Valtteri Bottas has again shown his steel as a top-shelf racer, winning the Japanese Grand Prix from third on the grid. The Finn in control from the first corner, when he snatched the lead from the two Ferraris and never looked back.
Bottas took his sixth career victory at the ultimate drivers’ circuit, 11-seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel - who held off Lewis Hamilton to the flag. The Brit’s bonus point for fastest lap securing Mercedes a sixth-straight constructors’ championship - and a sixth-consecutive Silver Arrows’ drivers’ title is now guaranteed with all rivals mathematically out of the race. The hunt between Bottas and Hamilton, with four races to go.
“I’m happy, very happy,” Bottas said. “It was a pretty close qualifying, starting third here is never easy. But there’s no point ever to give up on anything, anything was possible today. And opportunities were there today. And I had a really nice start, and obviously Sebastian [Vettel] had an issue. So I managed to get into the lead, and then the pace was super good. I could really control the pace. I really enjoyed it, had fun.”
There’s now two weeks until the next race in Mexico, which is held at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City on the 25-27th of October.
|4||23||Red Bull Racing Honda||52||+59.537s||12|
Here’s how the 2019 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX played-out lap-by-lap:
There’s a lot of excitement ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, with both the drivers’ and constructor’s championships on the line. Mercedes will win a sixth-straight constructors’ title should they outscore Ferrari by 14 points - while a Silver Arrows driver will be guaranteed to win the driver’ crown unless five-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is outscored by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by four points, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by seven points or Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 25 points.
It’s a Ferrari front row lockout, though, with the Scuderia showing its pace in a rare Sunday qualifying session after Typhoon Hagibis forced the cancellation of Saturday’s running. Sebastian Vettel is on pole, his fifth at Suzuka - Charles Leclerc alongside. The two Prancing Horses have Mercedes behind them, Valtteri Bottas third - and looking the faster Silver Arrow all weekend - Lewis Hamilton fourth, who’s looking to equal Michal Schumacher with six victories in Japan.
Red Bull Racing keeps the championship two-by-two going, Max Verstappen ahead of Alex Albon. Then it’s both McLarens, Carlos Sainz then Lando Norris - who made a mistake in his final run in qualifying. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Haas’ Romain Grosjean close out the top-10. His Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen starts from the back after a crash in Q1 at the exit of the final corner. Williams is pushing very hard to get Robert Kubica out for a pit lane start, after the Pole crashed at the start of Q1. Both drivers brought out the red flags.
Strategically, it could go either way - with a one-stop the fastest way to the chequered flag, but Mercedes could push Ferrari into using up their tyres and switching to a two-stop. It’s 22-degrees Celsius ambient temperature and 38-degrees track, and expected to be a dry race - but carnage could mean a safety car. Ferrari, though, hopes for a clean race - and to score its first win at Suzuka since Michael Schumacher in 2004.
The top-10 start on the soft tyres, with just six beyond that on the mediums - Giovinazzi (P11), Raikkonen (P13), Ricciardo (P16), Russell (P18), Magnussen (P19 and Kubica (pit lane).
Vettel gets a bad start, Bottas passes for the lead - Verstappen spins off at Turn 2 as he makes contact with Leclerc. Vettel did a jump start, Leclerc has front wing damage. So, it’s Bottas, Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz and Norris. Verstappen is down in 19th.
Leclerc doesn’t pit. Front wing is sparking along the straight. Hamilton is right behind the Monegasque. Leclerc asks to continue with his broken front wing, but the stewards will call him in sooner rather than later. Leclerc told to box. Leclerc says car doesn’t feel that bad.
Leclerc stays out. Amazing. Bottas leads Vettel, who set the fastest lap - a 1:34.549. Leclerc is third ahead of Hamilton. Then it’s Sainz, Norris, Albon, Gasly, Stroll and Hulkenberg up from 15th on the grid. Verstappen and Leclerc collision cleared by the stewards.
Leclerc pits, releasing Hamilton. Bottas sets the fastest lap, a 1:34.195 - he’s 1.7 seconds ahead of Vettel. Hamilton is just 2.9 seconds behind Vettel in third. Vettel’s jump start yet to be assessed by the stewards.
Bottas leads Vettel by 1.9 seconds. Replays show Leclerc forced Verstappen into the spin, making contact after he left no room.
Replay from Lap four shows Albon and Norris making contact at the final chicane, the Anglo-Thai driver taking fifth - contact forcing him to pit. And suspected brake issues. Verstappen in P16 has floor damage and a loose rear end as a result.
Bottas leads Vettel by 2.4 seconds - the Finn six tenths faster on that last lap. Both Racing Points are in the top-10, Stroll in P7 and Perez P9. Stewards investigating Verstappen/Leclerc collision at Turn 2.
Hamilton in P3 is faster than Vettel, two tenths on that last lap. The gap 2.4 seconds. Replays show the left wing mirror of Charles Leclerc snapping off on back straight.
Albon in P5 is chasing down Sainz. He’s 0.6 seconds adrift. Leclerc has passes Verstappen into Turn 1 for P16, very aggressive move. Vettel investigated for a false start, so his second place hangs by a thread.
Bottas leads Vettel by 2.6 seconds. Renault looking strong, with Hulkenberg eighth and Ricciardo 10th - up from 16th on the grid. Leclerc in P16 is behind a train of cars - Kvyat ahead, then Raikkonen. Verstappen says his tyres are flat-spotted and can’t brake.
Bottas is building that gap on Vettel, 3.2 seconds the difference. Hamilton is now 2.1 seconds behind Vettel in P3. Albon in P5 is still chasing down Sainz.
Leclerc passes Kvyat for P15 into Spoon corner. He’s now onto Raikkonen in P14. Bottas leads Vettel by 3.6 seconds, then it’s Hamilton, Sainz, Albon, Gasly, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Perez and Ricciardo.
Bottas leads Vettel by 4.2-seconds. Top-14 is yet to stop, but pit window is coming up.
Vettel cleared for his alleged jump start. The sensor was not potentially tripped. Leclerc passes Raikkonen into 130-R, a high speed pass for P14. Bottas up front leads Vettel by 5.1 seconds. Hamilton just 1.3 seconds behind the lead Ferrari.
Vettel looking well off the pace, mid 1:35s, the two Silver Arrows into the 1:34s. Bottas 6-seconds ahead of Vettel, Hamilton 1-second behind. Verstappen retires from P17 after sustaining damage.
Hamilton has DRS now - and is chasing Vettel for P2. Albon has pitted from P5. He’s onto the mediums. Leader Bottas is extending his gap.
Vettel pits from P2, and slams on the brakes into the pit entry - and takes the softs, proving he’s on a two-stop. He exits in P4, behind Sainz. So it’s Bottas and Hamilton leading the race.
Bottas pits from the lead, takes on the mediums. 2.4 second stop. He exits in P2 behind Hamilton. Albon in P10 has set the fastest lap on the mediums, a 1:33.959. Vettel passes Sainz for P3 into Spoon.
So Hamilton leads Bottas by 9.9 seconds. Then it’s Vettel, Sainz, Gasly, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez and Albon - as Gasly and Stroll pit. Incident between Verstappen and Leclerc will be investigated after the race.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 6.6 seconds, with the Finn setting the fastest lap, a 1:32.137. Hulkenberg, Perez pit.
Bottas is on a charge on fresh tyres, 2.5 seconds faster than Hamilton ahead on that last lap. Bottas told Lewis will be out of the way soon. Albon passes Ricciardo for P5 into Turn 1. Hamilton told to box.
Hamilton pits from the lead, he switches to mediums - 2.9 second stop. He exits ahead of Sainz. So it’s now Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton. Sainz in P4 is yet to stop.
Both Mercedes may have to pit again.
Hamilton told one-stop may be a struggle, told his tyre degradation is much higher so is almost a full stop behind Bottas. Gasly passes Norris for P9 down the pit straight.
Bottas leads Vettel by 11.3 seconds, with Hamilton 8.9 seconds adrift. Hamilton questioning why the team put him on the medium.
Leclerc has pitted, as has Norris. Leclerc puts on the softs, so is locked into a two-stop.
Sainz pits from P5. Hulkenberg chasing down Kvyat, and gets ahead for P9 - Perez also passing into Turn 1.
Bottas leads Vettel by 10.7 seconds. Hamilton in pursuit, 6.9 seconds the gap. Ricciardo in P5 is the only driver in the field yet to pit, but he’s in the 1:37s - almost four seconds off the pace.
Vettel struggling on the softs. He’s 11-seconds adrift of Bottas. Ricciardo pits.
Hamilton gaining on Vettel.
Leclerc in P9 is on a charge, Hulkenberg just half a second ahead.
Vettel pits from P2, he’s onto the mediums - and exits in P3. Leclerc passed Hulkenberg into Spoon for P8.
Hamilton sets the fastest first sector. Bottas leads his teammate by 13.3 seconds.
Leclerc passes Stroll for P7 into Turn 1. Gasly is ahead. Magnussen complains his seat is moving around. He’s down in P17.
Leclerc closing down Gasly, he gets past for P6 into Spoon corner. Albon pits from P4 and retains the place on exit, a free stop there.
Hamilton in P2 is clearing traffic, and has set the fastest first sector.
Bottas pits from the lead, 2.6 second stop for the softs - he returns in P2. 9.1 seconds behind Hamilton who leads. So it’s Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Albon, Sainz, Leclerc, Gasly, Stroll, Hulkenberg and Perez.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 9.1 seconds. Hamilton asks what do i need to do to win this race?
Gasly in P7 has a train of cars behind him - Stroll, Hulkenberg, Perez and Ricciardo. Vettel in P3 sets the fastest lap of the race, a 1:32.122.
Mercedes facing a conundrum here over whether to pit Hamilton again, he will drop behind Vettel in third as it stands now.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 7.9 seconds, the Finn eating into the Brit’s lead. Ricciardo passes Perez for 10th into Turn 1, and the final point.
Hamilton pits from the lead, 3.1 second stop - and he’s onto the softs. So it’s Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton, Albon, Sainz, Leclerc, Gasy, Stroll, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo.
Leclerc told if he pits now he will have to pass six cars.
Bottas leads Vettel by 10.5 seconds. Vettel in P2 is just 3.7 seconds ahead of Hamilton. Only the top-10 are on the lead lap.
Hamilton in P3 sets the fastest lap, a 1:31.538. He’s 2.3 seconds behind Vettel now.
Hamilton sets another fastest lap, a 1:30.983 - 1.6 seconds faster than Vettel ahead.
Hamilton is now within DRS range of Vettel, and chasing down the lead Ferrari. Leclerc pits from P6, they’re going for that bonus fastest lap point. He’s onto the softs, and retains his place in a free stop.
Hamilton all over Vettel into Turn 1, the fight for P2 is intense. Only the top-five are on the lead lap.
Hamilton close behind Vettel, but traffic ahead could trip up the Ferrari. Leclerc asking to unlap himself.
Hamilton edging closer to Vettel, and traffic looking like it’s helping the Mercedes.
Hamilton looking very close, and Vettel sells him a dummy with the backmarker. Vettel given more power to help defend against Hamilton.
Hamilton not close enough to Vettel into Turn 1. And the Brit asks for more power.
Lap 53 - FINAL LAP:
Bottas wins the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, his sixth career victory. Perez hits the wall at exit of Turn 2, forcing yellow flags. Leclerc fails to take the fastest lap, which means Mercedes takes a sixth-straight constructors’ title.
|4||23||Red Bull Racing Honda||52||+59.537s||12|
|8||10||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||51||+1 lap||4|
|9||11||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||51||+1 lap||2|
|11||18||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||51||+1 lap||0|
|12||26||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||51||+1 lap||0|
|13||4||McLaren Renault||51||+1 lap||0|
|14||7||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||51||+1 lap||0|
|15||8||Haas Ferrari||51||+1 lap||0|
|16||99||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||51||+1 lap||0|
|17||20||Haas Ferrari||51||+1 lap||0|
|18||63||Williams Mercedes||50||+2 laps||0|
|19||88||Williams Mercedes||50||+2 laps||0|
|NC||33||Red Bull Racing Honda||14||DNF||0|