Japanese Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has led home his teammate Valtteri Bottas for a Merc 1-2. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finished P3 to complete the podium.
Lewis Hamilton has won the race at Suzuka, having led the race throughout from pole position. Getting off the line, Hamilton held the lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen. While it was a straightforward affair for the two Mercedes drivers, it couldn’t have been any different for Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel. The Ferrari driver initially made a good start to the race, having lined up in P9. Immediately getting past the Force Indias and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, he was able to clear his teammate Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn was wrong footed by Max Verstappen at the chicane. Attacking the Red Bull, Vettel dived up the inside of Spoon and the two cars touched. Vettel spun off and fell down to P19, while Verstappen was able to continue in P3.
Verstappen’s incident with Raikkonen at the chicane, which began with the Red Bull driver locking up and running wide before pushing Raikkonen wide on the exit, came under investigation by the stewards. Verstappen was given a five second penalty, which he was annoyed about as he exclaimed on the radio that he felt he’d left room for the Ferrari, but it ended up being largely negated by the lack of pace from Ferrari. Raikkonen, running P4, fell quite quickly off the back of the Red Bull and, despite trying to undercut Verstappen as the first of the frontrunners to pit, came back out behind the Dutch driver after he served that penalty. Raikkonen took on the Mediums at his stop, with Verstappen on the Soft.
Daniel Ricciardo, having started in P15, ended up as Driver of the Day as he recovered to P4. With some incisive overtakes early on while running the SuperSofts, his pace was such that after he came back out from his pitstop to change to Softs, he was ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and able to keep the Medium-shod Ferrari driver at bay.
With the two Mercedes drivers P1 & P2, the two Red Bulls P3 & P4, it was the two Ferraris at the back of the top class. While Raikkonen finished P5, he was over thirty seconds behind the Red Bulls, although 30 seconds clear of Sebastian Vettel with no team orders coming for the two drivers to swap around. Vettel ran a long first stint on the SuperSoft tyre before swapping to the Soft tyre.
P7 went to Force India’s Sergio Perez, albeit slightly controversially. Romain Grosjean had been leading Perez on track but a mid-race Virtual Safety Car caught him out when the race resumed. Perez was able to overtake into the chicane, while Grosjean complained that he felt he had maintained the delta required and that it was thus unfair for Perez to have passed him. There was no investigation from the stewards. Grosjean finished almost ten seconds behind by the chequered flag. Esteban Ocon finished P9 for Force India, having recovered from his three place grid penalty that saw him start from P11.
Carlos Sainz rounded out the points scorers, as he finished P10 for Renault. This was after a late race overtake of Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, with the Honda-powered team falling backwards as the race unfolded. Gasly had to settle for P11, with Marcus Ericsson in P12. The Sauber driver had an interesting race, having collided gently with the back of his teammate Charles Leclerc at the chicane when the racing resumed after an early Safety Car. This Safety Car was deployed due to debris on the track from Kevin Magnussen, who suffered some rear damage and a left rear puncture when Leclerc struck him on the main straight while the pair diced for position. The incident resulted in no further action, although Magnussen retired due to the damage. Leclerc survived that impact, as well as the blow from Ericsson, but was undone by a failure towards the end of the race that sent him off track at the second Degner before he pulled over.
Brendon Hartley finished P13 for Toro Rosso, not able to capitalise on his strong qualifying from Saturday, but still finished ahead of the two McLarens. Fernando Alonso finished P14, having picked up a 5 second time penalty early in the race for cutting the chicane. Stoffel Vandoorne was P15 in the second McLaren, with Sergey Sirotkin P16 for Williams. Lance Stroll was P17 in the second Williams – he also got a 5 second time penalty for causing the initial contact that pushed Alonso off and forced the McLaren to cut the track. Stroll was the final classified runner, with retirements for Leclerc, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg & Magnussen; Hulkenberg’s retirement was due to a technical problem.
Hamilton’s comfortable victory takes him to 67 points clear of Sebastian Vettel, with five races remaining.