Verstappen bounces back in perfect 1-2 for Red Bull

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Japan, Circuit Suzukajp

The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka was one where Red Bull Racing didn't disappoint. Verstappen and Perez had controlled drives and never under threat to take that 1-2 finish. Australian Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz joins them on the podium by finishing third.

The Japanese Grand Prix kicked off with a clean getaway from the line without incidents but trouble started when the pack ended up in the high speed Turn 1. Nobody touched but it was clear there that in the back there were some very close near-misses, for example with Zhou nearly hitting the back of Magnussen.

Still they got through without any position changes in the top 9. Alonso seemed eager to challenge Sainz while being the only driver in that pack on softs but he was unable to make progress and Piastri was looking to overtake the Aston Martin himself.

Tsunoda in 10th meanwhile lost two positions to the benefit of Hulkenberg and Bottas, benefiting from their soft tyres at the start. Ricciardo had initially gained the upper hand to his team mate at the start but at Turn 1 Tsunoda got past again. When Ricciardo ended up at the first left hander, Albon was on his right but seemingly unnoticed, leading to the Williams driver getting squeezed and ending up in the gravel and barriers, just like Ricciardo. It was an immediate end to their races.

The race was stopped to clear the track. Everybody returned to the pits to sit there for 20 minutes before it was time to get going again.

For the new start, 35 minutes later than the original one, the Red Bulls, McLarens and Ferraris were again on medium, with Ferrari actually taking on fresh mediums. Alonso kept his softs, just like hulkenberg and Bottas. The two Mercedes and both Alpines on the other hand took on a fresh set of hard tyres to do the start.

This time every got cleanly through the first lap. The Alpines though bumped into one another without going off track as Russell and Bottas both locked up midway in Turn 1 to avoid a bad coming together.

While the Red bulls did enjoy a comfortable getaway they didn't really run away in the first laps. Perez also stayed very close to Verstappen until losing a second by going a bit wide on the exit of Degner 2 on lap 6.

In lap 6 and 7 those who started on soft tyres all pitted except the Aston Martin cars. By lap 11 Alonso started to have trouble keeping up the pace with Sainz while Stroll had made solid gains and improved to a points scoring 10th place.

In lap 12 Norris made an early stop and exchanged his mediums for hard Pirelli tyres. Piastri followed suit the next lap, demoting the McLaren's to 8th and 12th respectively.

As Zhou retired with a gearbox problem Alonso made his first pitstop. He switched to fresh medium tyres and returned to the track in 8th position 10s behind Norris and 3s ahead of Piastri. Norris set the fastest lap and would end up ahead of Perez and Sainz following their stops on lap 16.

At Mercedes there was also interesting things going on as the drivers swapped positions after Hamilton actually asked "shall I let George pass?". Not a message you frequently hear from a racing driver.

When Verstappen pitted Leclerc briefly inherited the lead for three laps before getting overtaken by the Red Bull again. Leclerc was working on a long first stint on medium just like both Mercedes tried on the hard tyres.

The Mercedes duo pitted in laps 23 and 24 to continue in 8th and 9th.

A couple of laps later Perez got past Leclerc for second place thanks to an error of the latter in Degner 2. The Ferrari driver could only just keep Norris behind. The duo pitted at the end of that lap with Leclerc rejoining in 6th place and Norris in 8th, further making him lose time by having to clear Russell.

20 laps from the end there was another flurry of pitstops including tyre changes for Verstappen, Perez, Piastri and Alonso. The race leader pitted 16 laps from the end and rejoined the race in 7th, behind the Mercedes duo and ahead of Alonso and Piastri.

After the Mercedes stopped one last time Sainz went on a mission to secure another podium finish. While putting increasing pressure on Norris the McLaren driver made a braking mistake at the hairpin that cost his 4th place later in the DRS zone. The pass triggered Sainz to say "one more to go for the podium" while Leclerc, third at that time was told he was racing Norris. Sainz was indeed quite a bit faster on tyres that were 10 laps younger, enabling the Spaniard to overtake Leclerc for third only one lap later.

As Piastri was seemingly unable to get past Alonso both Mercedes were rapidly getting closer with Russell joining them 4 laps from the end. Russell tried a divebomb at the chicane at the end of lap 49 but failed to make it. The two didn't touch but it did cost them nearly a second on Alonso, making Piastri lose DRS.

As Hamilton was at 2.4s and not rapidly closing the gap, Piastri was lucky to get DRS from a backmarker the next lap to fend off Russell.

On the penultimate lap the gaps were again down to 0.9s and 0.7s. At the end of that lap Piastri missed his braking point at the chicane and therefore easily lost 7th place to Russell. That sealed their positions as Alonso had escaped the battle.

Up in front, Verstappen won once again, bouncing back from that retirement in the previous race. Sergio Perez made it a perfect result for Red Bull Racing as Ferrari were clearly the second best team at Suzuka.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt531:54:23.56626
211Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt53+12.535s18
355Carlos SainzFerrari53+20.866s15
416Charles LeclercFerrari53+26.522s12
54Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes53+29.700s10
614Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes53+44.272s8
763George RussellMercedes53+45.951s6
881Oscar PiastriMclaren Mercedes53+47.525s4
944Lewis HamiltonMercedes53+48.626s2
1022Yuki TsunodaRb Honda Rbpt52+1 lap1
1127Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari52+1 lap0
1218Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes52+1 lap0
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari52+1 lap0
1477Valtteri BottasKick Sauber Ferrari52+1 lap0
1531Esteban OconAlpine Renault52+1 lap0
1610Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault52+1 lap0
172Logan SargeantWilliams Mercedes52+1 lap0
NC24Zhou GuanyuKick Sauber Ferrari12DNF0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRb Honda Rbpt0DNF0
NC23Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes0DNF0

Note - Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.