Max dominates in Japan, Red Bull Racing are champions: 'Proud of everyone'
Published on 24 September 2023 by Florence Cobben
Max Verstappen dominated the Japanese Grand Prix, where Oracle Red Bull Racing secured their sixth World Constructors' Championship title thanks to Max’s performance. While the start was intense, most of the turmoil on the field passed the Dutchman by. McLaren completed the podium with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.
“What an unbelievable weekend. To win here was great. I think the car was working well on every compound”, Max explains, “But of course, the most important was to win the constructors'. So (I’m) very proud of everyone working at the track but also working at the factory. It was an important goal for the team that this also happened here, in Japan. It’s special to gain the title this early in the season. We are having an incredible year and I’m proud of everyone.”
After the first lap, Max was ahead and in his own league, but the start was exciting: “At the start I had some wheelspin and it was pretty close, but that was the only problem. Afterward, it was an easy race luckily. We were ahead every lap, it went really well”, Max concludes.
The top eight start on the medium Pirelli compounds. When the lights turn green, Max has to defend tooth and nail against the two Mclarens, but manages to just come out ahead. Norris manages to pass Piastri into second place. In the midfield, chaos erupts, with more than one collision between the cars. A safety car gets deployed.
In the first lap, Max’s teammate Sergio Perez was pushed wide by Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, and the Mexican hits Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. He is forced to pit for a new front wing and falls to P18. Zhou Guanyu’s front wing also gets damaged by the debris scattered around him, after Valterri Bottas and Alex Albon also collide. Albon’s Williams is briefly sent flying.
At the restart Max gets away cleanly, quickly followed by Norris and Piastri. Bottas is driven off track by contact with Logan Sargeant, and is the first car to retire. Meanwhile, George Russell and Mercedes-teammate Hamilton are competing for P7, which Hamilton eventually manages to take. Perez gets a five-second penalty because he gained on other drivers coming out of the pit lane.
After 11 laps, Max is ahead of Norris by four seconds, who has the same time gap to Piastri. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz chase the McLarens, followed by Hamilton and Russell. Fernando Alonso makes the first planned pitstop and switches from softs to hard tyres. Perez again damages his front wing after botching an overtake on Kevin Magnussen, hitting his RB19 against the back wheel of Magnussen’s Haas, causing the Dane to spin. Both come into the pits, and Perez serves his time penalty.
The collision caused debris to spread across the track, and a virtual safety car is called in, during which Piastri trades in his mediums for hard tyres. The race is resumed, but Perez is still in the pits, and gets a second time penalty for his collision with Magnussen. The Mercedes’ are again engaged in a battle for positions, causing Hamilton to go wide at Degner 2 and Spoon, but he manages to maintain his place, and immediately after goes for a pit stop. Max also pits and returns on medium tyres.
It’s not long before Max overtakes Russell and regains the lead. Piastri undercut Norris and is ahead of him. The Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz follow the McLarens. Alonso voices his frustrations over the team radio, after he was overtaken by not only Sainz and Hamilton, but also Esteban Ocon. After 25 laps, Russell pits and rejoins the grid behind his teammate, placing the Brits in sixth and seventh. Max is 12 seconds ahead op Piastri, who has Norris in his rearview mirror. McLaren decides to switch the two cares, placing Norris ahead.
In lap 38, Max makes his second pitstop, trading in his mediums for the hard compound, and stays ahead coming out of the pits. Max sets the fastest lap (1:34.183). In the meantime, Red Bull sends Perez, who had been retired for a while, back onto the track on fresh soft tyres. The Mexican is instructed to serve his second time penalty, after which the team retires the car for the rest of the race.
In lap 46, Leclerc makes a beautiful manoeuvre on Russell, taking fourth place. With just four laps to go, Sainz has gained on the Mercedes’. Despite team orders to switch, the teammates cannot manage to fend him off, and Sainz takes P6 from Russell.
After 53 laps, Max is the first to see the chequered flag, with nineteen seconds between him and Norris, who is joined on the podium by teammate Piastri. Leclerc takes fourth, followed by Hamilton, Sainz and Russell. The drivers that don't see the chequered flag are Albon, Sargeant, Lance Stroll, Perez, and Bottas, who all were forced to retire their cars.
Max brings home 26 points, securing Oracle Red Bull Racing’s title as constructors' champions, in a year that is nothing short of dominant. It’s the sixth championship for the Austrian team. Meanwhile, Max prepares to take his third driver’s championship, which he can secure with a top six finish in the sprint race in the upcoming Qatar Grand Prix.
|1||Max Verstappen||VER||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||53||1:30:58.421||26|
|2||Lando Norris||NOR||McLaren Mercedes||53||+19.387s||18|
|3||Oscar Piastri||PIA||McLaren Mercedes||53||+36.494s||15|
|8||Fernando Alonso||ALO||Aston Martin Mercedes||53||+74.725s||4|
|9||Esteban Ocon||OCO||Alpine Renault||53||+79.678s||2|
|10||Pierre Gasly||GAS||Alpine Renault||53||+83.155s||1|
|11||Liam Lawson||LAW||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||52||+1 lap||0|
|12||Yuki Tsunoda||TSU||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||52||+1 lap||0|
|13||Zhou Guanyu||ZHO||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||52||+1 lap||0|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||HUL||Haas Ferrari||52||+1 lap||0|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||MAG||Haas Ferrari||52||+1 lap||0|
|0||Alexander Albon||ALB||Williams Mercedes||26||DNF||0|
|0||Logan Sargeant||SAR||Williams Mercedes||22||DNF||0|
|0||Lance Stroll||STR||Aston Martin Mercedes||20||DNF||0|
|0||Sergio Perez||PER||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||15||DNF||0|
|0||Valtteri Bottas||BOT||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||7||DNF||0|