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Bottas wins the Japanese GP: How the race unfolded

Bottas wins the Japanese GP: How the race unfolded



Bottas wins the Japanese GP: How the race unfolded

Bottas wins the Japanese GP: How the race unfolded

Valtteri Bottas secured his third race win of 2019 and first since Baku with an utterly dominant performance at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Bottas had started third in Suzuka, ahead of Mercedes team-mate, but behind the pole-sitting Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc.

However, Bottas was in the lead by the esses on lap one and never let up from there, with Hamilton and Vettel unable to match him at all.

Hamilton followed Bottas home in second to secure Mercedes' sixth constructors' championship, while the drivers' title is also destined for Brackley, with a record-breaking sixth double secured.

Ferrari's ruinous race-start

Vettel released the clutch too early, lurching in his box and then bogging down when the lights went out. Bottas meanwhile made a lightning start and zoomed into a clear lead. Behind them, Leclerc and Verstappen collided in the esses, sending both tumbling down the order and precipitating the Dutchman's retirement after just 15 laps.

Bottas drops Vettel

The Finn was dominant in clear air and opened up a dominant lead over Vettel, who was also able to keep Hamilton behind him. Meanwhile Leclerc set about cutting through the field, including a magnificent overtake on Verstappen, as well as some smart moves through Spoon – scene of Vettel's costly collision with the Dutchman 12 months ago.

Hamilton hammers Mercedes over strategy

After a first round of pitstops that saw two-stop plans set for Bottas and Vettel, Hamilton was in the lead, but far from impressed with his strategy. After being told a one-stop strategy would be difficult to execute, he asked why he had not been fitted with hard tyres and lamented: "So I'm out the race now."

Bottas wary of Hamilton, but strategy switches

Informed that Hamilton would be stopping again, Bottas said "are you sure?" likely with the team orders controversy at Ferrari fresh in his mind, as well as Hamilton taking strategy into his own hands at Silverstone earlier in the year. However, Hamilton follows Mercedes' orders into the pits and emerges third, looking to eat up the gap to Vettel, doing so by setting fastest lap.

Hamilton stuck, but titles secured

Hamilton crawls over the back of Vettel's gearbox but it is not enough as the SF90 is just too quick coming off the last corner. Mercedes are celebrating nevertheless, as Leclerc is unable to set the fastest lap despite a late stop, keeping it in Hamilton's possession and ensuring both championships will remain in Mercedes' hands in 2019, with celebrations all-round after a glorious drive from Bottas.

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