Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the Japanese Grand Prix with a two-stop soft-medium-soft strategy, on a track that was made quite unpredictable due to an enforced day off yesterday following Typhoon Hagibis. Not only did Saturday's heavy rain wash away the rubber laid on Friday, but teams also lost a lot of running, with FP3 cancelled and qualifying taking place on Sunday morning. Nonetheless, the fastest race lap set by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton broke the lap record established by Kimi Raikkonen that had stood since 2005.
The fastest predicted strategy for the 53-lap race was a one-stopper: starting on soft for 24 to 27 laps, then medium to the end. Second-fastest, theoretically, was a two-stopper: two stints on soft of 20 laps each followed by one on medium. The slowest theoretical strategy was again a one-stopper but a different one: starting on soft for 20 to 23 laps, then hard to the end.
In practice, degradation proved to be higher than expected, probably due to warmer conditions. This led most drivers to adopt a two-stopper and run an extremely fast race.
The weather remained dry, with track temperatures in the region of 39 degrees towards the end of the race, and 26 degrees centigrade ambient.
Mario Isola: "On top of all the rearrangements to the schedule following yesterday's typhoon, which washed the track clean of rubber, the warmer conditions also meant that the teams were dealing with a number of unknown quantities heading into qualifying and the race - both held within a short space of time today. It was mainly a question of developing the strategy during the grand prix, with a number of different tactics seen from one to three stops, as competitors reacted to their rivals' strategies. All three compounds were used during the race, with four different strategies in the top six, a thrilling tactical battle for the runner-up spot, and lap records broken in qualifying and the race. Congratulations to Mercedes for another well-deserved constructors' championship victory."
Check out our Sunday gallery from Suzuka, here.