Mercedes-AMG's Valtteri Bottas cruised to victory on Sunday at the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix after a brilliant start that saw him leap from third on the grid to first place at the race's opening.
The win also means that Mercedes has scored the 2019 Constructors' Championship title, the sixth time in a row for the German team.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who started on pole, had to settle for second, with the German crossing the line 13 seconds behind the winner. In third was Mercedes' other driver, Lewis Hamilton, who was only a few tenths of a second behind Vettel at the finish line. The battle between the two world champions in the final laps was epic.
Vettel was joined by teammate Charles Leclerc at the front of the grid at the start of the race, though both struggled as the lights turned green. Vettel had a moment’s hesitation and was immediately passed by Bottas, while Leclerc got a slow start because of wheelspin.
2019 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix
Vettel managed to match Bottas’ pace and hold off Hamilton early on, but on lap 14 he began to lose ground to the leader. Two more laps and Ferrari called him in for his first stop. On the following lap, Bottas pitted and got out ahead of Vettel, while Hamilton waited until lap 21 for his stop, at which point Vettel moved back up to second.
The German came in for his second stop on lap 31. Five laps later, Bottas made his second stop, handing the lead to Hamilton who then pitted on lap 42, rejoining right behind Vettel who was in second in order to set up the epic fight to the finish line.
Meanwhile, Leclerc, after dropping as far back as 20th, managed to fight his way up to sixth at the flag but was demoted to seventh due to penalties. The Monegasque driver fought hard to block Aston Martin Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen from passing at the start of the race, with the two coming into contact through Turn 2. Leclerc was blamed by the stewards and handed a five-second penalty as well as two penalty points on his license for the incident. He was also handed a 10-second penalty for not returning to pits to have his car accessed by the race director, despite there being visible damage from the contact with Verstappen. Meanwhile, Verstappen retired on lap 14 due to the damage from the earlier incident.
Hamilton still leads the Drivers' Championship, with his tally coming in at 338 points. Bottas is second with 274 points and Leclerc is third with 221 points. With just three rounds to go this season, it means only Hamilton and Bottas remain in contention for the Drivers' Championship. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes has been declared the winner with 612 points. Ferrari is second with 433 points and Red Bull is third with 323 points. The next round takes places in Mexico in a fortnight.
2019 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix
Below are the full results from the 2019 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix:
1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG
2) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari +13.343 seconds
3) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG +13.858 seconds
4) Alexander Albon, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing +59.537 seconds
5) Carlos Sainz, McLaren +69.101 seconds
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
Ret) George Russell, Williams
Ret) Robert Kubica, Williams
Ret) Max Verstappen, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing