Valtteri Bottas’ victory on the Suzuka racetrack at noon on October 13 helped Mercedes win the race team category for the sixth year in a row.
Bottas finished first with a record of 1 hour 21 minutes 46 seconds, though coming after the Ferrari duo. The Finnish driver had an excellent race by taking advantage of Sebastian Vettel’s mistake at the start. Vettel came in second, 13.3 seconds behind Bottas. The Ferrari driver was under intense pressure from Lewis Hamilton – who finished third with only 0.5 seconds worse performance, in the last six rounds.
All the most important events of the Japanese GP stage are encapsulated in the first round. In addition to Bottas taking the lead, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc collided, causing Red Bull riders to fall to T18 and then give up. The Leclerc car broke its front spoiler and had to enter the pit in round 4. The Monaco driver continued to race and finished sixth.
This collision was initially ignored by the referees. However, Verstappen complained that the fault belongs to Leclerc. After the race, the referees vowed to investigate further. If found guilty, Leclerc will be punished. Verstappen’s departure gave Honda – Red Bull’s engine supplier – a sad race at home, though Alexander Albon finished fourth.
The organizers announced that the result of the last lap was not counted due to the black and white checkered flag. This makes a rare occurrence. Sergio Perez’s car lost control and crashed into the barrier in the final round, but the Racing Point team driver was still counted as ninth because the result counted in 52 laps. Nico Hulkenberg fell to 10th and Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll lost points by dropping to 11.
Bottas’ victory means that Mercedes has won the F1 title for the sixth consecutive year. The German racing team was more or less struggling after the summer break, when Ferrari rode up. However, Mercedes won the last two races. One of their two drivers will be crowned in the individual race, and that person is most likely Hamilton, because he is leading teammate Bottas 64 points when the season is 4 stages.
Because of the storm hitting Japan on October 12, the organizers canceled the third test run (FP3). Therefore, the drivers spent 36 hours without sitting in the cars when they entered the qualifying round at 10am 13/1 (Tokyo time). Ferrari showed that they were well prepared for Sunday when they suddenly took the two starting positions. Vettel overcame Leclerc to win the pole.
When the convoy came into the starting position, Vettel’s SF90 showed signs of inching up before the signal light had gone out. The German racer stalled a bit and Bottas took the opportunity to steer out into the lane to get ahead. Verstappen also started well and surpassed Hamilton. The Red Bull rider then tries to outdo Leclerc, but the collision causes his efforts to go away. The referee did not penalize Vettel for an error that occurred after reviewing the video, deciding that the Ferrari driver’s car was still moving at an acceptable distance.
Taking advantage of the lead, Bottas comfortably increased the distance with Vettel through each round. Realizing that the tire was more worn out than expected, Ferrari called Vettel to return to the pit in the 17th round to replace him with the soft tire, hoping to increase the pressure on the opponent. With this return pit, Ferrari certainly used the double pit tactic for Vettel.
Mercedes may only need a single visit to the pit thanks to the tire holding capacity of the W10. But like Ferrari, they noticed that the tires were worn out quickly, and also called Bottas to the pit in the 18th round. Mercedes didn’t want to risk a race and their chances of winning were higher. The fact that Vettel was sandwiched between two Mercedes drivers also made the German team more confident when calling Bottas to the pit early.