Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2 at Japanese GP as Sainz snags podium in fascinating battle

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez secured a Red Bull 1-2 at the 2024 Japanese GP ahead of Carlos Sainz

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Max Verstappen returned to the top step of the podium in a 2024 Japanese Grand Prix that came alive in the final stages with Sergio Perez second and Carlos Sainz triumphing over his teammate and Lando Norris in the intriguing battle for third.

The Red Bulls always looked set for top spot and their third 1-2 in four races in 2024, though Perez was made to work for it. The Mexican made two hair-raising overtakes on the Mercedes at 130R early on but those really just scored points for style as the RB20 remains the class of the field.

Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon produced the biggest incident of the race with a hefty first-lap crash into the barriers despite only minimal contact between the drivers, bringing out the red flag, but it was a remarkably clean afternoon at Suzuka apart from that.

Mercedes, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris opted for effectively one-stop strategies from the red flag restart while Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri joined the Red Bulls on a double-stopper, setting up a fascinating final third of the race.

Leclerc was able to make the strategy work best, he was overtaken by Norris just before their first real pit stops of the race but rapid work from the Ferrari pit crew put their man back ahead of the Brit and Leclerc could extract more from his second set of hards.

It was a potentially costly moment for Norris as he had been the faster driver in that opening stint, McLaren claimed they were covering George Russell with that stop

Norris was also competitive on the strategy but Carlos Sainz came good in the final stint to hunt down the McLaren, and then his teammate. Norris ran wide at the turn 11 hairpin which allowed the Spaniard (on tyres 10 laps younger) past and with his shield gone, Leclerc also fell a couple of laps later.

Having been axed by Ferrari for 2025 in favour of Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, Sainz has been on the podium every race that he’s taken part in this season and still makes up 50% of the 2024 grand prix winners.

In stark contrast to Leclerc, Mercedes haemorrhaged time as their stints on the hards progressed and they actually switched to an effective two-stop late in the day.

However, that finally worked out with George Russell chasing down Oscar Piastri and Fernando Alonso who’d been locked in their own battle at the end of the race.

After clashing in the pitlane in qualifying, Russell and Piastri locked horns once more with the Mercedes almost pushing past on the final chicane before minimal contact pushed his quarry wide and allowed the Australian to cut the corner and keep the place.

With Piastri sitting in Alonso‘s DRS it appeared that he might hold on, but another mistake at the end of the penultimate lap allowed Russell to finally make it up into seventh – though that touch with Piastri is under investigation.

Tsunoda scores home point in A tale of two RBs

Yuki Tsunoda of Visa Cash App RB during final practice ahead of 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Yuki Tsunoda of Visa Cash App RB during final practice ahead of 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

All of that action was delayed by half an hour though thanks to Ricciardo and Albon‘s heavy first-lap crash.

Ricciardo was watching his left-hand side but just drifted too far the other way and tagged the Williams on the entry to the Esses, sending them both on the short run to the barrier and bringing out the red flags.

Yuki Tsunoda had dropped out of the top 10 at the first start but once repairs were complete, he had a storming restart to even jump Russell in the first turn.

After seeing out his early battle with Nico Hulkenberg, Tsunoda looked briefly under threat when Lance Stroll pitted for soft tyres and started charging hard, though that quickly faltered and he actually slipped back the Haas.

“It’s unbelievable how bad our straight-line speed is, it’s like a different category!”

Lance Stroll’s high-pitched team message as he chased down Yuki Tsunoda

Tsunoda becomes the first Japanese driver to score points on home soil since Kamui Kobayashi‘s iconic podium in 2012. He’s still scored all of RB‘s tally in 2024 and has beaten Ricciardo in three out of four races, apart from that feisty Bahrain opener.

Zhou Guanyu also retired in the first half of the race due to a gearbox issue, while Logan Sargeant had been enjoying a stronger race as the only Williams standing until he ran wide at the death and ended dead last.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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