Mercedes have won yet another constructor’s title making it six-in-a-row, as Valtteri Bottas finished victorious at the Japanese Grand Prix.
It also means that it is now only mathematically possible for a Mercedes driver to win the driver’s title, therefore setting a new outright record for six consecutive double championships for the team – Lewis Hamilton leads Bottas by 64 points with 4 races remaining.
It was a slow start from pole sitter, Sebastian Vettel, prompting a surging Bottas to take the lead into turn one due to a tremendous start from the race winner.
Vettel was subsequently put under investigation for a jump start, but was deemed to have not gained an advantage by moving early thus ending the enquiry.
However Verstappen, too, got off the line quickly from P5 taking the outside line around turn one and two but ended up spinning out, due to a collision with Leclerc in turn two.
Just like his team-mate, Leclerc started slowly and was trying to fight back what he lost as he struggled with downforce. This resulted in the Monegasque colliding with the Red Bull and send Verstappen spinning, which also resulted in a damaged front wing on the Ferrari.
Leclerc pitted two laps later whilst Verstappen retired on lap 15 as a result of too much damaged being inflicted on the car from the incident – a decision is still being awaited upon as to if the Monegasque will receive a penalty from the collision.
But, it wasn’t an easy win for Bottas through a two-stop strategy, started by Vettel pitting first on lap 16.
Mercedes then reacted a lap later to pit Bottas as Hamilton stayed out until lap 21.
However, with 11 laps to go Hamilton looked in good position to take the race victory after just one pit at this point compared to two for Bottas and Vettel.
Yet Mercedes told the championship leader to pit and so he did.
The Briton came out in third and had ten laps to overtake Vettel on much quicker tyres than the Ferrari.
It only took three laps for Hamilton to catch up with his rival but the sheer power of the Ferrari on the home straight and back straight ensured Vettel could hold off the championship leader, despite the gap constantly under a second.
But, Hamilton took the fastest lap bonus point with a new track record, which gave Mercedes a 15 point gap over Ferrari in the race ultimately presenting them with the title win.
Another record set by this current Mercedes team, but will need to win the constructor’s title again next year to become the only team to have won seven consecutive championships.
They are currently tied with the Ferrari team of 1999–2004 for six consecutive but unlike Mercedes, the team in red never backed that up with six straight driver’s titles alongside.
What they said
Race winner, Valtteri Bottas: “I’m happy, very happy. Obviously, it was a close qualifying and starting third is not easy here but you don’t give up and anything is possible.
“I had a really nice start and Sebastian had an issue, so I got the lead and the pace was super good.
“We knew that one or two stop was both possible and there’s not a massive difference between it. I could control it and push where I wanted.”
“I’m really proud to be part of the team, sixth title in a row is so impressive and proud of every team member here at the race well done guys and girls” he said.
Second placed, Sebastian Vettel: “The lights were on a long time, so it was my mistake. I lost the momentum. It was a really poor start.
“Mercedes were quite fast in the race, Valtteri Bottas was flying at the end of the first stint, Lewis tried to do one stop and it didn’t work.
“I just tried to get good exits where he could be a threat, but a tough afternoon to maintain second.
“With the lack of pace, second is probably the maximum but I’m not happy with the very first start of the race. To get pole and second is a reasonable day” he said.
Third placed, Lewis Hamilton: “Firstly it’s congratulations to the team to win it six times in a row. I really just wanted to get the best points for the team today” he said.
Mercedes team principle, Toto Wolff: “It has never been done before and that’s why it feels great.
“It’s F1, it’s motor racing. Is it historic? I don’t know. There are more important things out there but for us it feels great” he said.
By Edward Hardy