Because of the storm hitting Japan on October 12, the organizers canceled the third test run (FP3). Therefore, the drivers spent 36 hours without sitting in the cars when they entered the qualifying round at 10am 13/1 (Tokyo time). Ferrari showed that they were well prepared for Sunday when they suddenly took the two starting positions. Vettel overcame Leclerc to win the pole.
Bottas’ victory helped Mercedes to a sixth consecutive F1 championship
Taking advantage of the lead, Bottas comfortably increased the distance with Vettel through each round. Realizing that the tire was more worn out than expected, Ferrari called Vettel to return to the pit in the 17th round to replace him with the soft tire, hoping to increase the pressure on the opponent. With this return pit, Ferrari certainly used the double pit tactic for Vettel.
Mercedes may only need a single visit to the pit thanks to the tire holding capacity of the W10. But like Ferrari, they noticed that the tires were worn out quickly, and also called Bottas to the pit in the 18th round. Mercedes didn’t want to risk a race and their chances of winning were higher. The fact that Vettel was sandwiched between two Mercedes drivers also made the German team more confident when calling Bottas to the pit early.
Hamilton entered the pit in the 22nd round and was disappointed when the team replaced him with a set of medium tires rather than hard tires. At this time, Bottas was ahead of Vettel by 11 seconds and Hamilton by 20 seconds. When informed of this, Hamilton questioned his team not to give him a chance to compete for second place, and even to win.
In round 32, Vettel returned to the pit a second time to replace the average tire. Four rounds later, Bottas was also called in to change the soft tire while driving Hamilton for 14 seconds. At this time, Hamilton was in a dilemma. The British rider is gaining speed better than Vettel, but Bottas will easily attack and regain his lead with the new set of tires.
The main development of the Japanese Grand Prix main race
Mercedes then decided to call Hamilton to the pit in the 43rd round to replace the soft tire in hopes of helping the defending champion pass Vettel, taking second place. Hamilton was five seconds behind Vettel when he returned to the track and the pursuit began.