Mercedes Valterri Bottas puts in a storming drive to win from 3rd on the grid to keep his championship hopes alive as the Finn finished ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The double podium finish for Mercedes allowed them to outscore Ferrari to claim the Constructors Championship early.
Vettel takes Pole as Typhoon Hagibis disrupts running
Due to the expected impact of Typhoon Hagibis, Formula One and circuit officials made the decision to cancel all track running on Saturday and move Qualifying to Sunday morning.
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari made the most of the disrupted running to take his second Pole Position of the season ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc. Valterri Bottas out-qualified Lewis Hamilton to take 3rd as the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon took 5th and 6th. Renault had a nightmare qualifying with Daniel Ricciardo getting knocked out in Q1 and Nico Hulkenberg getting knocked out in Q2. The session was disrupted twice by two red flags for crashes for Williams Robert Kubica and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen.
The lights went out and it was a very poor start by both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc and that allows Valterri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to swamp them just metres from their starting positions. Bottas swoops past and takes the lead before the first corner as a fast start from Max Verstappen sees the Dutchman go round the outside of Leclerc. However with a touch of understeer, Leclerc and Verstappen make contact with the Red Bull driver being punted into a spin and coming to a halt on the grass. Carlos Sainz Jr battles with Hamilton but the Brit stays ahead as Bottas streaks away.
A replay shows that Vettel moved before the lights went out. Will this count as a false start? Leclerc has front wing damage as Verstappen is able to join the race, albeit in last. Alexander Albon has fallen behind the two McLaren’s to 7th as fast starts from Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen has seen them move up to 10th, 11th and 13th.
Leclerc carriers on and decides not to pit. The broken piece of his front wing breaks off and there’s carbon on the track. The Stewards decide that there is no investigation necessary between Leclerc and Verstappen as Hamilton complains about how dangerous Leclerc’s decision not to pit was. Leclerc pits at the end of lap 3. He gets a new front wing and rejoins in last on the Medium tyre.
Lando Norris and Albon collide as the Red Bull driver came from a long way back to try and overtake the McLaren driver into turn 16. Contact was made with Norris pitting and rejoining in last.
After his pit-stop, Leclerc was now trying to fight his way back up the field and overtook a struggling Verstappen for 16th. Overtake after overtake followed from Leclerc with a notable overtake on Daniil Kvyat at Spoon for 15th a highlight. Another one followed on Kimi Raikkonen for 14th at 130R meanwhile Bottas’s lead was nearing five seconds.
Red Bull decided to retire Verstappen come lap 15. The Dutchman now looks forward to the Mexican GP where in the past, he and Red Bull have been very successful. The Mercedes duo were on split strategies. Hamilton was on a one-stop while Bottas and Vettel were on a two-stop. Vettel was the first to blink on lap 17 with Bottas on lap 18 and Hamilton on lap 22.
Hamilton’s baffled by the strategy as Mercedes explain the tyre degradation is much higher than expected. Leclerc pitted for a second time on lap 26 and should be able to make it to the end. Running long into the race seems to have helped Daniel Ricciardo. He’s rejoined in 11th and looks to be fired up in the hunt for points.
Vettel pits for a second and final time on lap 32. He goes onto the Medium tyre and rejoins in 3rd – he’ll have Hamilton chasing him down come the end of the race. Bottas’s final pit-stop on lap 37 allows Hamilton into the lead but will the Brit’s tyre last the remaining distance?
Hamilton’s going to hang this out – he’ll be third regardless but Bottas isn’t going quick enough to catch his team-mate at an alarming rate. Leclerc’s fightback is coming on strongly as he hunts down Sainz for 5th. Pierre Gasly’s having a strong race in 7th ahead of Stroll, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo.
He gives up. Hamilton pits from the lead with 10 laps to go and rejoins just five seconds behind Vettel’s 2nd place. Fastest lap after fastest lap, the gap is coming down quickly as Hamilton sets the timing screens alight. Bottas may be out of range but 2nd place is up for grabs. Ricciardo overtakes team-mate Hulkenberg and then Stroll for 8th and now Gasly’s 7th place looks to be under threat.
Leclerc pits for a final time in an attempt to set the fastest lap and get the bonus point. Even with the fresher tyres and the aid of DRS, Hamilton cannot get close enough to overtake Vettel. The straight-line speed of the Ferrari keeping the Mercedes at bay.
Bottas leads onto the final lap as Perez crashes at turn 2. The Mexican was running in 9th and the replay shows it was an incident with Gasly – mimicking incident to that of the first lap between Leclerc and Verstappen.
Anyway, Bottas crosses the line to take a well-deserved victory and his first since Baku. Vettel hangs onto 2nd and with Hamilton in 3rd, Mercedes can breath a sight of relief as they can celebrate another world championship as they outscored Ferrari. Albon takes 4th ahead of Sainz and Leclerc. Gasly comes home in 8th behind Ricciardo but Perez is still classified in 9th ahead of Hulkenberg.
- Valterri Bottas, Mercedes, 52 Laps
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, +13.343s
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +13.858s
- Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing Honda, +59.537s
- Carlos Sainz Jr, McLaren Renault, +69.101s
- Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, + 1 Lap
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, + 1 Lap
- Sergio Perez, Racing Point BWT Mercedes, + 1 Lap
- Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, + 1 Lap
- Lance Stroll, Racing Point BWT Mercedes, + 1 Lap
- Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda, + 1 Lap
- Lando Norris, McLaren Renault, + 1 Lap
- Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Romain Grosjean, Haas Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- Kevin Magnussen, Haas Ferrari, + 1 Lap
- George Russell, Williams Mercedes, + 2 Laps
- Robert Kubica, Williams Mercedes, + 2 Laps
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing Honda, DNF