The Mercedes GP team celebrate winning the constructors championship. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
The Mercedes GP team celebrate winning the constructors championship. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

‘Irresponsible’: Max blasts young rival

A blistering start from Valtteri Bottas from third on the grid helped the Finnish driver win the typhoon-hit Japanese Grand Prix as Mercedes wrapped up a sixth consecutive Formula One constructors championship on Sunday.

Bottas surged into the lead almost immediately, passing the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel, who started from pole, and Charles Leclerc to take the early lead at the Suzuka Circuit.

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Seeking his third win of the season and first since Azerbaijan in April, Bottas managed a two-stop pit strategy to perfection to finish more than 10 seconds ahead of Vettel with Mercedes teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton taking third place.

These were the major talking points from the race:


Max Verstappen accused Charles Leclerc of "irresponsible driving" after their collision at the start of the race - which saw the Ferrari youngster handed two time penalties after the race.

Verstappen started well from fifth and moved around the outside of Leclerc at Turn Two but the Monegasque took the racing line and shunted into the Red Bull.

Verstappen spun while Leclerc picked up damage, but Verstappen later had to retire while the Ferrari youngster eventually finished sixth after a recovery drive packed with plenty of overtaking.

But Leclerc received a five-second sanction for clashing with Verstappen as stewards ruled he was "predominantly at fault", while he was also given a 10-second penalty for carrying on with a broken wing beyond the opening lap - and then carrying on for a further lap after it had broken apart and debris fell onto Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

The combined 15-second penalty dropped Leclerc a place to seventh.

Speaking before he and Leclerc had met the stewards, an angry Verstappen told Sky F1: "We had a really good start for once, that was a positive."

"From my side I don't think I could have done anything different there. We all know that you lose downforce behind the car so that is not an excuse and I think he is experienced enough to know that.

"The weird thing is initially they didn't investigate it right away. My whole car is destroyed. The whole side. There are just holes in the side of the car. And now they will investigate it after the race. What more should he do to get a penalty?

"I like hard racing, but I don't think this was hard racing, I think it was irresponsible driving into turn two. He had a bad start so for sure he was trying to recover places but there's only so much you can do. It's a shame that it happens."

Speaking to Sky F1's Rachel Brookes, Leclerc said: "I haven't seen the full situation from the outside … from the car it was just a tricky situation."


The Sebastian Vettel circus continues. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
The Sebastian Vettel circus continues. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The FIA has explained why Sebastian Vettel's start from pole position in the Japanese GP was not met with a penalty.

Vettel's hard-earned and impressive pole, achieved earlier on Sunday at Suzuka, was compromised even before the lights went out in the race when the German rolled forward in his grid box.

Although the car was stationary again before the five red lights went out, Vettel immediately lost the lead to the fast-starting Valtteri Bottas - a position he never recovered, as the Mercedes driver secured a dominant win and the Ferrari finished some 10 seconds behind in second place.

Stewards investigated Vettel's start during the race but deemed it was within "acceptable tolerance" and said no further action was required.

Vettel himself said: "It was my mistake. It was worse than a poor start, it was a really poor start."

Bottas ultimately sprung past both front-row-starting Ferraris, with Vettel and Leclerc - who had seemingly been distracted by his teammate moving early - reaching the first corner in second and third places respectively.

Leclerc then collided with Max Verstappen at the next corner, with the impact breaking the Ferrari's front wing and forcing a lap-three pit stop for repairs which dropped him down the order.

But Vettel reckons that even if Ferrari had managed to keep their advantage at the start, they would have been hard-pressed to keep Mercedes at bay.


Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes faced a "50-50 call" when opting to pit Lewis Hamilton from the lead towards the end of the Japanese GP, but stressed that Valtteri Bottas would have won the race regardless of their decision.

Bottas unexpectedly dominated the race despite Ferrari's front-row lockout, but it was Hamilton - who ran third for most of the afternoon - who found himself in front after Bottas followed Sebastian Vettel into the pits for a second time.

Hamilton, after a lengthy first stint, had only pitted once when inheriting the lead on Lap 36, and, on his medium tyres, was putting in similar times to Bottas once he came back out on fresh softs.

Hamilton had a lead of eight seconds with just 11 laps remaining, but then Mercedes brought the championship leader in for his second stop and, after coming back out behind Vettel, he failed to overtake the Ferrari and finished third.

"There were lots of tricky calls this race," Mercedes boss Wolff explained in Suzuka. "I think that pitting Lewis again at the end was a 50-50 call."

Wolff was adamant, however, that Bottas deserved the victory and they would have got Hamilton to swap places with the Finn had he stayed out for a one-stop strategy.

"We could have left him out and asked the drivers to change position to give the victory result back and maybe protected against Sebastian - but on the other side maybe not protected against Sebastian," said Wolff.

"So pitting and giving him a new set of tyres was the decision that was being taken and at that stage it felt like the right decision."

After his first stop, a frustrated Hamilton bemoaned on radio that he was "out of the race now" and urged Mercedes to "explain it to me" - and he clarified those comments after the race.

"Obviously when you come out and you're twice as far behind as you were before it's frustrating," he stated. "I can't see that and I'm not aware of that and then I come out and see that I've lost another 10 seconds.

"It's just like you could have told me if I was going to come out 10 seconds behind - it was 22 seconds behind Valtteri - and I would have said no I want to come in. There will be some discussions I'm sure."

Scoot. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Scoot. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

These articles were originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission