Valtteri Bottas claims the win at Suzuka for the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, making the smart move right in the first metres of the race: another thunder reaction by the Mercedes driver at the ‘lights out’ moment.
A well-deserved sun and mild temperature awaited the start of the race. All the cars on the Soft compound apart from Alfa Romeo cars, Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen on Medium type; Robert Kubica, moreover started from the pitlane.
Poor start from Vettel: Bottas went for the lead followed by the German; but at Turn 1 contact between Leclerc and Max Verstappen: front wing damage for the Ferrari driver while the Dutch was hold back in 18th place. Charles refused to followed team instructions for pitting and change the wing: ‘Why we cannot continue a bit more?!’: #16 finally pitted at lap 4 changing with a Medium compound. On the following laps #33 was complaining about movements on the front under braking: retirement was decided on lap 15.
Bottas started to build a gap ahead of Sebastian Vettel with a 2 seconds margin: the fastest driver on track remains the Ferrari of Leclerc.
Lando Norris pitted at lap 5 for a fresh set of Medium: clash with Alex Albon for 5th place was made at the Triangle chicane, with the McLaren driver cutting the run off area.
Another good performance from Sainz, ‘first of the others’ of the day in 4th place behind Hamilton.
Two separate investigations for the Cavallino drivers: Charles Leclerc for the tangle with Verstappen at the start and Sebastian Vettel for false start; no further action was set at the expenses of the German, while for the immediate clash the decision was coming after the race.
In the meantime, Leclerc was completing another couple of overtake: the victim was Kvyat at the Spoon curve on lap 11 and Raikkonen at the famous 130R braking at lap 14.
Ahead of the field, positions weren’t changing: Bottas leading with 4 and half seconds from Vettel and with more than 5 on Hamilton.
Pit stop for Vettel was done on lap 17: another set of Soft was mounted, clarifying that another stop would be necessary for using the Medium tyre; reaction by Mercedes with Bottas going on the yellow rubber on the following lap: new classification was Hamilton 1st, Bottas 2nd at 11 seconds, Vettel 3rd at 8seconds from the Finn, completing the pass on Sainz at Spoon turn.
Hamilton opened the next waltz of stops on lap 22, following teammate on the Medium tyres; 22 seconds separating the Briton from Vettel.
Fights in the backfield counting Gasly overtake over Norris at turn 1: the 9th place the prize, turn 1 the scene. Even Hulkenberg some laps later wanted to profit from the #4 tyre wear: three cars battle with Kvyat and Stroll went on the following laps, with the Canadian and the German passing the Russian.
Leclerc went on Soft (copying the teammate choice) on lap 26: he made the move immediately at the expenses of Daniil Kvyat at lap 29 for the 11th position; then he went on Perez and Hulkenberg for the 8th place. and on to Gasly on 34th lap for P6. Others overtakes in that region were the ones between Ricciardo and Perez for P10, and with teammate Hulkenberg and Stroll for the 8th place.
Sebastian Vettel pitted for the needed set of Medium at lap 32: with 21 laps to go it was hard to judge the benefits of such move. Mercedes, on the other hand, pitted Bottas for a set of red rubber on lap 36 giving Hamilton the lead; the Briton pitted at 44th lap for the Soft type Pirelli, getting back to 3rd at about 5 seconds from Vettel: the hunt of Lewis didn’t resulted in a second place at race, but his fastest lap helped Mercedes to achieve the sixth consecutive Manufacturer champion.