Valtteri Bottas is celebrating his third race win of the season with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix, which also helped Mercedes secure the constructors’ championship for 2019.
The Finn was joined on the podium by Sebastian Vettel, with Bottas’s teammate Lewis Hamilton completing the top three.
Bottas made the best start, moving ahead of both Ferraris to lead at the first corner, with Max Verstappen attempting to follow the Finn from fifth, but Charles Leclerc defended the position, moving across onto the racing line to push the Red Bull driver into the gravel.
The Monegasque driver was left with front wing damage, but continued for a couple of laps, depositing fragments of carbon fibre on the track, as well as into the path of Lewis Hamilton, resulting in the Mercedes driver losing a wing mirror.
Leclerc eventually pitted for a new front wing, dropping him down the order and leaving him battling with Verstappen towards the back of the field. Verstappen became the first retirement 15 laps due to the damage sustained in his first-lap incident with the Ferrari driver.
Alexander Albon also lost a couple of places at the start, falling behind the McLarens, but he was soon hassling Lando Norris. The two banged wheels both looking for the inside line, resulting in the McLaren driver going through the runoff area.
There was concern Vettel would get a penalty as replays showed his Ferrari moved before the lights had gone out at the start of the race, but the stewards chose not to take action as the German managed to get the car stopped before leaving his grid box.
When the leaders started to make their pitstops, Ferrari switched Vettel from softs to a new set of softs, committing him to a two-stop strategy, while Mercedes appeared to be working on a one-stop.
Bottas and Vettel did make second stops later in the race, while Hamilton attempted to hold on to track position without a second trip through the pitlane. The reigning champion sat 9.5 seconds ahead of his teammate when the Finn switched to newer tyres, with 16 laps to keep Bottas behind.
With Bottas starting to cut Hamilton’s lead, Mercedes called the Briton into the pitlane, with him rejoining the track five seconds adrift of Vettel.
Hamilton looked for the overtake, but Vettel defended well to ensure he remained ahead, although Hamilton did set the fastest lap in the process, ensuring the Silver Arrows are crowned constructors’ champions for a sixth straight year.
Leclerc made a late pitstop in a bid to take the fastest lap away from Hamilton, but Sergio Perez tangled with Pierre Gasly, leaving the Racing Point in the gravel on the final lap and bringing out a yellow flag, preventing the Ferrari man from pushing as hard as possible.
1 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
4. Alexander Albon (Red Bull)
5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
8. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Reault)
11. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
12. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
13. Lando Norris (McLaren)
14. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo
15. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
16. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
17. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
18. George Russell (Williams)
19. Robert Kubica (Williams)
Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
*Perez crashed before the end of the race but was classified 9th having completed more laps those finishing 10th and lower.
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