Bottas victorious at Suzuka as Mercedes secures constructors’ title

Valtteri Bottas took his first Formula 1 win since Baku to help Mercedes clinch a sixth consecutive constructors’ championship as a jump start and first-corner clash from Ferrari ended the chance of a strong result at Suzuka.

Bottas launched from third to first on the run to the first corner, passing both Ferraris as Leclerc got away slowly while poleman Vettel lost momentum by moving slightly before the five red lights went out.

That put Bottas into a lead, while Vettel avoided a jump-start penalty – despite television replays clearly showing he moved before the red lights went out – to finish in second position but could not stop Mercedes taking the teams’ title.

After Vettel immediately dropped to second, Leclerc’s race was massively compromised moments later at the first corner.

Max Verstappen swept around the outside of Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc after a superior start in his Red Bull, but Leclerc then ran deep into Turn 2 as the corner tightened.

He went wide and made contact with Verstappen, throwing the Red Bull driver off-track and breaking his own front wing.

Leclerc continued for two laps in third position, irritating Hamilton as the Ferrari’s damaged wing showered the chasing Mercedes with sparks and then debris – which broke Hamilton’s right-side wing mirror.

On lap three, Leclerc pit, dropping to the back of the field and behind Verstappen, as race control communicated their first-lap incident would be investigated after all, having initially said it was not necessary.

As Leclerc charged back to sixth, Verstappen struggled with an oddly-handling, damaged car and retired on lap 15, with the clash investigation moving to after the race.

Vettel’s fortune with the race officials allowed him to stay in the lead fight and hold up Hamilton, allowing Bottas to take control and he stretched his lead.

Ferrari moved first in the strategy fight, pitting Vettel on lap 16 with Bottas following suit one lap later and Hamilton stopping on lap 18.

In that time, Bottas’s advantage over Vettel rose while Hamilton fell more than 20 seconds adrift, a move that left him feeling frustrated over the radio.

All three committed to a two-stop strategy, but used it differently: Vettel pit on lap 31 of 53 and ditched his softs for mediums, while the Mercedes ran longer and opted for softs.

Bottas stopped on lap 36, at which point he was 14 seconds clear of Hamilton, and Hamilton ran an extra seven laps before making his final visit to the pits.

That left Bottas leading Vettel by under 10 seconds, with Hamilton within five seconds behind the Ferrari and armed with fresher, softer tyres.

With five laps to go Hamilton moved into DRS range and had half a look into Turn 2 but Vettel didn’t budge and Hamilton ran slightly wide.

Hamilton had a better chance with three laps to go when Vettel got stuck at the final chicane trying to lap a Toro Rosso, backing Vettel into Hamilton and giving Hamilton a great run.

However, Hamilton closed too late on the straight to attack, and Vettel retained the place to the end.

Bottas’s win, his first since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, reduced Hamilton’s championship lead to 66 points with 104 still on offer.

Alex Albon scored his best Formula 1 result with fourth position for Red Bull, despite falling behind both McLarens at the start.

He made one of those places back early on with a lunge on Lando Norris that resulted in wheel-to-wheel contact into the final chicane.

Albon got ahead of Carlos Sainz by stopping twice as Sainz implemented a one-stop strategy to finish a fine fifth.

McLaren should have had a double points finish but, after being hit by Albon, Norris had to make an early pitstop because debris from Leclerc’s broken wing got caught in his brake ducts. He eventually finished P13.

Daniel Ricciardo charged to seventh position, executing a very long first stint on medium tyres then switching to softs at the end and picking off several cars with just a few laps remaining

He passed teammate Nico Hulkenberg for ninth and promised his Renault team “I’ll get them” as he pursued Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly, who he then picked off on successive laps.

Stroll faded from the top ten late on, with Hulkenberg nicking ninth and Sergio Perez set to steal the final point from Racing Point teammate Stroll on his penultimate lap.

However, having also passed Hulkenberg, Perez crashed out on the final lap after contact with Gasly, promoting Stroll to P10.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning the Japanese Grand Prix. His first since Baku earlier this season. As for Mercedes, an incredible achievement in winning the constructors’ title for the sixth successive time. All that hard work has paid off with this fine result as champions.

Japanese Grand Prix race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes  1:21:46.755
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +13.343s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +13.858s
4 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda +59.537s
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault +69.101s
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +1 lap
8 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1 lap
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda +1 lap
12 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault +1 lap
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
14 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes +1 lap
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
19 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda DNF

7 thoughts to “Bottas victorious at Suzuka as Mercedes secures constructors’ title”

  1. Japanese Grand Prix race review as reported by

    A searing start from Valtteri Bottas from third on the grid was the key to the Finn taking victory at the Japanese Grand Prix – his first win since Azerbaijan in April – as Mercedes were crowned constructors’ champions for a record-matching sixth time, Bottas finishing ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.

    Bottas jumped polesitter Vettel off the start to lead the German into Turn 1 at Suzuka, before going on to control the race at the front, managing a two-stop strategy to perfection to bring home the sixth victory of his career.

    Behind, a titanic battle between Hamilton and Vettel for second place in the final laps of the race saw Vettel eventually hold off his rival, crossing the line just 0.4 seconds ahead.

    A first lap coming together between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen saw Verstappen suffer race-ending damage, the Dutchman eventually pulling out of the Grand Prix on Lap 14, while a fine recovery drive from Leclerc saw the Monegasque finish sixth – although a post-race penalty for the Verstappen clash and for driving with a damaged front wing afterwards would eventually drop him to seventh.

    The sole remaining Red Bull of Alex Albon came home P4, while a brilliant race from Carlos Sainz saw the McLaren driver finish fifth.

    Daniel Ricciardo may have been despondent this morning after qualifying a lowly P16. But the canny Australian had converted that to seventh by the race end,, which became sixth after Leclerc’s penalty. He was thus classified ahead of Leclerc, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, the Racing Point of Sergio Perez – who ended his race in the barriers but was still classified P9 – and the second Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.

    Meanwhile, as Mercedes secured their sixth straight constructors’ championship – matching Ferrari’s record from 1999-2004 – it also became a mathematical certainty that one of either Bottas or Hamilton will be crowned drivers’ champions this season, ensuring the teams’ sixth straight double championship, a new record.

    Vettel made by far the quickest start of any driver on the grid. Unfortunately for him, he made it while the lights were still on – and as he stuttered forward, stopped and then launched proper when the lights did finally go out, his loss of momentum allowed Valtteri Bottas to sweep past both him and Leclerc to take the lead into Turn 1.

    Verstappen made a fine start too, and slipped ahead of Leclerc into Turn 2. But the Monegasque couldn’t slow his car down enough, tagging the Red Bull as it went around the outside of him and sending it sliding onto the grass, as Leclerc suffered front wing endplate damage. The stewards took note of the incident, deciding to take a closer look after the race, while Verstappen would ultimately pull out of the race on Lap 15, as Red Bull judged his car to be too badly damaged. And just like that, Honda’s best hope of taking a Suzuka victory was gone.

    At the front, Bottas led from Vettel – the Ferrari driver judged not to have jumped the start after an investigation by the stewards – Leclerc, Hamilton, with Carlos Sainz in fifth and Lando Norris sixth, both having enjoyed a great start to jump Alexander Albon’s Red Bull. Leclerc eventually pitted for the damage on Lap 4, getting a new front wing and medium tyres, and emerging last, his hopes for a third victory in five races in tatters.

    Lap 4 saw good mates Alex Albon and Lando Norris looking decidedly un-matey, as Albon launched a Senna-esque lunge into the Casino Triangle chicane, bumping the McLaren off track and forcing him to pit early – yet another job for the stewards, who ruled no further action was necessary.

    Meanwhile, early midfield movers in the race were the two Renaults and two Racing Points, with Lance Stroll P7, Nico Hulkenberg P8, Sergio Perez P9 and Daniel Ricciardo P10 by Lap 8 of the race.

    Bottas was controlling the pace at the front, opening up a decent gap over Vettel as those two and Hamilton lapped clear at the head of the field, Sainz kept things steady in a respectable fourth, managing to keep Albon at bay.

    Vettel was the first of the lead drivers to pit on Lap 16, his new softs indicating that he was set for at least a two-stopper, having already started on the red-walled rubber. Bottas then pitted a lap later for mediums, with Hamilton brought in on Lap 21 for his own mediums – Mercedes informing Bottas that he was due to stop again, but that they wanted Hamilton to attempt a one-stopper.

    For his part, Hamilton was apoplectic, as he emerged from the pits almost a pit stop’s worth of time down on team mate Bottas. “Why didn’t you give me hard tyres?!” he asked his race engineer Pete Bonnington. “I’m out of the race.”

    Mercedes eventually decided to ape Bottas and Vettel and switch Hamilton onto a two-stopper, bringing him in for used softs on Lap 42 – Vettel having made his second stop on Lap 31, Bottas on Lap 36. And while Bottas was away up at the front, it set up a thrilling final 10 laps as Hamilton on used softs went after Vettel on new mediums for second place.

    Hamilton was driving at his scintillating best, his frustration pouring out onto the racetrack as he hunted down the German. But ultimately, he would come up four-tenths short at the line, Vettel just holding on to salvage second place after his brilliant pole position earlier in the day.

    Behind, Alex Albon earned the best finish of his career to date, coming home fourth at Red Bull power unit supplier Honda’s home track, with Sainz just under eight seconds behind, the pair finishing ahead of Leclerc, who stopped late in an ultimately futile attempt to wrench the fastest lap point off Hamilton.

    Leclerc would eventually be handed both a five and a 10-second penalty after the race, however, the former for his part in the Verstappen incident, and the latter for continuing to circulate with a badly damaged front wing. Those penalties would see him fall from sixth to seventh.

    Ricciardo would have been delighted to lead a double score for Renault, as Leclerc’s penalty promoted him to P6, while team mate Hulkenberg was classified in P10. Behind Leclerc in seventh, Pierre Gasly survived late contact with Sergio Perez to claim an excellent P8, with Perez eventually classified P9.

    But the spoils of the day went to Bottas, as he closed out win number six of his career, and a badly needed one, too, given that his last victory had come at Baku in April. The Finn, the first driver to ever win from the second row in Suzuka, duly earned the Driver of the Day award for his troubles, while with Mercedes outscoring Ferrari by 17 points, they earned their sixth straight constructors’ title.

  2. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel escaped a penalty for a possible jump start in the Japanese Grand Prix because his pre-start movement was “within acceptable tolerance”, the FIA has explained.

    Vettel’s car, which had lined up on pole for the Suzuka Formula 1 race, had twitched forward before the start lights were out, which meant he was placed under investigation soon after.

    But while Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen had got a penalty in similar circumstances in Russia, Vettel – who seemingly avoided leaving his grid slot and got the car stopped again in time for the official race start – was cleared of wrongdoing after deliberation by the FIA stewards.

    A decision document released in the aftermath read: “The Stewards reviewed video evidence and the jump-start report based on the information from the FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car.

    “While the video shows some movement [from Vettel’s car] that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system.”

    Although he’d avoided a penalty, the stop-start nature of Vettel’s getaway compromised him on the run down to Turn as he was overtaken by the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who would go on to win the race.

    The Ferrari driver, who finished second after holding off the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton at the death, owned up to having made an error off the line after the race.

    “The lights were on a long time but [it was] my mistake, so lost the momentum there,” Vettel said. “I ended up worse [off] than just having a poor start, It was a really poor start.”

    “And then it was difficult because Mercedes was quite quick in the race, the back end of stint they had more pace than us.”

    Asked if he could’ve won if he made the start mistake, Vettel said: “I don’t know because that way they [Mercedes] can play a lot more the tactics.

    “With the lack of pace today, second was the maximum – but sure I am not happy with the very first start of the race.”


  3. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen hits out at “irresponsible” Charles Leclerc following contact on the opening lap. has the news story.

    Max Verstappen has labelled Charles Leclerc’s driving in the Japanese Grand Prix as “irresponsible”, saying that “doesn’t understand” the decision not to penalise the Ferrari driver.

    Leclerc had started the race from second on the grid but got a poor getaway, while Verstappen was able to sweep his Red Bull past the fourth-starting Lewis Hamilton to gain an advantage heading into Turn 2.

    But the Ferrari driver ran deep into the corner before going wide, then colliding with Verstappen and forcing him off the track.

    The stewards initially deemed the collision a racing incident that did not require an investigation, before reopening the case some laps later to be looked into after the race.

    Verstappen ultimately retired his Red Bull on lap 15.

    “At T2, Charles just drove into the side of my car,” said Verstappen in a post-race interview to Sky.

    “From my side I don’t think I could have done anything different there. We all know that you lose downforce behind a car so that is not an excuse, he’s experienced enough to know that.

    “For me, the weird thing is that initially they don’t investigate it – the whole car was destroyed, there were just holes in the side of the car.

    “Now they’ve started to investigate it but it’s after the race, what more should he do to get a penalty? I like hard racing but this wasn’t hard racing, just irresponsible driving.

    “They had a bad start so he was trying to recover but there’s only so much you can do in a very long race. It’s a shame that it happened.”

    Leclerc did not attribute blame to Verstappen for the incident after the race and said it was a “tricky situation” that he would need to see a replay of.

    “Obviously I understeered being behind Seb and Lewis, and then we touched, I don’t know what happened from the full situation from the outside, and this I need to look at,” said Leclerc.

    “From the car it was just a tricky situation.”

    Sebastian Vettel was also briefly under investigation for a jumped start, but ultimately escaped a penalty – with Verstappen unhappy with the inconsistency from the FIA.

    “Also, just watching the footage back from Seb’s start, he moves, he stops – the rules say you cannot move,” said Verstappen.

    “It’s fine because he didn’t gain an advantage there, I really don’t understand what’s going on today with the rules.”

  4. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has been handed two time penalties for his incidents during the Japanese Grand Prix.

    Leclerc broke the left front endplate of his car in a second-corner clash with Max Verstappen at Suzuka, and the part dragged along the ground for much of the opening lap.

    F1 race director Michael Masi had safety concerns about the part breaking off and, during communication with the team, he was advised that Leclerc would be pitted at the end of the second lap.

    But, with Leclerc not losing much time initially, Ferrari kept him out – with the part then breaking off on the second lap.

    The flying parts struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, ripping off his right-hand side mirror, and pieces also ended up in the front brake duct of Lando Norris.

    Leclerc has received a 15-second time penalty, five seconds for his initial collision with Verstappen and 10 for Ferrari leaving him out with a damaged car.

    The penalty drops Leclerc from sixth to seventh, behind Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

    The stewards explained that “by not bringing car 16 into the pits at the end of lap 1, immediately after the incident for a safety inspection when there was damage clearly visible and then by telling the driver to remain out for an additional lap after telling the Race Director otherwise, the team created an unsafe condition on the circuit which only narrowly avoided being a major incident and also increased the likelihood of additional incidents after the one noted.”

    Asked by about the Leclerc situation, Masi said: “I was originally advised that they would be pitting the car. They then chose not to and subsequently Ferrari was instructed by me to pit Charles’ car, which it did.

    “On the second lap, the elements came off and they were still instructed to pit because we could not confirm if there was going to be anything else that was going to come off.”

    Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitted he knew Leclerc would need to stop to change the wing.

    However, as well as the stewards’ claim that Ferrari was appeased when it saw part of the wing detach, Binotto suggested that the delay in pitting was also a response to Leclerc’s pace.

    He said that the team was willing to pit as soon as the FIA demanded it.

    “What happened is we got the damage and Charles is the one who is driving and can feel the car, and how it behaves,” he said. “From outside we saw the wing was broken so it would have needed to be changed at some stage.

    “He still had the right pace, stayed out, but then the FIA asked us to come in for safety reasons and we immediately accepted the decision.

    “The stewards realised maybe we should have come in earlier and we have been penalised for that as well.”

    Pushed further on whether or not he was slightly annoyed Ferrari did not pit when he expected them to, Masi said: “More than ‘slightly annoyed’ from a safety perspective.”

    McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said he was upset about what Ferrari had done, especially because the broken front wing parts cost Norris the chances of a good points-scoring finish.

    “We obviously strongly disagree with competitors leaving cars out on track with entire front wing endplates hanging down, putting everyone at risk,” he said.

    “Unfortunately when this endplate then exploded, we were catching in our front right brake duct debris, from Ferrari. Brake temperature went through the roof so we had to box him to clean it. And then the race was over.”


  5. The Japanese Grand Prix race results altered after the event was declared early by a lap. has the full details.

    The FIA has launched an investigation into why the chequered flag light display panel was shown a lap too soon at Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix, which meant the race was declared a lap earlier than originally intended.

    The Suzuka race was supposed to run to 53 laps, but it is understood the chequered light was displayed on lap 52.

    With F1’s regulations being strict that the race is declared as soon as the chequered flag is shown, it means the final result has to be taken at the completion of lap 52 rather than 53.

    Article 43.2 of F1’s sporting regulations states: “Should for any reason the end‐of‐race signal be given before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps, or the prescribed time has been completed, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the Line before the signal was given.”

    This does not change the results of the leading cars, but it means some shuffling further down the order.

    It is good news for Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who will now be credited with a ninth-place finish. The Mexican had got involved in a tangle with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly on what should have been the final lap and ended up in the barrier.

    Nico Hulkenberg gets moved down to 10th place, with Lance Stroll dropping from 10th to 11th.

    The FIA is uncertain about why the chequered light panel got illuminated too early, and is currently looking into the details.

    It is not the first time in F1 history that the race has been officially declared prematurely, with model Winnie Harlow famously waving the flag two laps early at the 2018 Canadian Grand Prix.

  6. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen admitted he lost 25% of downforce following the Charles Leclerc clash on the opening lap. has the news story.

    Max Verstappen retired from the Japanese Grand Prix because his first-lap clash with Charles Leclerc cost him almost 25% downforce on his Red Bull Formula 1 car.

    Verstappen had passed Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton on the run to the first corner and kept to the outside as the track tightened into Turn 2, but Leclerc ran wide and his Ferrari clattered into the Red Bull.

    Verstappen was shoved onto the grass and had a half-spin before rejoining in 18th, but retired on lap 15 after making little progress.

    “It was a huge amount of damage to the floor,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “He lost almost 20-25% of the downforce of the car.

    “There was no point running around just putting mileage on components so we retired the car to save the mileage.”

    Leclerc was running ahead of Verstappen when the young Dutchman retired and went on to finish sixth, but dropped to seventh after post-race penalties.

    Both of those were related to the Verstappen incident, the first a five-second drop for the clash and then 10 seconds for Ferrari not pitting him when he had a damaged front wing.

    The Leclerc/Verstappen clash was not even investigated initially by race control, but the FIA quickly changed its mind.

    “I think it was right they have a proper look at it,” said Horner. “In that incident there was enough space to be left. And Max was clearly ahead.”

    The FIA takes a more lenient view on first-lap collisions and embraced a common-sense approach.

    It has also tried to reduce the number penalties handed out for racing incidents in general. They’re trying to let them race but sometimes things get a little too far,” said Horner.

    “It was a shame because essentially it took both of them out of the race. And it would have been good to see both of those guys fighting them out at the front.”

  7. Super Sunday in Suzuka was especially super for McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, as he converted seventh place on the grid on Sunday morning into his third P5 race finish of the year, over 30 seconds clear of his nearest ‘midfield’ rival, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

    Sainz’s initial getaway off the line was actually bettered by team mate Lando Norris, starting in P8, as both McLarens surged past the Red Bull of Alex Albon. But with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc tangling into Turn 2, Sainz was able to avoid the carnage and jump up to fifth by the time he got to Dunlop corner.

    Although Albon would later make it back past the McLaren driver to take fourth place, Sainz showed impressive pace in the final portion of the race, eking out the medium tyres that he switched onto on Lap 26 to come home fifth, ahead of the recovering Leclerc, who was eventually demoted to seventh following a post-race penalty.

    “Honestly it’s been a perfect day,” said a delighted Sainz after the race. “Qualifying lap was clean, the start was clean and then the race, I managed to extend the first stint a lot, and that gave me opportunities to be strong at the end of the race with the medium tyre.

    “When Albon and Leclerc pitted, one in front and one behind me, to manage to hold to their pace was probably the nicest surprise of the year, nicest surprise for the team, to manage to have that space, and to manage to match the pace of Leclerc and Albon for those laps was very special.”

    While Sainz had managed to neatly dodge Leclerc and Verstappen’s collision at the race start, Norris was forced to get on the anchors to avoid it, before picking up some debris that blocked a brake duct and forced an early pit stop, meaning he only had the pace to recover to P13 by the race end.

    “We had to box really early on,” said Norris. “I didn’t have a big enough delta to catch everyone back, make some moves and make the most of a different strategy. It was too early on. It was just in no-man’s land, pretty much, so I did my best to come back through, but it wasn’t enough.”

    Sainz’s 10 points for finishing fifth – as Daniel Ricciardo was classified sixth following Leclerc’s penalty, and Nico Hulkenberg 10th, meaning a combined score of nine for the Renault pair – meant that McLaren stretched their lead in fourth place in the constructors’ championship to 36 points, with just four races left to run this year.


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