Lewis Hamilton beat Max Verstappen to victory at Suzuka after a thrilling climax which saw Hamilton struggle during the final few laps, whilst Vettel’s championship hopes were effectively sealed before Lap 10, as another mechanical problem forced the German into retirement.
Hamilton’s winning margin was some one second from Max Verstappen, whilst Daniel Ricciardo – who started ahead of Verstappen – fended off Bottas for the final place on the podium.
Story of the session
As the lights went green, Hamilton and Vettel got off the line well, whilst Verstappen got the jump on Ricciardo. Meanwhile, following Vettel’s gremlin on the grid, he dropped from second to sixth due to power unit problems.
Sainz went off on the first lap which brought out the safety car, and upon the restart, Vettel’s power unit issues posed a major problem which forced the German into retirement.
As the championship race looked more of a picture of when Hamilton will win rather than if, Hamilton was gapping Verstappen at some 1.5 seconds.
On Lap 9, the second major incident of the race arrived, as Ericsson crashed at degner 1, deploying the virtual safety car. Just before the virtual safety car was deployed, Raikkonen stormed his way up to P8, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. As the virtual safety car period ended, Ricciardo pulled off a stunning move around the outside of Ocon to take third place, in his bid to chase after the leaders. The next lap Bottas followed suit up to fourth place.
On Lap 14, Raikkonen made an easy pass on Williams’ Felipe Massa to move up into seventh place, on lap 20 the Finn pulled off the move on Perez for sixth place.
On Lap 22, Red Bull pitted Max Verstappen for soft tyres, in their bid for an undercut on Hamilton, however with the big gap, Mercedes covered the Dutchman, whilst Ricciardo stayed out and took the lead. However, the Australian pitted on Lap 26.
On Lap 29, as Verstappen was getting into Hamilton’s DRS range, Bottas conceded the lead to Hamilton, as the Finn held up Verstappen to help Hamilton’s progress. However, lap 31 saw Bottas pit to get rid of his soft tyres, for a fresh set of super-soft tyres.
On Lap 48, Lance Stroll had a failure in sector 1, and just about avoided a collision with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, as the Canadian faced his first retirement in 13 races.
As the lap counts came down, with two laps to go Bottas was just 1 second adrift of final podium runner Daniel Ricciardo.
The race saw a thrilling climax, as on the final lap Verstappen closed the gap down to a second, however backmarker traffic meant Hamilton easily claimed victory.