Max Verstappen and Red Bull returned to winning ways in the 2023 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix after surviving a dramatic first lap and pulling comfortably clear of McLaren pair Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, confirming another constructors’ title for the Milton Keynes team.
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At the start, Verstappen was attacked by Piastri and Norris but kept both at bay navigated Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car periods and then romped into the distance, taking the chequered flag first for the 13th time this season.
As such, Red Bull mathematically put the constructors’ Championship out of their rivals’ reach to back up their 2022 win and make it two triumphs on the bounce, underlining the outfit’s superiority under F1’s latest ground effect era so far while adding to the teams’ titles they achieved in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
A battle between the McLaren drivers was ultimately settled in Norris’ favour, the Briton getting ahead at the start, dropping behind when Piastri pitted under a Virtual Safety Car but then displaying enough pace for the team to swap positions.
Charles Leclerc led Ferrari’s charge in fourth position, completing a bold, late move on Mercedes rival George Russell – the only front-runner to attempt a one-stop rather than two-stop strategy – around the outside of Turns 1 and 2.
Russell fell into the clutches of teammate Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps and was instructed to let him by, which he agreed to do after the Mercedes drivers had gone wheel-to-wheel and almost collided earlier in the race.
Carlos Sainz also pounced on Russell’s ageing tyres to take sixth behind Hamilton, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly – despite a first-lap incident for the former – scoring the final points of the day.
With their cars starting ninth and 11th, AlphaTauri had been points contenders in the opening exchanges. Still, they faded as the various strategies played out – F1 newcomer Liam Lawson beating home favourite Yuki Tsunoda to the flag in 11th and 12th, respectively.
Zhou Guanyu was another to bounce back from Lap 1 drama as he crossed the line 13th, the only Alfa Romeo driver to finish after teammate Valtteri Bottas was punted into the gravel by Williams rival Logan Sargeant.
Haas pair Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were the final finishers in P14 and P15, respectively, a theme of their 2023 season amid tyre degradation struggles, with a gaggle of cars behind retiring at different stages.
Williams suffered a double DNF as Sargeant returned his car to the garage after clashing with Bottas, having been penalised pre-race and given a pit lane start for significant car changes following his qualifying crash, while Albon retired with damage after his own Lap 1 incident involving the Alfa Romeo.
Another bottleneck moment at the start saw Red Bull’s Sergio Perez bang wheels with Hamilton before a separate incident with Magnussen forced him to pit for a second new front wing, leading to his retirement (albeit reappearing late on to serve time penalties). Lance Stroll was the other driver to retire with a rear wing issue on his Aston Martin.
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director, Pirelli:
First and foremost, I want to congratulate Red Bull for their achievement in taking their sixth Constructors’ title and ensuring that only Max or Sergio can now take the Drivers’ crown. The team led by Christian Horner is making its mark on the current Formula 1 era, beating all the records, and this fantastic result is well deserved.
The Suzuka track is one of the toughest on tyres, and this year, we saw higher temperatures than usual, increasing their demands. This afternoon, everything went as we had expected, and all three available compounds were used, thus creating a situation where we saw several different strategies between the teams and drivers. After studying the data from free practice, we reckoned that a two-stop plan was the quickest, and that was confirmed. Those who tried something different, Russell, for example, had to give their best in the closing stages to their two-stopping rivals. Compared to Friday, we saw that the Medium was the most used, even if the difference in terms of degradation when compared to the Soft, also today, was not that big. The C2 offered greater flexibility in terms of management, and that’s why the majority of drivers opted to start with it.
How the race was won from the tyre point of view:
For the start, 13 drivers went with the Medium for the first stint, seven for the Soft. Apart from those who had to rapidly change their plans because of collisions in the opening moments of the race, it was clear that most drivers had opted for a two-stop strategy, making the most efficient use of the sets of tyres available. Those who had two new Hard sets used them both, except Russell, who – having managed his Medium set from the start – tried to mix things up by going for a one-stop strategy, using the Hard for no fewer than 29 laps. The Mercedes driver also did the most laps (24) on one set of Medium tyres, while Zhou (Alfa Romeo) did the most (19) on the Soft.
The Qatar Grand Prix is next, from 6 to 8 October. Formula 1 will, therefore, be making its second appearance at the Lusail circuit following the inaugural race in 2021. The teams will have the C1 compound as P1 Zero White stiff, C2 as P Zero Yellow medium and the C3 as P Zero Red soft. The facilities at the Doha circuit have been completely renovated to host the Championship, which is due to race in Qatar for a further ten years. This Grand Prix will also be the fourth of the year to run to the Sprint Format, which will also be seen in Austin and Sao Paulo.
2023 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix Race Results
|1.||1||Max Verstappen||Netherlands||Red Bull Racing||1:30:58.421||26||400|
|2.||4||Lando Norris||Great Britain||Mclaren Racing||+19.387s||18||115|
|3.||81||Oscar Piastri||Australia||McLaren Racing||+36.494s||15||57|
|4.||16||Charles Leclerc||Monaco||Scuderia Ferrari||+43.998s||12||135|
|5.||44||Lewis Hamilton||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+49.376s||10||190|
|6.||55||Carlos Sainz||Spain||Scuderia Ferrari||+50.221s||8||150|
|7.||63||George Russell||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||+57.659s||6||115|
|8.||14||Fernando Alonso||Spain||Aston Martin F1 Team||+74.725s||4||174|
|9.||31||Esteban Ocon||France||Alpine F1 Team||+79.678s||2||38|
|10.||10||Pierre Gasly||France||Alpine F1 Team||+83.155s||1||46|
|11.||40||Liam Lawson||New Zealand||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap||0||2|
|12.||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Japan||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap||0||3|
|13.||24||Zhou Guanyu||China||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+1 lap||0||4|
|14.||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Germany||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||0||9|
|15.||20||Kevin Magnussen||Denmark||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||0||3|
|16.||45||Alexander Albon||Thailand||Williams Racing||DNF||0||21|
|17.||2||Logan Sargeant||USA||Williams Racing||DNF||0||0|
|18.||18||Lance Stroll||Canada||Aston Martin F1 Team||DNF||0||47|
|19.||11||Sergio Perez||Mexico||Red Bull Racing||DNF||0||223|
|20.||77||Valtteri Bottas||Finland||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||DNF||0||6|
2023 Constructor Standings
|1.||Red Bull Racing||860|
|2.||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||409|
|5.||Aston Martin F1 Team||280|
|6.||Alpine F1 Team||120|
|8.||Alfa Romeo Racing||16|
|10.||Haas F1 Team||12|