Lewis Hamilton has one hand, three fingers and a thumb on the world championship after romping to victory in Japan as his rival Sebastian Vettel finished a lowly sixth following a calamitous collision.
Hamilton's fourth win in succession, and sixth in seven rounds, never appeared in doubt as he raced away from pole and cruised to the line ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Max Verstappen completed the podium as Vettel endured yet another miserable afternoon following his crash with the Red Bull driver in the early stages of Sunday's Suzuka race.
Hamilton, 67 points clear of the Ferrari driver with just 100 left on the table, will secure his fifth title at the United States Grand Prix in a fortnight's time if he wins and his rival is third or lower.
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Mercedes are considering Fernando Alonso as a replacement for retiring world champion Nico Rosberg.
But two-time championship winner Alonso is about to enter the final year of his three-year deal with McLaren, meaning Mercedes may have to look elsewhere.
"You have to consider Fernando," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports' F1 Special: Nico The Brave show.
"He is a driver I respect a lot. He combines talent, speed and experience. It's all there.
"But he is in a contract with McLaren-Honda at the moment and we just need to weigh all the other options up."
Mercedes face a race against time to bring in a new driver alongside Lewis Hamilton, with pre-season testing due to begin in February.
Rosberg made his surprise announcement last week, just five days after sealing the drivers' championship.
The BBC's director of sport, Barbara Slater, says the decision to end their live Formula 1 contract prematurely was "tough" and "unwanted".
Channel 4 will take over the terrestrial rights from the BBC after it revealed it had signed a three-year deal.
The move comes as a result of a £35m cut to the BBC's sports rights budget, and Slater explained:
The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made. A significant chunk of BBC Sport's savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula One.
Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly. There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.
The BBC has announced that it has "reluctantly" ended its Formula One contract three years early.
The corporation regained the exclusive broadcasting rights to grand prix racing in 2009 before agreeing a seven-year deal to share the rights with Sky Sports in 2012.
But the BBC, which has announced a £35million cut in its sports rights budget, said on Monday it has withdrawn from its deal prematurely.
Channel Four will take over the terrestrial rights from the BBC after it revealed it had signed a three-year deal.
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Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo will receive a staggering payoff of nearly £27 million euros (£21.5 million) after he leaves the sports car manufacturer.
Montezemolo will be replaced by Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne after the pair clashed over strategy and the Ferrari F1 team's poor results.