Picture: Ng Han Guan / AP Photo.

Suzuka, Japan - Lewis Hamilton moved to the brink of a fifth world title with a pole to flag victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday - his 71st, and 50th for Mercedes. 

The Briton dominated at Suzuka after starting on pole, stretching his lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to 67 points with just four races left as the German's hopes were dashed by a collision with Red Bull's Max Verstappen. 

Valtteri Bottas held off Verstappen to take second almost 13 seconds behind Hamilton in a breathless 53-lap race at the fast-flowing Japanese circuit.

Here are five things things we learned at Suzuka over the weekend:

Vettel in a funk

Picture: Ng Han Guan / AP Photo.

Sebastian Vettel showed just how far his form has nose-dived since the summer with a foolhardy lunge on Max Verstappen that sent his Ferrari into a spin early in the race.

The German led the championship by eight points back in July but Hamilton has won six of the seven races since and turned that deficit into a 67-point lead.

"The gap was there," Vettel insisted after the race - but despite flaying Verstappen for the collision, replays suggested the Ferrari driver was to blame as his season continues to unravel.

Don't mess with Max

Verstappen has ruffled feathers since arriving in Formula One as a pimply 17-year-old at the start of the 2015 season and was at it again in Japan, tangling with both Ferraris.

The Dutchman incurred a five-second time penalty for nudging Kimi Raikkonen off the track at the chicane, turning the air blue on team radio when informed of the punishment.

He insisted after the race that stewards had been "stupid" to penalise him - and had nothing but disdain for Vettel's rush of blood, sniffing: "He drove into the side of my car, he could have been a bit more careful." 

Leclerc bares teeth

Picture: Toru Takahashi / AP Photo.

Sauber's Charles Leclerc showed he's got the machismo to match his driving skills when he gave Haas rival Kevin Magnussen a proper hosing after they collided as Leclerc was poised to overtake.

The 20-year-old, who will replace Raikkonen at Ferrari next season, told his mechanics: "Magnussen is and will always be stupid - it's a fact."

Both drivers later retired and Leclerc continued his tirade after the race, fuming: "I've only done one year in Formula One and for sure the driver I had the most problems with is definitely Kevin."

Alonso goes out swinging

Fernando Alonso went out with all guns blazing in his final Formula One race at Suzuka by barking at stewards over a five-second penalty for a brush with Lance Stroll's Williams.

The Spaniard, who infamously embarrassed McLaren's former engine supplier Honda at its home circuit three years ago by yelling "GP2 engine, GP2 engine" over the team radio, called the penalty "random" and said it proved "how bad Formula One is".  

A two-time former world champion, Alonso finished 14th on Sunday.

Fans marvel at Japan broom technology

Formula One fans watching Sunday's race from around the world took to social media in their thousands asking about the bristly "witch's brooms" race marshals used to clear the track.

One of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, Japanese organisers sent out an army of sweepers carrying old-style brooms with long, stiff bristles after Magnussen's Haas caught a puncture, scattering debris across the track.

It sparked global debate on social media as F1 fans exchanged views on broom technology.

Agence France-Presse