Just one day after Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Japan, Valtteri Bottas took advantage of a cloudless sky over Suzuka today to win the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix and help Mercedes Benz clinch their sixth Constructors’ Championship in a row.
Weather concerns leading up to the race resulted in qualifying rounds taking place earlier this morning instead of on Saturday as planned, the fifth time such a one-day schedule has been put in place. There was some discussion of cancelling the race entirely because of the storm, and though at least one match for the Rugby World Cup also being held in Japan right now was cancelled, the weather cleared up at Suzuka in time for today’s race.
Despite the favorable conditions for today’s race, things got messy before the first corner, with Bottas making a quick dash around Vettel to claim the pole position from Ferrari. Though there were allegations that this quick turn of events was due to a false start by Vettel, no penalty was given.
Leclerc, starting from the second position on the grid, had no better luck than Vettel at the beginning of the race. His car connected with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Honda, causing him to have to come in early for a new nose and forcing Verstappen out of the race in the 15th lap.
Though Leclerc did mount a campaign to regain a position later in the race, he only made it as far as 6th place, and his contact with Verstappen remains under investigation by race officials.
With Bottas clear ahead of Vettel, the real battle was between the Ferrari and Bottas’s Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for second. Though Vettel managed to fend off the Brit, it wasn’t enough. Without a win today, Vettel has seen his title chances this year totally dashed.
With this win, Mercedes has now tied Ferrari’s 1999-2004 six-title streak in the Constructors’ Cup. That’s a momentous achievement for the whole Mercedes program and is sure to leave Ferrari looking for ways to strike back next season.