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Max Verstappen strolls to Japanese GP win as Red Bull seal Constructors’ Championship

Verstappen was in a league of his own out front, but there was plenty of action up and down the rest of the field

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Max Verstappen cantered home to victory at the Japanese GP nearly 20 seconds ahead of the competition as Red Bull sealed the 2023 F1 Constructors Championship in dominant fashion.

Verstappen was predicted to be untouchable up front after a statement performance in qualifying, and the Dutchman never looked under threat after an edgy start where the McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri sought to cut him off into Turn 1.

Norris showed the better pace of the two McLaren cars, with the team allowing him to pass Piastri in the middle stages of the race, and the two held position to take the final two podium spots and the Australian’s first in F1.

But the real drama unfolded behind as Ferrari and Mercedes battled it out both with each other and themselves, with Charles Leclerc pulling off a smooth pass on George Russell side by side into Turn 1 to come home fourth.

While Russell had seemed the faster of the two Mercedes, he was ordered to allow Lewis Hamilton by on Lap 49, and despite the team asking Hamilton to give his teammate a DRS assistant to fend off Carlos Sainz, he was unable to do so.

That meant that Hamilton crossed the line fifth ahead of the Spaniard, with Russell having to settle for seventh.

Fernando Alonso had another disappointing outing for Aston Martin, with the former champion unhappy with the team’s strategy calls, back in eighth.

Meanwhile Alpine managed to rally from poor pace in qualifying and practice to take two points finishes, with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in ninth and 10th.

Chaotic start

Racing at Suzuka always seems to produce drama of the start line, and this year’s race was no exception as drivers rushed towards the fast Turn 1, with a chain reaction from a move by Sainz on Sergio Perez causing chaos down the grid.

The series of collisions ultimately led to retirements for the Williams of Alex Albon, who was lifted up into the air after coming together with Valtteri Bottas, and Perez forced to come into the pits for a new front wing.

And that wasn’t the end of Perez’s issues, with the Mexican given a five second penalty for overtaking under the resulting safety car, and then another 10-second penalty for a collision with Kevin Magnussen as he attempted an ambitious dive bomb into the Turn 7 hairpin.

That prompted Red Bull to retire the car, but they subsequently opted to send Perez back out to serve his penalties despite being seven laps and give him a clean slate before the next race at the Qatar GP.

Matt Neill
Matt Neillhttps://total-motorsport.com
With years of experience in the motorsports field and Matt Neill founded Total-Motorsport.com to give clarity and more depth to the digital F1 landscape.
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