Mercedes’ straight-six: Valtteri Bottas capitalises on start-line mess up for sixth win at Suzuka
The only thing Typhoon Hagibis disrupted was the schedule of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. It could not break the rhythm that Ferrari had found after the season break in August.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc locked out the front row in a clear demonstration of the outright pace and power of the Scuderia’s SF90.
But, Vettel false started and then paused when the lights went out. That was enough to not only compromise his own race but distracted his teammate so much that Leclerc was seen battling Max Verstappen who was fifth on the grid instead of fighting for the lead into Turn 1.
The leader at Turn 1, on Lap 1, was Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, whose launch was perfect, overtaking the pole man instantly and bolting off into the distance leaving the chasing pack with plenty of head-scratching to do.
It was a great drive from the Finn who outclassed his world-champion teammate on sheer pace alone throughout the weekend and capitalised on a poor showing from Ferrari.
At one point of the race, he did wonder if Mercedes would make him battle with his teammate for the win by single-stopping Hamilton, asking “Are you sure he’s going to stop?”
But, Mercedes were clear about their strategy and didn’t want to risk a team orders situation unnecessarily.
They pitted Hamilton for a second time and Bottas’ sixth career win was assured whilst more importantly for the team, they sealed a sixth consecutive Constructors Championship equalling Ferrari’s astonishing feat.
In the Hybrid era which began in 2014, Mercedes AMG Petronas have been unbeatable as a team and have set a fine example in winning no matter what the opposition throws at them.
When the car hasn’t been up to their rival’s standard they’ve outraced them on strategy and team tactics.
When the car has been the class-of-the-field they’ve walked away with it as if they belonged to a different league.
On a triumphant mood, the silver arrows head to Mexico, a circuit which has traditionally favoured Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen.
Lewis Hamilton requires to finish with 14 or more points than Bottas, his only remaining challenger, to seal his sixth World Championship. The Day Of The Dead celebrations will ring high this weekend, let’s hope Bottas can keep the title fight alive.
The writer is a motorsports enthusiast who will cover the 2019 FIA Formula One™ season exclusively for Indulge.