Hamilton appeared to have his work cut out after he qualified behind pole-sitter Nico Rosberg for Sunday’s race at a sun-drenched Suzuka.
But despite starting on the dirtier side of the track, Hamilton blasted out of his blocks, and when he drew level with Rosberg heading into the long, sweeping, opening right-hander, there was only going to be one winner.
Hamilton muscled his way past Rosberg, who ran out of room, fell off the track, and slipped back to fourth.
There was nothing wrong with Hamilton’s move and it summed up a season which the Briton, despite his setback in Singapore seven days ago, has utterly dominated.
While Rosberg battled back to finish second, he trails Hamilton by 48 points in the championship, with only 125 left to race for.
Hamilton, it seems, is destined to join Senna, who won all three on his world titles here in Japan, Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda in the pantheon of all-time Formula One greats with a hat-trick of championship triumphs.
And, after equalling Senna’s tally of 41 career victories, the Briton said: “I am so happy right now and for me to come to a race where I use to love watching Ayrton drive, and to match his wins, I can’t really describe.
“This has been a circuit that I have struggled at through all the years that I have come here. When you go through the corners here it is flowing, it’s like sailing. I wish I could share the feeling with you.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team were left scratching their heads after their off-colour performance in Singapore.
But the Silver Arrows, who have dominated F1 for the best part of two seasons, returned to their emphatic best in Suzuka and sealed their eighth one-two of the campaign.
Hamilton led every lap in Suzuka and could clinch his third world championship with races to spare.
Rosberg looks like a beaten man. He did well to pass the Williams of Valtteri Bottas at the chicane and jump ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who completed the podium places, at the final round of pit stops. But the German, winner of just three races this year in comparison to Hamilton’s eight, knows this may have been his last opportunity.
Rosberg said: “Lewis got a better start. It was good battle into turn one, he had the inside and he made it stick. That was the end of it there. Fourth would not have been acceptable and second was the best possible outcome after that.”
Struggling McLaren saw Fernando Alonso finish 11th while Jenson Button crossed the line in 16th.
Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth for Ferrari with Valtteri Bottas fifth for Williams.
Nico Hulkenberg crossed the line in sixth for Force India. Romain Grosjean, whose Lotus team are to appear at the High Court today over an unpaid tax bill, was seventh with his team-mate Pastor Maldonado eighth. The Toro Rosso duo of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz completed the points-paying positions.