Following a relatively long win drought in a season when Mercedes designed a dominant car, Valtteri Bottas finally emerged victorious at Suzuka, Japan. Just several days after the Finn's team clinched its six consecutive Constructors’ title, we look back at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Sixth - With winning last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas clinched his sixth Grand Prix victory. The Finn won on three occasions in his debut year for Mercedes in 2017, but failed to add other triumphs to that record last year. With his latest win, he equalled his record from 2017 with four other rounds left this year.
Vettel’s hectic start – Despite securing his 57th pole position, the German was unable to convert his starting position into a leading position. Vettel has showed some blistering starts so far this season, but this time he reacted too quickly to the lights which went off unusually very late. Although the stewards commenced an investigation into the matter, they decided against a penalty based on the information from the FIA supplied transponder fitted to each car. “Whilst the video shows some movement that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system which formerly defines a jump start per Article 36.13(a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations,” stated the FIA.
Double penalty – Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was found guilty for driving into the Red Bull of Max Verstappen at the start. Following a post-race investigation, the Monegasque was given a ten second time penalty which was added to the elapsed race time. Ferrari was fined EUR 25000 for not bringing car 16 into the pits at the end of lap 1, immediately after the incident for a safety inspection when there was damage clearly visible and then by telling the driver to remain out for an additional lap.
Almost unbeatable – Williams may have struggled all season long with their car, but their performance during pit stops have proved the benchmark so far. In the Japanese GP, the pit crew from Grove were faster than any other team once again as they serviced Robert Kubica's car. On Lap 33, Williams were much quicker at changing tires for Kubica than the next-fastest crew with a time spent stationary of just 2.27 seconds for their man. Racing Point needed 2.38 seconds to mount new Pirellis on the racing car driven by Sergio Perez. The quickest pit stop time still belongs to Red Bull, Williams’ main rival in this area with a time of 1.88 which the Milton Keynes-based team recorded back in July during the German Grand Prix.
New record – Despite only finishing the race third, Lewis Hamilton left Suzuka with a new record. Breaking the previous record of Kimi Räikkönen, the Briton set a lap of 1m30.983 to set a new fastest ever race lap around the 5.8km track. The second fastest race lap belonged to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but the Monegasque’s time of 1m31.611 was just under a tenth shy of Räikkönen’s previous record.
Seven of ten – Seven different outfits managed to score points in the 53-lap race. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault added to their points tally with two cars while McLaren, Toro Rosso, Racing Point and Red Bull finished the race in the top ten with one of their cars. Interestingly, these seven outfits occupy the first seven places in the Constructors’ Championship. After Round 14 of the season, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull remain the only teams to have scored in every single race so far.
Off-track battle – Although Renault finished with both their cars in the top ten in the Japanese Grand Prix, the French team is facing a protest from rival team Racing Point over the legality of the braking system it used in the Japanese Grand Prix. The Stewards determined that the protest met all requirements specified in Article 13 of the International Sporting Code. The FIA’s Technical Department representative has been conducting a detailed analysis of the hardware, software, and data associated with them and, when complete, provide a written report to Japanese stewards.
Rewriting the history book - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport win the FIA Formula One Constructors’ Championship for the sixth time in a row. With four rounds still to complete in 2019, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport (612 points) leads Ferrari (435 points) by 177 points – an unassailable lead in the Constructors’ Championship. The Anglo-German team wrote history in the sport by winning their sixth consecutive double title, toppling the Scuderia Ferrari team which secured five double titles in a row between 2000 and 2004.
Either Hamilton or Bottas – Although Lewis Hamilton failed to secure his sixth world championship title, third-placed Charles Lerclerc’s troublesome start meant that only one of the two Mercedes drivers have any chance to win the 2019 Drivers’ title in the remaining four rounds. However, even Valtteri Bottas’ chances are just mathematical as he trails his teammate Lewis Hamilton by a whopping 66 points when only 104 points are available.