Japanese GP: Valtteri Bottas wins as Mercedes clinch F1 2019 constructors' title
Six constructors' crowns in a row for Mercedes with Bottas back to winning ways; Vettel just holds off Hamilton for second; Leclerc and Verstappen clash and Ferrari driver penalised
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 13/10/19 3:48pm
Valtteri Bottas ended his wait for another 2019 victory with an impressive drive as his win combined with Lewis Hamilton's third position at the Japanese GP clinched the Constructors' Championship for Mercedes.
Ferrari's front-row lockout, achieved four hours earlier on F1's Super Sunday at Suzuka after Typhoon Hagibis cancelled Saturday's programme, gave way to only second for Sebastian Vettel and seventh for a penalised Charles Leclerc, who collided with Max Verstappen on the first lap and was handed time penalties post race.
- Mercedes secure unique sixth F1 title double
- Full Japanese GP result
- Leclerc handed post-race penalties
Hamilton chased down Vettel for second in the closing laps but the Ferrari man stayed ahead. But second place was not enough to stop Mercedes equalling Ferrari's record of six successive constructors' crowns. With Hamilton and Bottas now the only drivers in contention for the drivers' title, Mercedes are also assured of a sixth successive title double - an F1 first.
Bottas takes nine points out of Hamilton's title lead - reducing his deficit to 64 points - but the Englishman will have a first mathematical chance to wrap up a sixth drivers' title at the Mexican GP on October 27.
Alex Albon was fourth for Red Bull after a combative drive, his career-best result, with Carlos Sainz fifth for McLaren after a stellar performance which dominated the midfield. Daniel Ricciardo recovered from a dismal Q1 exit earlier on Sunday to race from 16th to seventh place for Renault, which became sixth after Lecclers's penalty.
Despite crashing out on the final lap after a tangle with eighth-placed Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez was still classified ninth after a timing glitch meant the chequered flag signal was incorrectly shown one lap early - meaning the race result was declared on lap 52 instead of 53.
Japanese GP: Top 10
1. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
4. Alexander Albon, Red Bull
5. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
6. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
7. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso
9. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault
Mercedes turn the Sunday tables on Ferrari
For just the fifth time in F1 history, qualifying and the race formed an action-packed double header on the Sunday at a Grand Prix - and the contrasting results of the two sessions could not have been more marked.
Ferrari's front-row lockout - Vettel claiming an impressive pole ahead of Leclerc - had been relatively unexpected after Mercedes had finished first and second in the only track running to that point, on Friday.
But the Scuderia's race was quickly complicated by the starts of both their drivers.
Vettel's problems started early - literally - when his car rolled before the lights went out. Although an in-race investigation subsequently did not invoke a penalty, the issue cost the polesitter crucial momentum.
"It was my mistake," said Vettel, who was immediately overtaken by a fast-starting Bottas from third. "It was worse than a poor start, it was a really poor start."
At Turn Two, Leclerc was battling Red Bull's Max Verstappen but the two cars made contact and sent the Red Bull spinning off the circuit.
Although Verstappen initially battled on at the rear of the field after repairs, floor damage ultimately forced him to retire his Red Bull.
Leclerc initially continued until lap three - despite a broken front wing, which eventually broke completely - but then slipped down the field after being called into pits for Ferrari's own running repairs.
That promoted Hamilton into third - with the world champion then inheriting the lead when Vettel and race leader Bottas pitted in turn ahead of him.
But once back in third after he had stopped four laps after Bottas, Hamilton questioned his strategy over team radio having lost ground.
The Englishman briefly inherited the lead again at the second stops, but anyt hopes of retaining track position by one-stopping were ended when he also pitted for the second time on lap 42, falling back behind Bottas and Vettel. Although he caught the Ferrari up into the closing laps, Vettel kept his nerve and remained in between the two Mercedes'.
"Obviously when you come out and you're twice as far behind as you were before it's frustrating," he stated. "I can't see that and I'm not aware of that and then I come out and see that I've lost another 10 seconds.
"It's just like you could have told me if I was going to come out 10 seconds behind - it was 22 seconds behind Valtteri - and I would have said no I want to come in. There will be some discussions I'm sure."
Bottas claims a Suzuka first
Hamilton congratulated Bottas, who celebrated his third victory of the season but his first since the Azerbaijan GP in April. Incredibly, the Finn became the first driver to win at Suzuka from the grid's second row in 31 races.
"I knew anything was possible today and opportunities were there today and the first one was at the start," said Bottas. "I had a really nice start and obviously Sebastian had an issue, so managed to get in the lead and then the pace was super good. I could really control the race. I really enjoyed it and had fun, so very, very happy."
Japanese GP Race Result
|1. Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||52 laps|
|2. Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+13.343|
|3. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+13.858|
|4. Alexander Albon||Red Bull||+59.537|
|5. Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+69.101|
|6. Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+1 lap|
|7. Charles Leclerc*||Ferrari||+1 lap|
|8. Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|9. Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+1 lap|
|10. Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+1 lap|
|11. Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+1 lap|
|12. Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+1 lap|
|13. Lando Norris||McLaren||+1 lap|
|14. Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|15. Romain Grosjean||Haas||+1 lap|
|16. Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|17. Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1 lap|
|18. George Russell||Williams||DNF|
|19. Robert Kubica||Williams||+2 laps|
|Did Not Finish|
|20. Max Verstappen||Red Bull|