“You never know when this dream is going to end, so you have to celebrate it to the fullest,” he said.
“We spent the night in Bangkok and had a good time with the whole team. I will not give details, but there was dancing, shouting, partying … a little bit of everything.
“This time there was no karaoke, but it wasn’t necessary.”
Aside from his shock fall in the Americas GP, Marquez has finished all races in the top two, nine wins to five runners-up.
As such, he admitted the blip in Austin contributed to his “near perfect” season comment.
“When you have an excess of confidence, it is when the mistakes can arrive,” he said.
“It happened in the race we least expected, which was Austin, where I fell when I was leading with a four second advantage. It was a seemingly done victory and, because of how relaxed I was, I fell.
“That’s why you always have to be completely focused … you have to learn from mistakes. It has been a very good year, but it does not mean that we can stop working.”
So where to from here? At 26, Marquez has ample time to overhaul Giacomo Agostini’s record of 15 world titles. Agostini himself believes Marquez can catch and overtake the record.
However, while Marquez doesn’t “like the word impossible”, he believes catching the legendary Italian is “almost impossible”.
However, he cited other sporting benchmarks as inspiration for his exponential rise up the record leaderboards.
“It means winning double what I have achieved so far. I have never been obsessed with a number or a name … I just enjoy my passion for racing,” he said.
“It has been a very good year and it will be difficult to improve. But one of my idols is Rafa Nadal, and when you see him in a match and wonder what he can do better, he always takes a new step forward.
“Or when Messi scores a goal, you think again that he can’t do better and then he goes and scores another which is better.
“I try to model myself on them … they are always improving. I will try to learn from mistakes. Rivals show you your level and that is where we will try to continue growing.”
In a Bathurst blockbuster that went for nearly six and a half hours, a five-second fuel stop proved the difference for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team and the #888 in winning the race.
While conjecture remains over whether Fabian Coulthard’s Safety Car go-slow influenced the outcome, with Scott McLaughlin holding on to win for DJR Team Penske in a final-lap dash, the factory Holden squad took a series of gambles — and produced errors — they would rue by race’s end.
The ‘dream team’ pairing of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes in the #888 entry started fourth, and finished fourth. In between lights-out and the chequered flag, at times you could have pencilled them in for the win — but they would finish where they started.
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The #888 first hit the lead on Lap 87, eight laps after Whincup came in to hand over to Lowndes. On Lap 79, McLaughlin — who was in front of Whincup — gave the reins of the #17 to Premat.
When Lowndes emerged, he had a comfortable margin over Premat, which became the effective race lead when James Moffat — aboard the leading #55 Tickford car — stalled as he left his pit box.
However, a pair of Lap 91 Lowndes mistakes opened the door to Premat, before the ZB Commodore was handed over to Whincup on lap 98. Then, the #888 jumped the #17 in the lane with a shorter stop on Lap 113, and also stayed ahead through the next round of stops on Lap 135 in the Safety Car period made infamous for Coulthard’s actions.
Afterwards, Whincup initially fuel-saved, but turned up the wick to lap in the 2:06s and 2:05s to build an 11-second lead.
That gap became redundant once Garry Jacobson and Richie Stanaway tripped over each other at Hell Corner on Lap 151, and Whincup was called to pit as the Safety Car was called — a decision Mark Skaife labelled the “biggest call of the race so far” in commentary. The #888 took on five seconds of fuel, but new tyres weren’t fitted.
Hindsight will sting the team, with Andre Heimgartner’s Lap 158 shunt bringing out another Safety Car, which ultimately helped McLaughlin on fuel.
In the garages, Lowndes was helpless as Whincup would fail to clear James Courtney in a final-lap sprint to reach the podium — but the team expected much more than even that.
“It was nerve-wracking to be honest, not being inside the car, which I’m normally used to at the closing stages of a Bathurst,” Lowndes told Supercars Trackside after the race.
“The decision made to run hard and fast was an interesting one. We hedged our bets.
“We had Shane van Gisbergen running on the fuel consumption run, Jamie lit it up and was gapping everyone quite quickly.
“The only downside to what we didn’t do was put some tyres on the car for him. He obviously went out with full fuel.
“He could run to the end, but he had the same tyre quality than everyone else. He really didn’t have an advantage over anyone else.
“That was probably the only hindsight of what we didn’t do right, but we were in the hunt most of the day.”
The sister #97 entry suffered a loose door latch and double-stacking headaches, but van Gisbergen and Garth Tander only missed the win by just 0.6799s.
However, when the Coulthard drama hit the fan, van Gisbergen was seventh and enjoyed nearly a 10-second fuel advantage, which again would have proved redundant as the #97 would have stacked behind the #888 anyway.
With focus back to #888, team manager Mark Dutton admitted they needed to commit earlier to the final stop to stay in the hunt for the win, which would have been Whincup’s fifth in the Great Race, and Lowndes’s eighth. Being in the lead at the time left them exposed as the pioneers, so it was a risk either way.
“The time we lost not making it earlier — and that’s a collective, we’re a team making these decisions together — means that there’s a chance we would have come in, pitted and got back out in the lead and cruised home,” Dutton said.
“But it was not to be. Other people may have done things differently if we were in that position as well, so you can never say that’s definitely what would have happened.
“You’re consuming a lot of extra fuel compared to everyone else. The numbers we had to hit were near-impossible if you were leading at that stage, hence the call.”
Mercedes celebrated making Formula 1 history as the “special” six-time world champions underlined their status as the undisputed kings of the sport’s current era.
Valtteri Bottas’ emphatic victory at Suzuka and Lewis Hamilton’s third-place finish — plus bonus point for fastest lap — meant Mercedes wrapped up the 2019 constructors’ championship at the first opportunity, despite Ferrari having locked out the grid’s front row earlier on Sunday morning.
Not only did the result tie Ferrari’s record for the most consecutive constructors’ championship — six in a row — it also meant that only Hamilton or Bottas can now mathematically finish the year as the world drivers’ champion.
Mercedes are therefore assured of becoming the first team to win six drivers’ and constructors’ doubles in succession, eclipsing the record of five they have shared with Ferrari (2000-2004) since last year.
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“It feels good,” said team principal Toto Wolff to Sky Sports F1.
“When we embarked in the journey six or seven years ago we wanted to win races more regularly and fight for the championship and, six years later, it’s the sixth championship in a row.
“I feel so happy for everyone that was involved. Lots of hard work behind the scenes, lots of painful moments also, but the team was always able to pick themselves up.”
Mercedes dedicate triumph to Lauda
Dedicating the success to Niki Lauda, the team’s much-loved non-executive chairman who passed away in May, Wolff said that the F1 legend had “been such an important part from the beginning, and we all miss him dearly”.
Lauda joined the Brackley team several months before Wolff in 2012, when the prospect of such record-breaking and sustained success was barely conceivable after one victory in three seasons. But the Austrian three-time world champion played a key role in enticing Hamilton to join them from then-serial winners McLaren and, once the new hybrid turbo engine regulations dawned in 2014, Mercedes have not looked back.
“Joining them in 2013, with just the utter belief that we will do something special, it’s kind of crazy to see it coming to fruition, all the hard work,” said Hamilton, who now leads Bottas by 64 points this year and will have his first chance to become a six-time champion in Mexico next time out.
“Naturally, when I met everyone in 2013, just seeing how dedicated they were there, and it still remains the same.
“Even though we have the success each year, they’re hungry, they’re driven, they’re excited that they have Valtteri and I in the car and they give absolutely everything. And I love that, and it really inspires me to go out there and drive the way that I do, the way that we do throughout the weekend.”
Hamilton added to Sky F1: “So much hard work over the year and for these past seven years. This team has done an incredible job in constantly elevating and levelling up every year. I’m really proud to have been able to contribute and do my part, I hope everyone is having some champagne today.”
Bottas, who has now won three constructors’ titles with the team, said: “We don’t really realise it yet what we have done. We are making history in this sport — that’s very cool.”
Rating those who really did have an F1 Super Sunday — and those who had one to forget.
Qualified 3rd, Finished 1st
A performance that Valtteri Bottas has been waiting for, evoking memories from the start of the season when he was a more consistent challenger to Lewis Hamilton.
Of the five sessions that did take place before the race, P1-P2 and Q1-Q3, Bottas was the quicker Mercedes in four of them, ultimately qualifying ahead of Hamilton for the first time in six races. He put that small start advantage to good use when he burst past the faltering Ferraris off the line and looked very comfortable once in a leading position. A one-stopper from his teammate might have complicated matters but Hamilton did stop twice too and, in any case, Toto Wolff made clear “we are not playing teammates against each other with race strategy”.
“Suzuka has always been my favourite track even though I’ve never been particularly strong here — but now I like this track even more. It’s been a while since my last victory, I missed that winning feeling,” said the Finn of his third win of 2019 and the sixth of his career.
To his credit, Bottas has only dropped two points to Hamilton since the summer break — his championship deficit was 62 points after Hungary and it’s 64 now — and will hope his results keep his teammate waiting for the crown at least a little longer than Mexico next week.
Rating out of ten: 9
Qualified 1st, Finished 2nd
A win that got away for Sebastian Vettel or one where second place between what appeared to be two faster Mercedes’ was actually a strong result? Had he not started from the very front then the latter judgment would certainly have been obvious, but the impressive nature of the German’s return to pole position just hours ahead of the race had raised expectations that he was in line for a fifth Suzuka win.
Vettel scuppered his clearest route to victory by rolling before the lights, with the lost momentum/concentration meaning he was immediately overtaken from behind by Bottas. Saying that, losing just one position was probably fortunate in itself given the “really poor start” from pole.
He couldn’t keep up with the lead Mercedes from there, but was canny enough to keep his tyres in for the race’s closing laps to keep the other Silver Arrow of Hamilton at bay. After so many questions about his status within Ferrari recently, there was at least no question about the identity of the Scuderia’s fastest driver at Suzuka.
Rating out of ten: 8
Bottas wins Japanese GP
Qualified 4th, Finished 3rd
Winning from fourth at Suzuka was always going to be a tall order and, as it turned out, it was Bottas who really opened up the opportunity to become the first row-two Suzuka victor at the start. Despite winning at this track on four occasions, Hamilton says the figure-of-eight circuit isn’t one of his very best and Bottas did hold the edge on him throughout Friday and then again when it mattered most in qualifying.
It was a strong race-day drive from the world champion, although a longer first stint ultimately neither opened up into a one-stopper or got him ahead of Vettel. Still, while his points lead may have been reduced by nine heading to Mexico, that sixth Drivers’ Championship is, in reality, getting ever closer for Hamilton as the contenders drop out and the races run out. He’s also just become the second driver after Michael Schumacher to be part of six constructors’ championship successes with one team.
Rating out of ten: 7.5
Qualified 6th, Finished 4th
Matching teammate Max Verstappen’s qualifying lap probably represented the most significant moment of Alex Albon’s debut Suzuka weekend. Yes, fourth place in the race was his best F1 result so far, but his Red Bull bosses will probably be most encouraged by that earlier Sunday morning Q3 pace when he appeared to extract the maximum out of the RB15.
The race was a little more difficult, with his eventual 59-second deficit to the front not helped by a bad start when he dropped behind both McLarens. He overtook Lando Norris with a robust but, as judged by the stewards, fair move down the inside at the chicane and then won out on strategy and superior car pace against Carlos Sainz. “This weekend has definitely felt like my best with the team,” said Albon, who now has five successive top-six finishes under his belt since stepping up from Toro Rosso two months ago.
Rating out of ten: 8
Qualified 7th, Finished 5th
There were four groups of cars in the Japanese GP — the front runners, the midfield, the backmarkers and, nestled impressively between the first two of those, the group of one featuring fifth-placed Carlos Sainz. McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl described it as “a sensational drive” — the fifth time Sainz has finished in the top six in the last eight races — as he came home ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on the road and a long way clear of Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault.
One of the growing contenders for 2019’s driver of the season is now ahead of Pierre Gasly for sixth in the Drivers’ Championship too, with the promise of more strong results to come before his maiden McLaren season is out.
Rating out of ten: 9.5
Qualified 16th, Finished 6th
Talk about a Super Sunday of two halves. Daniel Ricciardo’s weekend’s had again threatened to be headed for the file marked ‘forgettable’ after problems at the rear of his Renault helped knock him out in Q1. But if there’s one thing you should never do with F1’s Honey Badger — and, more pertinently, one of it’s most accomplished overtakers — is underestimate his powers of recovery.
That was certainly underlined at Suzuka. Ricciardo was in the points by lap seven, didn’t pit until lap 29 and then went on a late overtaking spree to pass a compliant teammate, Perez, Stroll and Gasly. Leclerc’s double post-race time penalty then gave Ricciardo an extra bonus place to cap what, in the end, was a performance to remember.
Rating out of ten: 8
Qualified 2nd, Finished 7th
The damage to Charles Leclerc’s weekend was done long before the stewards penalised him to the tune of 15 seconds in the hours after the race for two infringements related to his second-corner clash with Max Verstappen.
In comparison to all the other race weekends since the summer break, Suzuka was a relative struggle for Leclerc with Vettel re-emerging here as Ferrari’s leading performer. As we’ve come to learn this year, Leclerc is his own harshest-critic so you can expect a response from him in Mexico and the USA to re-establish that Spa through Sochi momentum.
Rating out of ten: 5.5
Qualified 9th, Finished 8th
Whether or not he’s simply more in tune with Toro Rosso’s car than he was with Red Bull’s, Pierre Gasly is doing exactly what he needs to do to rebuild his confidence and reputation following his summer demotion. Qualifying and finishing in the top 10 here was an impressive feat, particularly as the Frenchman battled against car handling problems in the race.
As Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost explained: “He was able to get the maximum out of the car, especially considering that we detected a problem on his suspension, which made his car more difficult to drive. Pierre had to be very careful — especially on the last laps — not to lose the rear, but he managed it in a professional way, showing very good car control.” Sergio Perez was less happy with Gasly’s car control in the last-lap clash which sent the Racing Point driver into the barriers, but the stewards saw it more 50-50 and so took no action.
Rating out of ten: 8
Qualified 17th, Finished 9th
How do you finish the race in the wall and still end up scoring points? Sergio Perez could thank a glitch in F1’s electronic chequered flag system for erasing lap 53 from the 2019 Japanese GP, meaning his clash with Gasly didn’t actually matter. In truth, that meeting with the barriers had been an unfortunate end to what had been a fine drive from Perez after a surprise Q1 exit earlier on Sunday had left him with it all to do to get back into the points.
Rating out of ten: 7.5
Double crash mars qualifying
Qualified 15th, Finished 10th
“It was an amazing recovery from this morning where our qualifying wasn’t so good,” said Nico Hulkenberg, who had only fared slightly better than Ricciardo on Sunday morning before a far-more competitive race performance. He was still the lead Renault, running in ninth with 10 laps to go before his teammate, on much fresher tyres, and Perez moved ahead. He finished 11th, but was back into the points when the result was redeclared a lap early. Still without a drive for 2020, but Hulkenberg extends his points-scoring sequence to five races — his best run since 2017-18.
Rating out of ten: 7
Out of the points
One Racing Point profited from the chequered-flag glitch, but the other didn’t, as Lance Stroll was reclassified in 11th place once his teammate was reinstated in ninth. A one-stopper didn’t quite work out for the Canadian, who had run eighth into the final 10 laps. A shame for him given a strong qualifying performance relative to Perez.
Rating out of ten: 6.5
Lapping nearly seven tenths of a second slower than his Toro Rosso teammate, Gasly, in Q2 really proved Daniil Kvyat’s undoing at Suzuka. He knew it too. “Starting the race from P14 was not ideal and I knew it was going to be tricky,” said the Russian. “I feel like the race itself was strong, and even if we lost a couple of places at the start, from then on it was a solid recovery. We will need to work in order to improve our qualifying.” Since Gasly joined him from Spa, the Saturday score is 4-1 in the Frenchman’s favour.
Rating out of ten: 6.5
It was on lap four when Lando Norris, running well in seventh position, was forced to pit a long way out of sequence when debris from Leclerc’s Ferrari lodged itself in the McLaren’s right-brake duct. “In the chaos, I collected some debris in the brakes, which meant I had to box really early on and then the rest was pretty straightforward.” Returning in last place, he fought back to 13th.
Rating out of ten: 7
The point-less run goes on for Kimi Raikkonen, who has remained stuck on 31 championship points since the start of August. “We always do all we can to bring home a good result and in the end the car was pretty good on the last set of tyres,” said Raikkonen, who spent the last 15 laps on softs. “We were running three, four seconds faster than earlier in the race, but unfortunately by then we had lost a lot of time and our afternoon was compromised.” 14th from 13th on the grid was far from ideal.
Rating out of ten: 6
A familiar tale for a Haas driver this season. Romain Grosjean made Q3 but finished the race well outside the points with the VF-19 not having anywhere near the same level of competitive pace over the long race distance as it does the shorter qualifying one. Losing four places on lap one complicated matters early on for Grosjean.
Rating out of ten: 6.5
Antonio Giovinazzi has had Raikkonen’s number more often than not in qualifying recently and came within a tenth of putting one Alfa Romeo in Q3. Sunday afternoon was a different story though, with the Italian overtaken by Raikkonen in the closing laps.
Rating out of ten: 6
Kevin Magnussen knew he was in for an even longer Sunday than scheduled after he crashed within minutes of Robert Kubica at the same spot in Q1 as the wind whipped around Suzuka. A brilliant start to the race saw him gain six positions — including one from Grosjean, who had started 10th — but he fell steadily backwards from there.
Rating out of ten: 5
F1 qualifying cancelled
As shown in his SkyPad appearance alongside Albon on Friday, George Russell enjoyed his Suzuka debut, despite his car’s limitations, and nearly took the scalp of Perez in Q1. But brake issues on the Williams made it an “incredibly tricky” race for the rookie, who dropped out before the end but was still classified 18th.
Rating out of ten: 7
Nine years on from what will stand as one of his finest F1 qualifying performances at Suzuka, when he took his Renault to fourth, Robert Kubica didn’t get the chance for what might be one final flat-out lap around the famous figure-of-eight circuit when he crashed in Q1. The best news from there was that he at least got to race and finish. “The guys have done another amazing job, they are a really great group of people,” said Kubica of his Williams crew. “I really appreciate their work, not only today but throughout the season.”
Rating out of ten: 5
Did Not Finish
“Irresponsible” was Max Verstappen’s verdict on Charles Leclerc’s driving into Suzuka’s second corner after the Ferrari slid into him, spun him around and damaged his Red Bull. Verstappen pitted for repairs but Red Bull called a halt on lap 15 owing to excessive damage. Will Mexico, the scene of back-to-back Verstappen wins, now offer some late-season cheer?