Japanese GP: Bottas wins after terrible start for Ferrari

Valtteri Bottas's took his first Formula 1 win since April to help Mercedes clinch a sixth consecutive constructors' championship as a jump start and first-corner clash undermined Ferrari's Japanese Grand Prix.

Japanese GP: Bottas wins after terrible start for Ferrari

Bottas launched from third to first on the run to the first corner, passing both Ferraris as Leclerc got away slowly and poleman Vettel erred significantly, losing time by moving slightly before the lights went out.

That put Bottas into a lead he never relinquished, while Vettel avoided a jump-start penalty – despite replays clearly showing he moved before the red lights went out – to finish second but could not stop Mercedes wrapping up the teams' title.

After Vettel immediately dropped to second, Leclerc's race was massively compromised moments later at the first corner.

Max Verstappen swept around the outside of Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc after a superior start in his Red Bull, but Leclerc then ran deep into Turn 2 as the corner tightened.

He went wide and clattered into Verstappen, throwing the Dutchman off-track and breaking his own front wing.

Leclerc continued for two laps in third place, irritating Hamilton as the Ferrari's damaged wing showered the chasing Mercedes with sparks and then debris – which broke Hamilton's right-side wing mirror.

On lap three, Leclerc pit, dropping to the tail of the field and behind Verstappen, as race control communicated their first-lap incident would be investigated after all, having initially said it was not necessary.

As Leclerc charged back to sixth, Verstappen struggled with an oddly-handling, damaged car and retired on lap 15, with the clash investigation moving to after the race.

Vettel's fortune with the officials allowed him to stay in the lead fight and hold up Hamilton, allowing Bottas to take control and he stretched his lead.

Ferrari moved first in the strategy fight, pitting Vettel on lap 16 with Bottas following suit one lap later and Hamilton stopping on lap 18.

In that time, Bottas's advantage over Vettel rose while Hamilton fell more than 20s adrift, a move that left him irate over the radio.

All three committed to a two-stop strategy, but executed it differently: Vettel pit on lap 31 of 53 and ditched his softs for mediums, while the Mercedes ran longer and opted for softs.

Bottas stopped on lap 36, at which point he was 14s clear of Hamilton, and Hamilton ran an extra seven laps before making his final visit to the pits.

That left Bottas leading Vettel by under 10s, with Hamilton within five seconds behind the Ferrari and armed with fresher, softer tyres.

With five laps to go Hamilton moved into DRS range and had half a look into Turn 2 but Vettel didn't budge and Hamilton ran slightly wide.

Hamilton had a better chance with three laps to go when Vettel got stuck at the final chicane trying to lap a Toro Rosso, backing Vettel into Hamilton and giving Hamilton a great run.

However, Hamilton closed too late on the straight to attack, and Vettel retained the place to the end.

Bottas's win, his first since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, trimmed Hamilton's championship lead to 66 points with 104 still on offer.

Alex Albon scored his best F1 result with fourth place for Red Bull, despite falling behind both McLarens at the start.

He made one of those places back early on with a lunge on Lando Norris that resulted in wheel-to-wheel contact into the final chicane.

Albon got ahead of Carlos Sainz by stopping twice as Sainz implemented a one-stop strategy to finish a fine fifth.

McLaren should have had a double points finish but, after being hit by Albon, Norris had to make an early pitstop because debris from Leclerc's broken wing got caught in his brake ducts. He eventually finished 13th.

Daniel Ricciardo charged to seventh place, executing a very long first stint on medium tyres then switching to softs at the end and picking off several cars with just a few laps remaining

He passed teammate Nico Hulkenberg for ninth and promised his Renault team "I'll get them" as he pursued Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly, who he then picked off on successive laps.

Stroll faded from the top 10 late on, with Hulkenberg nicking ninth and Sergio Perez set to steal the final point from Racing Point teammate Stroll on his penultimate lap.

But having also passed Hulkenberg, Perez crashed out on the final lap after contact with Gasly.

However, it then emerged that the chequered flag light panel had been erroneously illuminated a lap in advance, meaning the results were rolled back. Perez was thus reinstated into ninth place and Hulkenberg completed the top 10.

Race results

Cla # Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 77 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes 52 1:21'46.755
2 5 Germany Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari 52 1:22'00.098 13.343
3 44 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes 52 1:22'00.613 13.858
4 23 Thailand Alex Albon
Red Bull 52 1:22'46.292 59.537
5 55 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr.
McLaren 52 1:22'55.856 1'09.101
6 16 Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari 51 1:21'51.731 1 Lap
7 3 Australia Daniel Ricciardo
Renault 51 1:21'57.458 1 Lap
8 10 France Pierre Gasly
Toro Rosso 51 1:22'09.795 1 Lap
9 11 Mexico Sergio Perez
Racing Point 51 1:22'10.165 1 Lap
10 27 Germany Nico Hulkenberg
Renault 51 1:22'10.780 1 Lap
11 18 Canada Lance Stroll
Racing Point 51 1:22'13.40 1 Lap
12 26 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat
Toro Rosso 51 1:22'17.115 1 Lap
13 4 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren 51 1:22'24.504 1 Lap
14 7 Finland Kimi Raikkonen
Alfa Romeo 51 1:22'37.491 1 Lap
15 8 France Romain Grosjean
Haas 51 1:22'44.514 1 Lap
16 99 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo 51 1:23'03.072 1 Lap
17 20 Denmark Kevin Magnussen
Haas 51 1:23'05.388 1 Lap
18 63 United Kingdom George Russell
Williams 50 1:21'43.978 2 Laps
19 88 Poland Robert Kubica
Williams 50 1:23'11.838 2 Laps
33 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull 14 22'58.020 38 Laps
shares
comments
Wolff: Ferrari's qualifying pace came "out of nowhere"

Previous article

Wolff: Ferrari's qualifying pace came "out of nowhere"

Next article

FIA: Vettel start was "within acceptable tolerance"

FIA: Vettel start was "within acceptable tolerance"
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Japanese GP
Author Scott Mitchell
How "overwhelming" McLaren move has given Ricciardo a new verve Prime

How "overwhelming" McLaren move has given Ricciardo a new verve

Daniel Ricciardo has found a new lease of life at McLaren – a move that’s been years in the making, as he explains to STUART CODLING…

How 2021's midfielders have taken lessons from F1's top teams Prime

How 2021's midfielders have taken lessons from F1's top teams

Formula 1’s latest Imola adventure turned into an expensive trip for many teams due to several crashes throughout the weekend. While balancing the books is an added factor in 2021 with the cost cap, a few midfield teams have cashed in early on development investments.

Formula 1
Apr 19, 2021
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Driver Ratings

A frantic wet race at Imola produced plenty of excitement and drama as drivers scrabbled for grip. Amid the hatful of mistakes and incidents that ensued, who kept their noses cleanest?

Formula 1
Apr 19, 2021
How the Emilia Romagna GP result hinged on three crucial saves Prime

How the Emilia Romagna GP result hinged on three crucial saves

Rain before the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix promised to spice up the action, and the race certainly delivered on that. Max Verstappen got the best launch to win from Lewis Hamilton, but both got away with mistakes that could have had serious consequences

Formula 1
Apr 19, 2021
The back-bedroom world-beater that began a new F1 era Prime

The back-bedroom world-beater that began a new F1 era

The first in a line of world beaters was designed in a back bedroom and then constructed in a shed. STUART CODLING recalls the Tyrrell 001

Formula 1
Apr 18, 2021
Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola Prime

Why Mercedes isn't confident it's really ahead of Red Bull at Imola

While Mercedes struck back against Red Bull by topping the times at Imola on Friday ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, the overall picture remains incredibly close. Despite having a possible edge this weekend, the reigning Formula 1 world champion squad is not taking anything for granted...

Formula 1
Apr 16, 2021
What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track Prime

What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track

Mercedes may find itself leading the drivers' and constructors' standings after Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but it is well aware that it came against the odds, with Red Bull clearly ahead. Here's what the Brackley team must do to avoid its crown slipping .

Formula 1
Apr 16, 2021
The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Prime

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is no guarantee.

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021