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Max Verstappen takes commanding Japanese GP win: 'Couldn't be better'

Published on 07 April 2024 by Stefan Meens

At the iconic Suzuka Circuit, Max Verstappen won the Japanese Grand Prix in dominant fashion ahead of Oracle Red Bull Racing team mate Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz completed the top three.

“It was a really nice race”, said Max after his third win of the 2024 campaign. “The start was obviously critical to keep the lead, but after that, the car just kept improving. That was maybe because of the clouds coming in, but in general the race was nice. The pitstops went well, the strategy was good; it couldn’t have gone better really. We had a small problem in the last race so I’m happy to be on top again.”

Ahead of the race, it was difficult to judge the RB20’s race pace. “The car felt a lot better than in practice. I pushed at the start and managed well after that. This track is tough on the tyres, but I felt a lot more comfortable compared to the rest of the weekend. We made the right changes and the final stint on the hard tyres went really well, but we only had one set. We didn’t expect it to be so hot today, so the weather forecast switched, so it was difficult to judge what tyres to use.”

Max starts the race from pole position with Perez lined up alongside him. When the lights go out, the Dutchman keeps the lead with the front half of the grid making it through the first few corners unscathed. Unfortunately, further down the order, the Williams of Alex Albon tangles with the RB of Daniel Ricciardo, resulting in both drivers ending up in the tyre barriers on the entry to turn 3, the Esses.

With the barriers requiring repair, the race is red flagged. Half an hour later, the race restarts with Max again maintaining his lead. After the opening lap, the three time world champion leads Perez, Lando Norris (McLaren), Sainz and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin).

On lap seventeen, Max makes his first pitstop. After a clean stop, he rejoins the race in third. On his out lap, he passes the Mercedes of George Russell for second. Four laps later, the Red Bull driver regains the lead by overtaking Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

At the halfway mark of the 53-lap race, Max and Perez are out in front with Sainz, Alonso, Piastri, Norris and Leclerc competing for the honours behind the Red Bull pair.

In lap 35, Max enters the pits for his second and final pit stop of the race. After a two second tyre change, he rejoins in second behind Sainz, who is still to make his final stop. Meanwhile, Perez has made his final stop too and is in fourth, with the Ferrari of Leclerc in front him. The Mexican swiftly overtakes Leclerc and after Sainz pits in lap 37, the two Red Bulls restore order with Max leading comfortably to take another emphatic win. He also the mile stone of leading 3000 laps in Formula 1.

Further back, the fight for the final podium spot rages between the two Ferraris and Norris’ McLaren. After a small mistake in the second Degner corner by the former, Sainz moves up into fourth, before passing team mate Leclerc to clinch third and thus his third podium of the season.

Results Grand Prix Japan:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT531:54:23.56626
2Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT53+12.535s18
3Carlos SainzSAIFerrari53+20.866s15
4Charles LeclercLECFerrari53+26.522s12
5Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes53+29.700s10
6Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes53+44.272s8
7George RussellRUSMercedes53+45.951s6
8Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes53+47.525s4
9Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes53+48.626s2
10Yuki TsunodaTSURB Honda RBPT52+1 lap1
11Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari52+1 lap0
12Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes52+1 lap0
13Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari52+1 lap0
14Valtteri BottasBOTKick Sauber Ferrari52+1 lap0
15Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault52+1 lap0
16Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault52+1 lap0
17Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes52+1 lap0
0Zhou GuanyuZHOKick Sauber Ferrari12DNF0
0Daniel RicciardoRICRB Honda RBPT0DNF0
0Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes0DNF0