Kurt Verlin
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Valtteri Bottas Wins 2019 Japanese GP

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First lap of the 2019 Japanese GP
Photo: FORMULA 1 | YouTube
2019 Japanese GP Top 10 Results

The 2019 Japanese GP weekend was a chaotic one. A monsoon forced all Saturday sessions to be cancelled, with qualifying moved up to Sunday just a few hours before the race. The Formula 1 teams were also told that in case qualifying could not be held, the results from the second practice session would be used to decide the starting order on the grid, which made for a much more exciting Friday than usual.

But come Sunday morning (or Saturday evening for American viewers such as myself), the weather had cleared and the drivers were able to get on with their qualifying laps, which were sublime to watch as the Suzuka Circuit in Japan, with its high-speed corners, perilous gravel traps and figure-eight layout, is undoubtedly one of the best tracks in the world.

Sebastian Vettel qualified on pole, finally ending a run of getting beaten on Saturday by his teammate (funnily, it didn’t actually occur on a Saturday this time), but then botched the start by jumping the gun too early. Fortunately for him, he immediately stopped in his tracks, thus remaining within the sensor margin and avoiding a penalty; unfortunately, this had killed all his momentum and he was lucky to drop only a single position at the start — to Valtteri Bottas, who, based on slow-mo replays, definitely reacted to Vettel’s initial lurch rather than to the lights and was also lucky not to have jump-started the race.

Pit Stop: Give your car the care it needs this fall

Ultimately, Vettel probably would have had no way to keep Bottas at bay, as the Finn — and the Mercedes car — seemed totally unbeatable over a race distance anyway. That being said, questionable strategy decisions by Mercedes and stalwart defending by Vettel allowed the German champion to keep second place as he held Lewis Hamilton at bay in the closing stages of the race, though this was enough to secure the Silver Arrows’ sixth consecutive constructor’s championship and mathematically eliminate anyone not named Hamilton or Bottas for the driver’s title.

Max Verstappen, benefiting from an upgraded Honda power unit, would likely have been on for a good result if not for a collision with Charles Leclerc in the opening lap that led to latter driving around with a wobbly front wing endplate for two laps. It eventually detached and sliced off Hamilton’s side view mirror behind, which could have been a disastrous incident had that piece of carbon fiber flown just a few inches closer to Hamilton’s helmet. While Ferrari and Leclerc were arguing on the radio about whether to come in for repairs, the responsibility is really on the race director for failing to force action.

Leclerc did eventually pit and therefore spent the rest of the race slicing his way through the field, which provided extra entertainment amid what was an otherwise pretty good race. If you can believe it, there are now only four more to go. And American viewers should rejoice, as the next three take place on this side of the world, so you can actually watch them live without having to stay up until the early hours of the morning.

Post Crash: If you need car parts, this is where to get them (F1 carbon fiber front wing not included)

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2019 Japanese GP Championship Standings