TITLE FIGHT: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg (left) and Lewis Hamilton are still the biggest rivals on track as proven again during the 2015 Japanese GP. Image: AP / Darko Bandic
Suzuka, Japan -Lewis Hamilton denied he had acted unsportingly with the move which swept him past fierce rival Nico Rosberg at the start of the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
With both Mercedes starting from the front row, Hamilton lunged past Rosberg into the first corner at Suzuka, forcing him wide and pushing the German down to fourth from pole to change the complexion of the race.
Hamilton, who went on to record his eighth victory in 14 races this year, sniffed: "The inside line is the inside line, so it was my corner."
Rosberg fought back to finish second ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. But the result clearly stung and he had to bite his lip when pressed on Hamilton's daring dash for turn one.
"It got really close on the exit of turn two and I had to back out of it there and that lost me the race eventually," Rosberg said. "I haven't seen it on TV. For sure it was close. I had to avoid a collision. But it is difficult to comment now."
The feuding team mates got into hot water with team officials last year after they collided in Belgium and the shunt forced Hamilton to retire.
But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff saw nothing wrong with Hamilton's move in Japan.
Wolff said: "Lewis had a better start and stuck his nose in. It was a tough corner for both of them."
Hamilton, who stretched his championship lead to 48 points with five races, could not resist a dig at Rosberg, saying: "I can imagine Nico was running out of road but that's what happens when you're on the outside."
The Briton's victory not only moved him tantalisingly close to a third world title but equalled boyhood idol Ayrton Senna's 41 race victories.
"Yeah, quite an emotional day," said Hamilton. "But to be honest I'm not a teary guy, so I'm just full of joy and happiness and light."
Vettel, who won in Singapore last week but now trails Hamilton by 59 points, gamely insisted he would fight to the bitter end in the title race.
"It's not done until it's done," said the four-times world champion. "The chance is there, and what kind of a racing driver would I be if I stopped believing? Otherwise it's pointless rocking up and trying to fight."
"Obviously we knew from the beginning of the season that these boys would be difficult to beat," added the German, whose Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen finished behind him in fourth.
"We have to do our thing and that's maximum we can do. Everything else is probably in their hands."