With summaryMax Verstappen has already given his team a wonderful party in Japan. The Dutchman won by force majeure at the Suzuka circuit. Red Bull therefore won the constructors’ title for the sixth time, despite a disappointing performance by Sergio Pérez.
Noud Bemelen, Marijn Abbenhuijs
The Japanese Grand Prix started chaotically. Max Verstappen did not get away from pole position in a fantastic way, but was able to keep the two McLarens just behind him. In particular, Lando Norris, who started from third place, put a lot of pressure on him, but ultimately came out of the first corner in second place. Behind the battle for the leading position, a lot was happening.
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Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz dived into a tiny hole, causing his teammate Charles Leclerc, Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and the four of them to sit next to each other. It was too narrow for that and the small collision that resulted caused Pérez to have to replace his front wing and fall far back. To make matters worse, the Mexican also received a five-second time penalty because he overtook other drivers while exiting the pit lane during the safety car situation, which is not allowed.
Not much later, Pérez made an even bigger mess of it. In a desperate attempt to overtake Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, he knocked the Dane aside. He received another penalty and had to replace his front wing once more, after which he concluded that the car felt bad and he had to abandon the race. Remarkably, the Mexican suddenly came onto the track later in the race. He did this to serve his time penalty and thus prevent him from receiving a grid penalty in the Qatar Grand Prix in two weeks.
In any case, Pérez’s disastrous race meant that, if Red Bull wanted to secure the constructors’ title in Japan, Verstappen had to single-handedly score one point more than the two Mercedes drivers combined. George Russell in particular did his best to thwart that. The Brit tried to earn a podium spot with a one-stop, where almost all drivers on the Suzuka circuit needed at least two pit stops. But on his fast-wearing tires, Russell was easily overtaken by the McLaren drivers who had an excellent weekend.
Norris in particular performed very well in Japan. He finished far ahead of his teammate Oscar Piastri, who had beaten him in qualifying. As a result, Norris finished second in a grand prix for the fourth time this season. Piastri stayed in third place and took his first podium of the season. He is the first Formula 1 rookie to finish on the podium since Lance Stroll finished third in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017.
Far ahead of the McLarens, Verstappen rode alone to his thirteenth victory of the season. The Dutchman was in a class of his own at the Suzuka circuit, in fact he was all weekend. Combined with the fact that he drove the fastest lap of the race, his performance was good enough to finally win the constructors’ title for Red Bull. Russell’s strategy did not work out as Mercedes hoped. He eventually fell back to seventh place, while Hamilton just managed to stay ahead of Sainz and finished fifth. The two Mercedes therefore only collected sixteen points.
Despite Pérez’s disappointing performance, it caused a Red Bull party in the country of their engine supplier Honda. The moment Verstappen crossed the finish line, his team’s engineers jumped happily into each other’s arms, fully enjoying their team performance this season. “You have won the constructors’ title for us,” team boss Christian Horner shouted to Verstappen via the on-board radio. The Dutchman credited his team for it. “You deserve this. What an incredible season we are having. Everyone can be proud. Here on the track, but also in the factory. You have built a rocket of a car.”
And thus single-handedly gives Red Bull Racing the world title! Unapproachable, what a performance again!
It’s almost here for Verstappen and Red Bull!
Hamilton thinks they have wasted time. Sainz dives into the second and gets DRS!
In the end, Russell was completely seen, because Sainz’s overtaking action was coming.
Those are very clear instructions for Russell! Let Hamilton pass.
‘Let’s play one team game? He ran me off the track earlier today,” Russell said. There’s going to be some rumbling going on there.
“We are going to lose both positions,” Hamilton warns his team over the radio. The Brit has Sainz in the DRS, but Russell is certainly not going to pass up his teammate.
Cheers in the stands, because Leclerc beautifully tackles Russell on the outside! Can he perhaps also go to Piastri? The difference between the two is 3 beats.
That’s also an interesting angle. Perhaps Red Bull were already thinking ahead to the next race? Take a punishment now, so that you don’t get one again in Qatar. We’ll see how that all goes.
Piastri overtakes Russell for P3! The Australian seems to be allowed on the podium after all.
One round later it’s again box, box for Perez. What a travesty, let’s be honest. With this they also belittle the Mexican a bit, although he actually already did that with his performance in this race…
The answer is yes! He has been inside for a long time, but now Pérez is back on the asphalt. His deficit: 26 rounds. Is this about the fastest race lap, or do they want to Checo just have it in the results? With that constructor’s title, things will normally turn out well for Red Bull.
Verstappen sets the fastest race lap! At Pérez they are still ready to try again, but is that still necessary?
The undercut from Hamilton at Sainz also passed.
There is also Verstappen! It all goes so smoothly…
While Russell can’t make things difficult for Norris.
And there’s Norris. That is a good stop by McLaren, but he ends up behind Russell (as expected). How long will that take?
Leclerc is in for his second stop! What else is in it for those Ferraris? Hamilton goes with him. The latter remains ahead of Alonso.
Alonso and Tsunoda battle it out. Wonderful images, but in the end it works for P9! The Spaniard has some speed back in his Aston.
Lawson in turn passes Magnussen.
This is also remarkable. Pérez has his helmet back on and has gotten in. Is he going out again? That is also remarkable.
Sargeant and now Albon no longer go outside. Both cars are retired.
“He’s just ruining the race now,” Norris continues. He has to put some effort into it, but now there it is swap at McLaren. Norris to P2, just under 13 seconds behind Verstappen.
The danger for the orange brigade mainly comes from Russell, who is in P7 but is on a one-stopper.
Norris very subtly asks the team to let him past Piastri. The Brit is also within a second of his teammate.
Alonso himself does not pass Ocon, and is now overtaken by Russell.
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