colleagues is injured and we are praying for him. Next to this, the race result doesn’t seem significant at all.”
Hamilton now leads Rosberg by ten points with four races remaining.
The rain also disrupted the early stages of the race, with the first nine laps run behind the safety car. After the rain abated and the safety car came off, Hamilton did everything possible to gain on his teammate, who started from pole.
Rosberg held the lead until the 29th lap when Hamilton got a better run onto the pit straight and blasted around the outside of Rosberg into Turn 1 to take the lead for good.
The race was stopped after 44 laps after Bianchi crashed at Turn 7. He was taken to a hospital and is undergoing surgery after a scan revealed a severe head injury, FIA spokesman Matteo Bonciani said.