Valtteri Bottas Wins as Mercedes Secure Sixth Consecutive Constructors’ Title at the Japanese Grand Prix

by Sudha Sundararaj

Valtteri Bottas clinched a comfortable win at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix after a blazing start that saw him take the race lead from third position. Sebastian Vettel finished in second-place after a botched start that saw him lose places at the start. Lewis Hamilton completed the podium places and took the extra point for the fastest lap.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 team outscored arch-rival Ferrari by fifteen points in the race to clinch a sixth consecutive constructors’ title. Ferrari was the last team to win six consecutive constructors’ titles (1999 -2004).

Alexander Albon finished in fourth position as the lone Red Bull Racing driver to finish the race. Team-mate Max Verstappen tangled with Charles Leclerc on the opening lap that led to his eventual retirement from the race.

Carlos Sainz finished in a creditable fifth position and “best of the rest”. Leclerc recovered to sixth position after the first lap mishap with Verstappen that dropped him to the back of the field. Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Sergio Pérez, and Nico Hulkenberg rounded off the top 10 positions.

Update – Post-race penalties drops Charles Leclerc to seventh position and promotes Daniel Ricciardo to sixth position.

The race started under clear skies with air temperatures at 21 degrees C and track temperatures at 27 degrees C at the Suzuka International Racing Course. The qualification session took place on Sunday morning on a dry track after all the sessions on Saturday were cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Ferrari had a front row lockout with Vettel in pole position. Leclerc joined the German on the front row. Bottas and Hamilton started on the second row. Verstappen and Albon were on the third row.

Sainz, Lando Norris, Gasly and Romain Grosjean started at the front of the grid. Robert Kubica after a crash in the opening minutes of qualification started from the pit lane. All the drivers in the top 10 positions started on the red-striped soft compound tyres.

Ferrari has clinched pole position in every race since the summer break. It was Vettel on pole this time instead of Leclerc. But he threw the advantage away at the start as he started and stopped to avoid a false start and the delayed launch allowed Bottas to lead the pack into Turn 1.

Leclerc and Verstappen jostled behind them and came together at Turn 2 that sent the Dutchman off track and he rejoined at the back of the field. Leclerc himself suffered front-wing damage but kept going for two more laps even as he spewed debris on the track and on the chasing Hamilton.

The two McLarens made a good start to take fifth and sixth positions ahead of Albon. Daniel Ricciardo also made rapid progress from sixteenth position to tenth position by lap 7.

Leclerc pitted and rejoined in seventeenth position behind Verstappen. Leclerc then made rapid progress as he moved up to twelfth position by lap 16. At this point Verstappen retired from the race as his car had suffered too much damage.

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In the front, Bottas had serenely built a lead from Vettel, even as Hamilton was within three seconds behind the German. Vettel was the first among the frontrunners to pit on lap 17 as he put on the soft compound tyres, clearly committed to a two-stop strategy.

Bottas pitted on the next lap for the medium compound tyres. Hamilton stayed out until lap 21 and appeared to be on a one-stop strategy. Ricciardo was the last driver to pit on lap 30 for a set of soft compound tyres.

After the first set of pit stops, the order was Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Albon, Sainz, Gasly, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Pérez and Leclerc. Norris has fallen behind after an early pit stop after he suffered damage when Albon overtook him.

Vettel triggered the second set of pit stops on lap 32 for a set of medium compound tyres. Bottas stayed out for another four laps before pitting for the soft compound tyres and rejoined behind Hamilton. The disgruntled Hamilton was heard debating with the pit wall about his strategy before he pitted on lap 42 and rejoined in third position.

Hamilton then made a charge to catch Vettel in the last ten laps and close the gap of about ten seconds. Even as the Briton closed up within DRS-range with five laps to go, he could not overtake Vettel.

Bottas won his first race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April and the third win of the 2019 season. Vettel and Hamilton completed the podium places.

Albon finished in fourth position for the best finish of his Formula 1 career. Sainz with a fine drive clinched fifth position. Leclerc pitted late in a bid to snatch the point for the fastest lap and finished in sixth position.

Ricciardo with a long first stint clinched a creditable seventh position after he started from the back of the grid. Gasly finished in eighth position even as he tangled with Pérez on the final lap.

Pérez was classified in ninth position after the crash. Hulkenberg clinched the last point as he finished in tenth position to complete a double-points finish for the Renault team.

Mercedes with the win for Bottas and third-place finish for Hamilton secured their sixth straight constructors’ championship. When they clinch the drivers’ championship in the coming races it will be a record sixth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship for the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton has one-hand on the drivers’ championship with four races to go as he leads Bottas by sixth-four points. All the other drivers have been mathematically eliminated from the title race for the drivers’ championship.

Formula 1 now heads to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City for the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix (October 25 – 27 2019) in two weeks time. Join the CheckeredFlag for our extensive coverage of the race.

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2019 Japanese Grand Prix Race Results:

PosNoDriverCarLapsTime/RetiredPTS
177Valtteri BottasMercedes521:21:46.75525
25Sebastian VettelFerrari52+13.343s18
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes52+13.858s16
423Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda52+59.537s12
555Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault52+69.101s10
616Charles LeclercFerrari51+1 lap8
73Daniel RicciardoRenault51+1 lap6
810Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda51+1 lap4
911Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes51+1 lap2
1027Nico HulkenbergRenault51+1 lap1
1118Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes51+1 lap0
1226Daniil KvyatScuderia Toro Rosso Honda51+1 lap0
134Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault51+1 lap0
147Kimi R„ikk”nenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari51+1 lap0
158Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari51+1 lap0
1699Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari51+1 lap0
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari51+1 lap0
1863George RussellWilliams Mercedes50DNF0
1988Robert KubicaWilliams Mercedes50+2 laps0
NC33Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda14DNF0
* Provisional results

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