Bottas triumphs in Japan as Mercedes win Constructors' title
Valtteri Bottas triumphed at Suzuka as both Ferraris suffered from a poor start in Japan and Mercedes won the constructors’ championship.
There was drama from the off, when Sebastian Vettel almost false-started, Max Verstappen was clipped off the road by Charles Leclerc at Turn 2 to send them both way down the pack, and Bottas swung into the lead.
Lewis Hamilton continued in third, with Vettel sandwiched between the Mercedes. Vettel was set for a two-stop race, while his rivals looked to push him with a one-stop approach.
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The reigning champion was again frustrated with his tires, criticising his team for failing to give him a set of hard tires after a set of mediums consigned him to a two-stop strategy. This exacerbated his earlier frustration after Leclerc’s debris had removed one of his wing mirrors.
Leclerc raced his way up the pack after his earlier collision, but it was expected that he would face censure for his part in the earlier coming together; nevertheless, it was an impressive recovery. Verstappen was later forced to retire and criticised what he perceived as favourable treatment of the Ferraris, neither of whom were sanctioned.
With a third of the race remaining, Bottas pitted to give Hamilton the lead - meaning the two were in a straight battle for victory until Hamilton pitted with 10 laps remaining. While Bottas ran out a comfortable victor, Hamilton failed in a late, sustained attack on Vettel’s second position, but his fastest lap bonus enured his side claimed the championship.
The Ferraris' failure also means that Mercedes will win a sixth consecutive double championship when one of Hamilton or Bottas are crowned champion.
DRIVER OF THE DAY - Valtteri Bottas
Charles Leclerc had perhaps the most impressive drive of the day as he recovered strongly following his collision with Max Verstappen, but the Monegasque driver could and probably should face punishment for hitting his Red Bull rival and ending his race.
TALKING POINT - Ferrari are their own worst enemy
Starting with Vettel on pole, the Ferraris were again victims of their own faults. They have greater straight-line speed than their rivals, but their inability to race without a blemish is holding them back as both Bottas and Hamilton treat perfection as a minimum requirement.
1/53 - Bottas takes the lead! Vertsappen spins out as he attacks the Ferraris, clipping Leclerc - who now has wing damage. Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton then Sainz.
3/53 - Hamilton is complaining that Leclerc's attempt at littering should be given a warning. It seems that the damage has been ground off, but that seems a very stupid way of racing, and not a fair one either. Hamilton has lost a wing mirror because of it.
23/53 - Hamilton may have to pit again, and he is frustrated that he'll be on a two-stop strategy now. He'll have to nurse his tires if he wants to stay out on a one-stop strategy.
24/53 - Hamilton is sounding off to his team now, complaining he's out of the race, and asking them why he wasn't given a set of hard tires in order to stay out.
34/53 - There is now some talk that Leclerc will face a penalty after the race for getting tangled up with Verstappen in the first lap.
53/53 - VALTTERI BOTTAS WINS! MERCEDES WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. Hamilton's fastest lap gives him a bonus point which wins it for the team. And the failure of the Ferraris means that one of Bottas or Hamilton is guaranteed to win the championship. A double triumph for Mercedes who will win a six consecutive double championship.