Mercedes clinch sixth successive F1 constructors’ title after Bottas victory in Japan

Mercedes clinched a sixth successive constructors’ title after Valtteri Bottas led home Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to win a tactical Japanese Grand Prix.

After Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen tangled at the start into Turn 2, it meant that first and third was enough for Mercedes to seal yet another title, with Hamilton and Bottas the only drivers who can now take the drivers’ crown.

“I’m very happy,” said Bottas afterward. “Obviously it was a pretty close qualifying and starting third here is never easy. But there’s no point giving up on anything and I knew opportunities were there today and I had a really nice start and Sebastian had an issue and I managed to get into the lead and then the pace was super good. I could really control the race and I really enjoyed it, had fun, so I’m very happy.”

After qualifying was postponed to Sunday morning due to Typhoon Hagibis, Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid ahead of the Silver Arrows, with Vettel and Bottas bettering their teammates.

But it all went wrong for Ferrari at the start, Bottas catapulting past Vettel as Verstappen and Leclerc collided into Turn 2, the Red Bull slithering off into the grass before re-joining at the rear of the field and Leclerc having to pit after suffering damage to his front wing.

Unfortunately for Verstappen, the damage was terminal, leading to his retirement on lap 15 with Leclerc left to fight his way back through the field and being handed a time penalty for his part in the incident.

With Vettel staying ahead of Hamilton, the race was always going to come down to the vital pit stops, but on different strategies.

Ferrari was first to roll the dice, pitting Vettel for another set of soft tyres on lap 16, which meant a two-stop strategy – Bottas stopping a lap later for a set of mediums to take him deeper into the race.

Hamilton also pitted for the medium compound on lap 22 and re-joined third, albeit slightly non-plussed at losing so much time and querying why he didn’t have the harder compound tyres.

Vettel’s second stop, on lap 32, put him out behind the reigning champion. And when Bottas emerged behind Hamilton after his final stop on lap 37, it appeared be a straight fight to the chequered flag with the Mercedes drivers on different strategies.

But despite Hamilton’s medium tyres seemingly able to last to the end of the race, Mercedes called him in for a fresh set of soft tyres with ten laps remaining.

It made for a dramatic finish, the Englishman closing on second placed Vettel and swarming all over the back of the Ferrari with two laps remaining. And although Vettel was able to hold off Hamilton’s charge, it wasn’t enough to deny Mercedes yet another title.

It means that Mercedes will win an unprecedented sixth successive constructor and driver double, with Bottas the only man who can deny Hamilton a sixth drivers’ title.

“Firstly congratulations to the team,” reflected Hamilton. “So well deserved to win it six years in a row, the constructors’ championship, so that’s the main point. I really wanted to just get the best points for the team today.”

After the early retirement of his teammate, Alexander Albon drove a sterling race to finish fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Leclerc after his time penalty. Sergio Perez’s late contact with Pierre Gasly meant the Toro Rosso finished in eighth ahead of the Racing Point and Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.