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 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.
“Starting third is never easy here but there’s no point giving up,” said Bottas after scoring his third win of the season and first since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April.
“I had a really nice car and Sebastian had an issue, so it was good to get the lead.
“Really proud of the team, sixth title in a row is so impressive.”
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.
The 21-year-old, winner of two of the last five races, finished sixth but was under investigation by the stewards.
Verstappen later retired from the race.
“The lights were on but it was my mistake (at the start),” said Vettel, a four-time winner at Suzuka.
“The Mercedes were difficult, they had more pace than us and Valtteri was flying.
“I’m not happy with the start of the race, but everything else was fine, just lacked a bit of pace.”
Hamilton’s joy at Mercedes’ success was muted.
The Brackley-based squad gambled on a one-stop strategy for the Briton, even as Bottas and Vettel opted for two stops.
But with degradation higher than expected the 34-year-old was forced to pit a second time and lost track position to Vettel.
“Firstly congratulations to the team,” said Hamilton, who can still clinch the drivers’ title at the next race in Mexico.
“That’s the main point.
“I just wanted to bring home good points for the team.”
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