Valtteri Bottas was a very happy Finn yesterday after making a scorching start in the Japanese F1 Grand Prix.

Starting from third on the grid, behind the Ferraris of Sebastien Vettel and Charles Leclerc, Bottas took advantage of a poor take-off by Vettel, shot into the lead — and stayed there for the full 53 laps of the Suzuka circuit.

It was his first win since Azerbaijan in April and the sixth of his career, and with teammate Lewis Hamilton in third place, it gave Mercedes the 2019 constructors’ championship.

“It feels good, I’m very happy, definitely,” he said. 

“Just really a perfect day, with a perfect start.”

However, it was less than perfect for a few other drivers and teams and there was a bit of doubt about who finished where lower down in the top 10.

And the 53 lap race was actually a 52-lapper, with the chequered flag somehow being waved a lap early.

Seconds after the start Leclerc’s Ferrari tapped the Red Bull of Max Verstappen as they entered Turn 2, resulting in Verstappen spinning out and, soon after, retiring his wounded Bull.

Leclerc’s car had some body damage but was told by Ferrari to keep going for more laps than expected.

After pitting, he drove brilliantly to eventually finish sixth. But stewards took a dim view and word was that he and his team would be penalised 15 seconds.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said Leclerc got a 15-second time penalty, 5s for his collision with Verstappen and 10s for Ferrari leaving him out with a damaged car.

Such a move would place him behind the Renault of Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo, which crossed the line 7th – but could now be 6th.

Renault had a good day, despite a dreadful qualifying session that had Ricciardo starting from 16th on the grid and teammate Nico Hulkenberg 15th.

On the podium then, were Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon earning fourth and Carlos Sainz in fifth for McLaren.

 Charles Leclerc was 6th (but more likely 7th) with Ricciardo benefiting. 

 The last three points-placers were Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez in the Racing Point and Nico Hulkenberg (Renault).

Initially Hulkenberg was credited with 9th place, but the official F1 scoreboard put him 10th, in a swap with Sergio Perez.

The race was unusual in that the qualifying session was held on the morning of race day, rather than the day before.

That was due to Typhoon Hagibis, which lashed the circuit on Saturday. 

“It has certainly been a bizarre weekend,” Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul said.

 “It was non-stop action, with an amazing number of stylish overtaking manoeuvres from Daniel and Nico. 

“Despite our low starting positions, we’re leaving Suzuka with both cars in the points, a nice reward for the various issues we’ve had over the last races, despite a car that had the capacity to score at every race.”

Ricciardo who made up an incredible 10 places, said the team deserved the good result. 

“We’ve been on a bit of a frustrating run recently without scoring, so to take seventh today is excellent. 

“We had good pace in the race and came through the pack with some enjoyable battles. 

“It was nice to execute a good strategy.”

Hülkenberg said he was very happy for the team.

“Daniel and I pushed really hard and everything seemed to come together,” he said.

“It was an amazing recovery from our qualifying places really good fun and I’m pleased with today.”

Results

1 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 52 1:21:46.755 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 52 +13.343s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 52 +13.858s 16
4 23 Alexander Albon RED BULL RACING HONDA 52 +59.537s 12
5 55 Carlos Sainz MCLAREN RENAULT 52 +69.101s 10
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RENAULT 51 +1 lap 8
7 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 51 +1 lap 6
8 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 51 +1 lap 4
9 11 Sergio Perez RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 51 +1 lap 2
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 51 +1 lap 1
11 18 Lance Stroll RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 51 +1 lap 0
12 26 Daniil Kvyat SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 51 +1 lap 0
13 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 51 +1 lap 0
14 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 51 +1 lap 0
15 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 51 +1 lap 0
16 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 51 +1 lap 0
17 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 51 +1 lap 0
18 63 George Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 50 +2 laps 0
19 88 Robert Kubica WILLIAMS MERCEDES 50 +2 laps 0
NC 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 14 DNF 0

Note – The classifications of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg are provisional subject to the outcome of a protest initiated by Racing Point. Leclerc received a 5-second and a 10-second post-race penalty for causing a collision and then driving his car in an unsafe condition. Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

CHECKOUT: From Russia without love

CHECKOUT: Triple F1 world champion, canny engineer and car developer . . . and pants’ man

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.