Bottas toasts 'perfect day' after dominating Japanese GP
Valtteri Bottas became the first driver to win a Grand Prix at Suzuka from the second row of the grid, and the ecstatic Finn said it couldn’t have gone any better as Mercedes also secured their sixth consecutive constructors’ championship.
Not only that, the result meant that the Silver Arrows guaranteed either Bottas or defending champion Lewis Hamilton would take the 2019 drivers’ championship, ensuring another double for Mercedes.
But for Bottas, it showed that he could take the fight to the Ferraris – who locked out the front row of the grid a joint-record 64th time on Sunday morning – and team mate Hamilton. The Finn expressed just how great a day it was.
“It feels good, I’m very happy, definitely,” he said. “Just really a perfect day, with a perfect start.”
That start gave Bottas the lead over polesitter Sebastian Vettel, who struggled to get off the line and nearly jumped the start in the process. Vettel lost out to the Mercedes driver going into Turn 1, and from then on Bottas controlled the pace to win by over 13 seconds.
“We knew coming into the race that we would have a good race pace like we saw every Sunday before, even though Ferrari has beaten us in the qualifying, so I’m glad we managed to get in the lead because it’s so different when you’re in the lead.
“You can really control the pace and manage the tyres and everything. I enjoyed it today, I’ve been missing that. So more of this,” he said.
In the end, it was a two-stop strategy that secured Bottas the win. There was, however, a seed of doubt planted in Bottas’s mind, as it seemed to him that team mate Hamilton would try a one-stop strategy, the #44 driver having stopped four laps later than Bottas. But it soon became clear that Hamilton’s medium tyres would not last the whole race and Mercedes wouldn’t risk a split strategy at Suzuka.
“Yeah we knew that one or two stops were possible and there’s not a massive difference between two of them… and everything went smooth, I could really control it... and push when I wanted.
“I wasn’t quite sure if Lewis was going to stop or not but he was on the medium tyre and there was no way he was going to get to the end on that tyre. It’s just that I had some concerns about that,” he admitted.
With the result ensuring Mercedes of their sixth straight constructors' title – matching Ferrari's record from 1999 to 2004 – Bottas extended his congratulations to those back at Brixworth and Brackley, and of course the Silver Arrows at Suzuka.
“Really proud, obviously, to be part of a team, a sixth title in a row is so impressive, so very proud of every single team member – here at the race and also at the factory. Well done guys, and girls,” he concluded.
With four races left, Bottas now has the mighty task of overturning a 64-point deficit if he is to take the title away from Hamilton's grasp.
Drivers' standings after Japan
|1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
|2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes