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SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Mercedes were finally able to break out the champagne on Sunday after clinching their third straight Formula One constructors’ crown at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg eased to a comfortable win at the Suzuka circuit which, combined with a third-place finish for team mate Lewis Hamilton, lifted the German team 208 points clear of closest rivals Red Bull.
With just four races remaining and a maximum 172 points up for grabs, the result guaranteed Mercedes the title and had champagne corks popping after an engine blowout for Hamilton last week in Malaysia obliged them to put the bubbly back on ice.
“Congrats ... to all my colleagues in the team, for clinching a third constructors’ world title,” said Rosberg on the podium after the race.
“So absolutely deserved, definitely it’s been an unbelievable effort all these years, so let’s celebrate hard.”
The team seemed to be doing just that, spraying champagne in the pitlane and posing for celebratory photographs in front of their garage wearing specially-printed t-shirts emblazoned with 'The Triple'.
Even employees at the team’s headquarters in Brackley, England, got in on the act, also wearing the celebratory t-shirts and spraying champagne.
"Big congratulations to the team," said Hamilton, despite a personally disappointing race that pushed a fourth drivers’ title further out of his reach.
"Very proud to be a part of it and to help contribute to it," added the Briton, who has claimed the drivers’ championship for the last two years.
Mercedes have been the dominant force in Formula One since the introduction of the 1.6-litre turbo hybrid engines in 2014.
The team have won 47 of the 55 races held since and Sunday’s win in Japan was their 15th from 17 races this year.
Only Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Red Bull have won three or more titles in a row, with the Italian outfit the only ones to achieve the feat twice.
Whether Mercedes can carry on their winning run into next year will depend on how they adapt to sweeping rule changes being introduced next season.
Cars will feature wider tires and bodywork, in changes aimed at making them faster and more exciting to drive which could shake up the current order.
Mercedes have been against this, arguing that allowing the current rules to mature would result in a convergence between teams and lead to closer racing.
“It’s what we always said,” team boss Toto Wolff told reporters.
“But then somebody else decided to invent something new for next year then it’s back to square one, I guess.”
Editing by Toby Davis