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Bottas wins in Japan as Ferrari falters


As if they weren't under enough pressure, spare a thought for the guys at Williams, Haas and Renault, who have been kept extremely busy over the break between this morning's qualifying session and the race.

Following his crash at the start of Q1, Robert Kubica required a new chassis, and will therefore start from the pitlane.

Nico Hulkenberg's car had to be stripped down as his hydraulic leak was within the gearbox, while at Haas, Kevin Magnussen destroyed the rear of his car and apart from anything else a new gearbox means a 5-place grid penalty, though as he was to start 19th anyway this shouldn't be too much of an issue.

It's fair to say that Mercedes, and indeed Charles Leclerc, were caught on the hop by Sebastian Vettel earlier, the German producing two mega laps in Q3.

Rarely one to sing his own praises, after taking provisional pole the German admitted to his team that it had been a "very good lap", before going on to better it.

However, while Mercedes appeared to have the edge in the qualifying sims on Friday, it also had the upper hand on the longer runs and therefore we shouldn't take anything for granted this afternoon.

While Max Verstappen complained of issues in Q1 and Q2, it was interesting to see teammate Alex Albon match him to one-thousandth of a second in Q3, the Thai driver continuing to stake his claim for the second Red Bull seat in 2020.

McLaren must be in for a good haul of points with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris taking seventh and eighth, the Woking outfit's bid for fourth in the standings aided by a poor performance from Renault.

Pierre Gasly continues his renaissance following his dumping from Red Bull, the Frenchman clearly not having given up on a speedy return to the Austrian team alongside Verstappen.

Romain Grosjean starts tenth, but we know from experience that, for Haas, qualifying and the race are two entirely different entities and it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman can capitalise on his strong performance.

Whether the Renault pair can play a significant role in today's race remains to be seen, but Sergio Perez, starting from 17th, should be worth watching, while Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat will both want to end their teammates' recent run of success.

It goes without saying that providing the field gets through the opening sector intact, we do not want to hear any subsequent radio chatter from Ferrari regarding team orders or agreements, we have had enough of this silliness. Then again, if two teammates are going to have a public spat, what better stage than Suzuka, which has played host to some of the most iconic fall-outs in the history of the sport.

Speaking after qualifying, a shell-shocked Toto Wolff admitted that he didn't know where Ferrari's pace had come from, and while his team may be up against it, it could still wrap up an historic sixth successive title today.

The fastest strategy is a one-stopper: starting on softs for 24 to 27 laps, then mediums to the end. The second-fastest is a two-stopper, with two stints on softs of 20 laps each followed by one on mediums.

The slowest strategy is also a one-stopper: starting on softs for 20 to 23 laps, then hards to the end.

As the cars head out to the grid, there is a strong tailwind down the main straight, which means it's a headwind through the Esses and again on the run up to Spoon.

Air temperature is 22 degrees C, while the track temperature is 37 degrees.

Sterling work by the Williams crew sees Kubica's car ready in time for the start, the Pole taking his place in the pitlane.

All are starting on softs bar Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Russell, Magnussen and Kubica who all start on the mediums.

Vettel leads the field away on the warm-up lap.

They're away. Vettel has a poor start, which allows Leclerc to draw alongside and Bottas to make a move to the left of the Ferrari. Indeed, as they head towards Turn 1 the Finn is already ahead, while Vettel manages to hold on to second, with Leclerc on the inside of Verstappen in to Turn 1, just ahead of Hamilton.

In Turn 2, Leclerc and Verstappen touch, sending the Red Bull into a spin across the grass shedding carbonfibre in the process.

"Front wing damage," reports Leclerc, as he makes his way around the track. However, unbelievably the Monegasque doesn't stop at the end of the opening lap. Verstappen is running 18th.

Replay shows that in the aftermath of the Verstappen/Leclerc incident, Hamilton and Sainz touched, the Briton appearing to lose an endplate in the process.

Meanwhile there is concern that Vettel moved slightly before the start.

"We need to box this lap, box," Leclerc is told, however he insists the damage "isn't that bad", and even though he's shedding carbonfibre he fails to stop.

The stewards say that no investigation is necessary in terms of that clash, though Hamilton doesn't know why Leclerc hasn't been stopped. Indeed, as replay shows the Ferrari shedding a mirror, he pits. He rejoins in last position.

After 3 laps, Bottas leads Vettel by 1.88s with Hamilton a further 3s behind.

Told that no action is to be taken following that clash, Verstappen's reaction is, let's put it, incredulous. "What? Where should I go? He's just driven into my car!" he responds.

Norris pits at the end of lap 4, the Briton having clashed with Albon at the chicane.

Verstappen complains that Kvyat is moving under braking, the pair battling for 15th.

Sainz is currently fourth, ahead of Albon, Gasly, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Perez and Ricciardo. A strong opening phase from the Renault pair.

Despite their previous comment the stewards are now looking at that first lap clash involving Leclerc and Verstappen.

Albon is hard on the heels of Sainz, who is already 10s down on Hamilton.

As Verstappen continues to shadow Kvyat, Leclerc sweep by to claim 16th. That will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Red Bull driver.

Vettel's (false) start is under investigation.

"My tyres are getting massively flat-spotted," reports Verstappen, "I can't wait."

Leclerc is at the back of a train of four cars, the Haas pair, Raikkonen and Kvyat, who are all battling for position.

"Keep it coming, great stuff," Bottas is told.

While Leclerc picks off Kvyat with ease, Raikkonen is in no mood to yield.

No further action necessary in terms of Vettel's start.

A brave, brave move sees Leclerc nail Raikkonen in 190R. Shortly after he passes Grosjean to claim 13th.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 14, indeed he drives straight into his garage, his race over. A dreadful end for the youngster in Honda's home race.

Next time around Albon pits, but it's a bona fide pit stop, with the Thai rejoining the race in 11th on mediums. Raikkonen also pits.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 16, the German slamming on the brakes as he enters the pitlane. 24.032s later he's back on track in fourth, behind Sainz, on a fresh set of softs.

Raikkonen is now on hards.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 17, as does Grosjean. The Finn rejoins in second on mediums.

"You need to push," Bottas is told, as Albon posts a new fastest lap (33.959). Gasly, Giovinazzi and Stroll also pit.

The stewards are to investigate the first lap clash involving Verstappen and Leclerc after the race.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Suzuka, here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 14/10/2019 0:11

"A sometimes entertaining race with some spirited driving with some excellent passing by a few drivers. What i do find hilarious is the arrogance of Verstappen being dealt some of his own medicine. This driver has had issues with almost every driver in F1 and when he gets some of his own back he squeals like spoilt child. For years he has got away with ruining other driver's races with the comments that 'that's how i drive and i won't change'. Red Bull should shoulder a fair part of the blame as they never reigned him in. According to Horner it was always 'that's just Max being Max....Entitlement has some cruel reality in store. "

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2. Posted by Joop deBruin, 13/10/2019 7:52

"Worst write up ever! I just skipped elsewhere to read in 3 seconds what the results were. Some twit here doesn't know how to place 5 words together to make a coherent sentence."

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