Valtteri Bottas roared to victory in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as Mercedes clinched the Formula One constructors’ championship and guaranteed themselves an unprecedented sixth consecutive title double.
The Finn crossed the line 11.3 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel, whose pole-sitting Ferrari proved no match for Mercedes in race trim, leaving the German to fend off a charging Lewis Hamilton in third.
The result moved Mercedes 177 points clear of Ferrari, allowing them to wrap up a record-equalling sixth consecutive constructors’ crown, with a maximum 176 points from four races still left up for grabs.
It also assures Mercedes of the drivers’ title, with only Bottas capable of challenging Hamilton, who saw his lead narrow to 64 points, in the overall standings.
Mercedes have now equalled Ferrari, who won six constructors’ titles between 1999-2004.
Ferrari looked like they might delay Mercedes’ title celebrations after locking out the front row earlier in Sunday’s morning’s qualifying session.
But both pole-sitter Vettel and team mate Charles Leclerc ran into trouble at the start.
Vettel, launched off the line a fraction too soon, slammed on the brakes and got going again.
He was investigated for a false start but let off without sanction.
The momentary hesitation, however, was enough to allow Bottas to sweep around the outside and vault into the lead.
Leclerc collided with Max Verstappen at the first corner as the Dutchman tried to pass around the outside, pushing the Red Bull into a spin and damaging his Ferrari.
He nevertheless carried on, crucially holding up Hamilton, as his car shed bodywork in shower of debris before eventually pitting for repairs at the end of the third lap.
After the race, the 22-year-old Dutch driver, who failed to finish the race, questioned the stewards’ response with an initial announcement that they were taking no further action against Leclerc before they then decided to summon both drivers afterwards.
The stewards eventually handed Leclerc post-race time penalties totalling 15 seconds for two incidents, dropping him to seventh place from sixth at the chequered flag.
The stewards found Leclerc to be predominantly at fault for the collision, imposing a five-second penalty and two penalty points.
The other 10 seconds were for continuing to drive with a car in an unsafe condition.
Ferrari were also fined 25,000 euros ($27,600.00).