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F1 Japanese Grand Prix: F1 race results

Did Red Bull bounce back after Max Verstappen's shock retirement in Australia?

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 Max Verstappen cruised to an easy victory at the Japanese Grand Prix in a thrilling race full of action.

Max Verstappen leading the Japanese Grand Prix from Sergio Perez and Lando Norris (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen leading the Japanese Grand Prix from Sergio Perez and Lando Norris (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Pre-race

The Japanese Grand Prix is known for occasional wet weather and tropical storms. However, with only a 40% chance of rain, the race start would be dry, in the hottest conditions seen all weekend. The temperatures meant the teams needed to watch out for increased tyre degradation.

Red Bull locked out the front row in qualifying, Max Verstappen aiming to put the disappointment of Australia behind him. Teammate Sergio Perez wanted to capitalise on his strong start to the season.

Behind Red Bull, an intriguing battle shaped up for best of the rest. Lando Norris’ stunning Q3 lap saw him start the race from P3. Could he stay there, or would Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari once again come through? McLaren and Ferrari look set to battle all season for P2 in the standings, with the Scuderia holding a 38-point advantage.

Their teammates fared worse in qualifying; Oscar Piastri lined up P6, with Charles Leclerc seemingly at a loss as to why he ended up P8. Both had work to do.

Though both fared better than the Mercedes drivers, qualifying proved to be their worst session of the weekend. Lewis Hamilton lining up P7 and George Russell P9. Neither seemed confident of moving forward during the race. Russell was lucky to escape a grid penalty following an unsafe release from his garage in qualifying, only receiving a fine.

The crowd wanted a strong result for home hero Yuki Tsunoda. Starting the race from P10, he had the potential to score major points for both himself and RB Honda.

After a subtle and subdued national anthem, the drivers prepared to take on one of F1’s most challenging and revered circuits, where track position is crucial.

Lights out, instant red flag

Max Verstappen easily converted his pole position, moving clear from teammate Perez. Lando Norris maintained P3, though unable to keep up with the Red Bulls.

All drivers behaved into turn one, with Alonso and Piastri in the biggest battle, pushing hard into the first corner. The Aston Martin emerged victorious.

But behind, a massive crash for Daniel Ricciardo’s RB and Alex Albon’s Williams bought out the red flag. Albon found space on the outside of Ricciardo, and moved to the outside, only for the RB to move back to the racing line. Albon found himself on the grass and clipped Ricciardo, sending both at high speed into the tyre barrier. Both were ok, but the barriers now needed lengthy repairs.

Race start: take two

Max Verstappen and Sergio once again pulled away at lights out, bringing Norris with them. Piastri and Alonso resumed their duel, with Alonso winning the battle. Armed with soft compound tyres, the Aston Martin aimed to push forward and pass Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. The first lap was clean, barring contact between the two Alpines, but both were able to continue.

In a risky move, Mercedes fitted hard tyres to both cars for the restart. Russell locked up into turn one and was lucky not to tumble down the order. Despite being on harder compound tyres, Hamilton remained just a second behind Leclerc as the drivers began to settle into a rhythm.

The action was behind the top ten, with Lance Stroll moving past the Alpine of Esteban Ocon and up into P12. Kevin Magnussen was next to target a move on an Alpine, closing on Gasly. He passed the Frenchman around the outside a lap later.

Bottas and Hulkenberg pitted on lap 7, moving to the hard compound tyres. Sauber had their best pit stop of the year, taking four seconds to service Bottas’s car. Home hero Tsuonda was next to pit a lap later, unable to prevent being undercut by the Haas of Hulkenberg. The Alpines were under siege in the early stages, with Gasly under constant attack from the sole remaining Williams of Logan Sargeant, passing on lap 11.

Back at the front, Sainz had closed up on Norris’s McLaren and piled on the pressure as his tyres began to falter. Piastri’s second McLaren also suffered from high tyre degradation, as Charles Leclerc’s second Ferrari loomed in.

Front runner pit window opens

Norris was the first of the front runners to blink, pitting on lap 12. Ferrari now had to decide whether or not to react. Although now clear of the McLaren, Sainz found himself stuck behind Alonso’s Aston Martin. Piastri pitted a lap later, both papaya cars now on more durable tyres. Alonso pitted on lap 14 and rejoined comfortably ahead of Piastri.

Zhou Guanyu became the first retirement on lap 13, with a suspected gearbox problem. The Chinese driver had been off the pace all weekend, ending a challenging weekend.

Perez and Sainz pitted on lap 16. Perez remained comfortably ahead but lost track position to Norris, while Sainz lost considerable ground to Norris. But Norris now had a new issue, the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Timing his move to perfection, he powered past Hamilton around the outside into turn one. He repeated the move on Russell a lap later. Verstappen finally pitted and emerged ahead of the McLaren on new mediums.

Perez had a love affair with the infamous 130R, passing both Mercedes at the corner in the space of two laps. Once clear, he set off after Norris, who looked like a threat to a Red Bull one-two.

Mercedes’ pace had disappeared by lap 20, with Hamilton stating his front right was dead. Sainz became the latest to overhaul the seven-time world champion, demoting Hamilton to P7.

Further down the order, Tsunoda and Bottas became the latest to pass the Alpines. Tsuonda pulled off an audacious move around the outside of turn six while Bottas powered past at the first corner. Both Alpines were now at the bottom of the order.

Verstappen retook the lead on lap 25, effortlessly passing Leclerc’s Ferrari, which had yet to stop. Leclerc was told not to battle hard with the Red Bull or McLaren. Perez caught Norris on lap 22, passing the McLaren going into the final chicane to retake second place.

Second stop chaos

The Mercedes of Russell chose to pit on lap 23, fitting more soft tyres, remaining in P9, but now on much-needed fresh rubber, with Hamilton following in a lap later.

Down the order, four cars pitted at the same time. Tsunoda, Bottas, Stroll and Sargaent all put their faith in their pit crews. RB won that particular battle, rejoining ahead of the chasing pack.

Leclerc heroically held off Perez’s Red Bull despite running medium tyres that were well past their best. But a mistake on lap 26 let Perez past and threw him into the clutches of Norris.

Both Norris and Leclerc pitted at the end of the lap, with Russell jumping ahead of Norris at pit exit. Leclerc pulled ahead and set off into the distance. Norris urgently needed to pass the Mercedes, pulling off a stunning move around the outside into turn one, and set off after Leclerc.

The stage was now set for a grandstand finish. The top five of Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Alonso and Piastri all had to stop again. Behind them, Leclerc, Norris, Russell, and Hamilton could go to the end.

Final stops set up finale

Piastri was the first of the top runners to make his final stop on lap 33, emerging in P9. He set off a chain reaction. Perez and Alonso pitted on the next lap. This moved Leclerc and Norris into P3 and P4, while Alonso maintained track position ahead of Piastri at pit exit. Verstappen pitted on the same lap, only losing one position.

Perez was now behind Norris and easily dispatched the McLaren using his fresh rubber. Leclerc was his next target, passing him one lap later. Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari pitted on lap 37, losing time after locking up at the final chicane. He emerged in P7, behind both Mercedes, but with fresh tyres.

It took just one lap for Sainz to close on Hamilton’s Mercedes, moving into P5. Russell pitted for mediums, dropping down to P9, but with tyres, that would be significantly faster. Hamilton pitted on lap 40, going for an identical strategy, the front right tyre causing a slight delay.

Piastri and Alonso were engaged in a tight battle, with the McLaren having just one lap extra tyre life advantage. The McLaren closed up on the Aston Martin at the start and end of the lap but dropped away during the middle sector.

Sargeant ran wide in Degna two, spraying the track with gravel. Reversing back onto the track, he pitted for fresh rubber. Rejoining at the back of the order, his car was seemingly undamaged from the excursion.

Frantic finale

Leclerc’s early race performance put him in prime position for a podium. Norris chased down the Ferrari, but a mistake into the hairpin allowed Sainz to move within striking distance. Sainz passed on the pit straight and set off after teammate Leclerc. Ferrari confirmed team orders were not in play, both drivers being free to race. The Spainard closed up on lap 46, passing around the outside into turn one to move into P3.

Down the order, Lance Stroll rapidly moved up the order, having pitted for softs. With just seven laps to go, he moved into P11 and passed the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Now just 7.5 seconds behind the RB of home hero Tsunoda in P10, he pushed hard to close the gap and deny Tsunoda points,

Russell joined the Alonso and Piastri battle in the closing stages. Russell dived down the inside at the final corner on lap 50 but forced the McLaren wide. The stewards noted the incident. Alonso tactically managed the gap, allowing Piastri to close within a second of the Aston Martin to give the McLaren DRS. Piastri made an error on the final lap, and Russell took full advantage to move into P7.

Max Verstappen took the chequered flag ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, giving the team its third one-two finish at Suzuka. Carlos Sainz completed the podium. Leclerc finished P4, Norris P5, Alonso P6, Piastri P7, Russell P8, Hamilton P9, and Tsunoda claimed a point on his home circuit, taking P10.

Final classification

 

 

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images 

 

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