Valtteri Bottas feels his only major worry during his charge to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix came when Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had the opportunity to switch his strategy to a one-stop while leading.

The Finnish driver has secured his first Formula 1 win since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a run of 13 races, after bolting into the lead at the start as both Ferrari drivers struggled off the line at Suzuka.

Having committed early to a two-stop strategy, defending against an undercut from Sebastian Vettel during his first pit stop, Bottas spent a handful of laps sweating Hamilton would try to push his own strategy into a one-stop to retain the lead after the Finn had already pitted for a second time.

But after seeing Hamilton duly pit again the Finn eased to victory to cut his Mercedes team-mate’s lead to 64 points in the drivers’ standings.

“Everything was going really smoothly, just the second stint was full of traffic and I was passing backmarkers all the time, so I couldn’t get into a good rhythm during that stint,” Bottas explained.

“Otherwise, Lewis still hadn’t done his second stop and I was slightly concerned that his tyres could last the distance, because maybe he had managed them well, but he was on the Medium and we struggled massively on that tyre.

“From my side it was a very good race and on top of that I’m very, very happy for every single team member for winning the sixth constructor title in a row.

“So, it’s not just the result today, it’s the whole season and I’m very, very proud.”

Asked why he questioned his race engineer about Hamilton’s strategy during the race, Bottas confirmed it was for clarity as he felt he could manage his tyres and car until the end of the race as long as the British driver pitted again.

“Yes, clearly I wanted to make sure what the situation was and what was going to happen,” he said. “At that point I had some margin so I could start saving the engines for the next races and that’s why I was asked because I had margin to go into safety strategy.

“As for the lap times, it was that I was cruising through the backmarkers and then I got free track, got into the rhythm again and could set good lap times.

“All my stints were not massively long, so I could push harder whenever I needed it, so I was very comfortable I could push if needed.”

With Bottas winning and Hamilton in third place Mercedes has secured a sixth consecutive F1 world constructors’ title.

 

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