The Japanese GP was an important and crucial race for Valterri Bottas. Not only did he win his first race since Round 4 in Azerbaijan but he outscored Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to reduce the points deficit in the championship with only four races to go.
Heading into the Japanese GP, Lewis Hamilton led the championship, after his win in Russia, by 73 points over team-mate Valterri Bottas. Coming into last weekend’s race, there were still five driver mathematically in with a chance of taking the championship. These drivers included: Hamilton, Bottas, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
However, now its just Hamilton and Bottas who are left in the race to become champion in 2019 because Leclerc and Verstappen failed to finish in front of Hamilton. Vettel did finish in front of the Brit in 2nd but he needed to pick-up more points to stay within a chance.
So, due to Bottas winning the Japanese GP, Hamilton’s gap at the top of the standings has been reduced to 64 points.
For Hamilton, the simple way to beat Bottas and take a 6th Drivers Championship would be to outscore the Finn by 14 points.
Considering that a race win and the bonus point for the fastest lap award is only 26 points, Bottas’s chances aren’t great but to keep his hopes alive, he needs to finish ahead of Hamilton. If not, a podium finish or fourth place and the fastest lap will see the championship roll over to the United States GP.
Having clinched the past two championships at Mexico, Hamilton has not finished on the podium since winning in 2016.
The hunt for the championship maybe be complicated by the expected pace of both Ferrari and Red Bull.
In particular, Red Bull and Verstappen have been strong and have taken the last two victories in 2017 and 2018. Ferrari should also have a strong package as their straight-line speed should give them an added tenth or two on the long straights. The Scuderia have yet to take a win round the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez circuit since F1’s return in 2015.