Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 7

A decent if unspectacular day in the office for Lewis Hamilton, who was a step behind Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes in both qualifying and the race. P4 on the grid followed by a poor start that saw him narrowly avoid contact with Carlos Sainz left Hamilton adrift from the leaders, with Mercedes’ strategy gamble ultimately costing him any chance of catching Bottas. He did all he could to catch Vettel late on, but was unable to make a pass, leaving him P3.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes – 9

Bottas appeared to turn back the clock to his early-season form at Suzuka. A flying start saw him jump both Ferraris before building a lead through the opening stint, suffering less on his Soft tyres than Sebastian Vettel behind. After his second stop, Bottas was able to ease his pace at the front, doing all he had to do to come home for his first win in nearly six months.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari – 8

Vettel may have been surprised by his charge to pole, but his lap was one of the smoothest he has produced for some time. His race came undone at the start when he jumped the lights – even if he did escape a penalty – and lost the lead to Bottas, who he struggled to keep up with in the opening stint. Vettel did well to keep Hamilton back in the closing stages, proving that with a better start he could well have won.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 5

Leclerc’s no-holds-barred approached post-Austria may have been instrumental in his Spa and Monza victories, but we saw the downside of it at Suzuka as he got caught up with Max Verstappen at Turn 2 while trying to keep the Red Bull man back. Leclerc took the blame for the clash that ultimately compromised his race, forcing him onto a three-stop strategy to fight back through the field. Sainz’s late pace forced Ferrari to give up on P5, with Leclerc eventually being demoted to seventh after two post-race penalties.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull – 6

Verstappen warned in Russia not to expect miracles from Red Bull at Suzuka, with the team firmly looking third-fastest on Sunday. He was seven-tenths off pole in qualifying before the clash with Leclerc effectively ended his race. Hard to score him much lower than a bog-standard six.

Alexander Albon, Red Bull – 7

Proof that Red Bull lacked the pace to fight the front-runners came in Alexander Albon’s race. A poor start saw him drop behind both McLarens before passing Lando Norris with a risky yet ultimately successful move. Albon got the jump on Sainz thanks to his superior strategy, eventually putting 10 seconds between them by the chequered flag. He was out of touch with the front-runners, but still a decent display and haul of points from Albon.

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault – 8

Ricciardo’s surprise Q1 exit was put down to an issue with the rear of his car which was resolved in time for the race, allowing the Australian to go on a charge into the points. The one-stop strategy worked despite a number of passes through the opening stages, with Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg allowing Ricciardo through so he could pick off Stroll, Perez and Gasly in the closing stages. P7 at the flag became P6 thanks to Leclerc’s penalty, giving Ricciardo his first points since Monza.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault – 6

Hulkenberg’s race ran similar to Ricciardo’s. After being compromised by hydraulic issues in qualifying, Hulkenberg charged up the order running an alternate strategy to his teammate (Softs to Mediums). He was left stuck in a train of cars through the final stint, only passing Stroll, but still managed to battle through to P10.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas – 5

Magnussen started last following an “embarrassing” crash in Q1 (as per the Dane himself), and while he flew up to 13th on the opening lap, it would be the high point of his race. Haas’ struggles with the VF-19 car continued as Magnussen faded through the race, eventually coming home a lowly 17th.

Romain Grosjean, Haas – 6

Grosjean looked strong in qualifying as he reached Q3 and started 10th, but slipped back early on. A one-stop strategy using the Hard tyre left him without pace for the second stint, leaving him 15th. You know you’ve had a tough day when one of your race highlights is overtaking George Russell’s Williams.

Carlos Sainz, McLaren – 10

Carlos Sainz has a few 10/10 scores to his name this season, but this may be the best of the lot. Another strong qualifying was followed by a flying start to hassle Hamilton on the opening lap, and he managed to not only nail his one-stop strategy, but also keep enough pace in his tyres to push enough late on to make Ferrari give up in its bid for Leclerc to grab P5 away. To finish just 10 seconds off Albon’s Red Bull proves Sainz was a cut above the rest of the midfield this weekend.

Lando Norris, McLaren – 6

Norris qualified well yet again and also jumped Albon early on, only for debris from Leclerc’s damaged car to get caught in his brakes, forcing the McLaren driver into an early stop. From there Norris struggled to manage his tyres, eventually fading to P13 on a two-stop strategy.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point – 7

Struggles in qualifying left Perez eight-tenths off teammate Lance Stroll and out in Q1, but the Mexican rectified matters in the race. A strong start followed by some excellent tyre management gave him the chance to go on a late charge on Softs, battling past Stroll and Hulkenberg before the clash with Gasly in the scrap for P8. Perez’s race ended in the wall, only for the chequered flag glitch to save his race and reward the team with two points for ninth.

Lance Stroll, Racing Point – 6

Stroll qualified well in 12th and made a good start, but was always up against it trying to get home on a one-stop strategy after pitting fairly early to switch to Mediums. This left him powerless to stop the likes of Ricciardo, Perez and Hulkenberg getting past in the closing stages, ending up on the fringe of the points in 11th place for Racing Point.

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo – 5

A difficult day for Alfa Romeo as both Raikkonen and teammate Antonio Giovinazzi struggled on the Medium and Hard compound tyres. Raikkonen qualified 13th but slipped back early on, struggling to make the Hard tyres work after switching to force him into a second stop that was not originally planned. The Softs allowed him to claw up to P14, but the damage had already been done.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo – 5

Giovinazzi’s race ran similar to Raikkonen’s, although he stuck it out with the Hard tyres through the middle stint, causing him to drop all the way down to 16th. A disappointing result given he had only just missed out on Q3 and outqualified his teammate once again.

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso – 5

A slow final lap in Q2 cost Kvyat before a poor start left him in need of a fightback, and while he was able to rise back up to 12th thanks to a well-executed one-stop strategy, he lacked the pace required to properly battle the other midfield runners.

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso – 9

Pierre Gasly continued to warm himself to the Honda faithful with another excellent display at Suzuka. Gasly reached Q3 for the first time since returning to Toro Rosso, and started strongly to sit sixth through the opening stint. A suspension issue made his life hard as he soaked up pressure from a train of cars behind, ending in the clash with Perez for which neither driver was deemed wholly responsible for. P8 made him the second-best Honda-powered driver at its home race.

George Russell, Williams – 7

Russell’s pace in qualifying was good, finishing just shy of Perez’s effort, but Williams lacked the pace to get close to the other midfield cars, especially with a brake issue added in. Russell did however nearly lap teammate Robert Kubica, for which he deserves credit.

Robert Kubica, Williams – 4

The end of Robert Kubica’s time at Williams only continues to sour. A qualifying crash left him on the backfoot for the race, where he was almost lapped by Russell, but the Pole revealed after the race that the 2020 front wing he wanted to use had been taken off the car without him knowing. All is not well.

 

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