Mercedes clinch title despite Hamilton’s frustration as Bottas wins in Japan

Lewis Hamilton took aim at Mercedes' strategy after finishing third at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas won for the first time since April to reduce the championship deficit to Hamilton to 64 points with 104 available.

Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel held off a late fightback by Hamilton to finish runner-up, just 0.4 seconds ahead of the Briton.

Hamilton will win his sixth world title in Mexico in a fortnight's time if he outscores Bottas by 14 points. If Hamilton wins, and Bottas is fifth or lower, the Briton will move to within one triumph of Michael Schumacher's record.

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Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland raises his trophy as second placed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, left, of Germany and third placed Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain on the podium after winning the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland pours champagne to himself on the podium after winning the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland raises his trophy on the podium after winning the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland leads the field into turn one at the start of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland leads the field into turn one at the start of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, right, of Finland passes Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany at the start of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland leads Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany at the start of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Top three finishers Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Second placed Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W10 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks dejected in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas celebrates his victory at the end of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Sparks fly as Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (L) leads Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton into a turn during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (L) leads Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) through a turn during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP) (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
Smoke comes from the car of Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP) (Photo by TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 13: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 13, 2019 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Drivers take a turn during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
Drivers take part in the start of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
Drivers take a turn during the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix final at Suzuka on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP) (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
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And despite Hamilton's frustration here, his Mercedes team were crowned constructors' champions for a sixth successive time.

London-born Thai Alex Albon finished a career-best fourth for Red Bull ahead of McLaren's Carlos Sainz.

Charles Leclerc was sixth after he collided with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at the first corner. The Dutchman was forced to retire with the damage to his car.

Hamilton spent much of the 53-lap race at Suzuka questioning Mercedes' decision not to put him on the hardest tyre compound at his first stop.

Hamilton, who was running in third at the time, believed that would have provided him with the chance to get to the end of the race on a one-stop strategy, and a potential victory.

"How have I lost that much time?" said Hamilton, after losing 12 seconds to Bottas with Mercedes pitting the Briton three laps later than his team-mate.

"So I'm out of the race now? If tyre degradation is so massive why didn't you give me hard tyres? I'm basically out of the race. We're a pit stop behind."

Lewis Hamilton during the race in Japan
Lewis Hamilton was frustrated with his team's tyre strategy (Toru Hanai/AP)

Hamilton led with 10 laps to go, but, after reporting his rubber was wearing, he was brought in by Mercedes for an inevitable second stop.

That put him in third, four seconds behind Vettel. The five-time world champion hustled Vettel to the line, but he was unable to make a move stick.

"Congratulations to the team," said a clearly frustrated Hamilton. "It is well deserved. That is the main point."

The race started in a flurry of action when pole-sitter Vettel failed to get away from his starting blocks.

That provided Bottas with the chance to leapfrog both Vettel and Leclerc after the Ferrari cars had earlier locked out the front row following a qualifying session postponed from Saturday.

Valtteri Bottas, right, passes Sebastian Vettel, second right,  off the start line
Valtteri Bottas, right, passes Sebastian Vettel, second right, off the start line (Toru Hanai/AP)

A fast-starting Verstappen sailed round the outside of Leclerc but was taken out of the race when the Ferrari driver bumped into him. The incident was due to be investigated after the end of the race.

Leclerc continued with a damaged front wing but after pieces of his car flew into the following Hamilton, the Monegasque stopped for repairs, putting him out of contention.

Vettel, who escaped action following an investigation into a false start, was the first of the leaders to stop on lap 17. Bottas followed in a lap later, with a two-stop strategy the order of the day.

Hamilton stayed out longer, but he, too, was unable to make his rubber last, ensuring Bottas would claim his third win of the year.

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