A searing start from Valtteri Bottas from third on the grid was the key to the Finn taking victory at the Japanese Grand Prix 2019 – 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.
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Bottas jumped polesitter Vettel off the start to lead the German into Turn 1 at Suzuka before controlling 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 race’s final laps 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 would be crowned drivers’ champions this season, ensuring the teams’ sixth straight double championship, a new record.