Japanese Grand Prix – Valtteri Bottas executed a fine drive to lead a one-three finish for Mercedes and secure a sixth consecutive Constructors’ Championship for the team.
Starting in third, the Mercedes man looked favourite to take the victory after making a sensational start and overtaking both Ferraris, who had locked out the front row.
The free air allowed Bottas to take advantage of Mercedes’ strong race pace and leave Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to fend off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton.
With the lead secured, Bottas was able to run a well-measured race, take his first win since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and head a one-three finish that secured Mercedes a record-breaking sixth consecutive constructors’ championship.
Pole-sitter Vettel had a poor start by stuttering before the five lights went out, this near-jump-start cost him the lead at the start, but he held on to second place, despite the threat of a penalty.
Hamilton, who ran in third place for much of the race, ran a longer first stint in order to give himself fresher, soft tyres for the final few laps and challenge Vettel for second place in the closing stages of the race. However, Hamilton was unable pull alongside Vettel and make any meaningful overtaking attempt.
The results now also mean that only Bottas can mathematically prevent Hamilton from taking the drivers’ championship, meaning that Mercedes will definitely take both championships for the sixth season in a row.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon took a career best finish of fourth place, but had to fight back from a poor start which saw him fall behind both McLarens on the opening lap.
His recovery resulted in a collision with Lando Norris when he tried to overtake the McLaren into the final chicane from far back. He survived the hit and continued his recovery to a twelve-point finish, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz driving another fine race to fifth place.
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen collided early on to end their chances of challenging for the victory in Suzuka. With Verstappen up to fourth at the first corner, he attempted a pass on the outside of Leclerc into turn two. The Red Bull man looked to have a good chance of holding the position, but a tangle with the Ferrari driver sent him spinning of the circuit and down to the back of the field.
Verstappen retired the car soon afterwards, but Leclerc fought back to finish in 6th place, although the incident will be reviewed by the stewards after the race.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo took full advantage of starting on the medium tyres, running a long first stint, and utilising the soft tyres in the closing stages of the race to fight his way up to seventh place.
In a bizarre conclusion to the race, the timing results were triggered one lap earlier than planned, meaning the final race results were taken at the end of lap 52, not lap 53.
This means that Sergio Perez’s final lap crash at turn two is effectively erased from history, and the Racing Point driver is reinstated into ninth place, behind Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
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