Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Red Bull Clinch Constructors’ Championship in Japan

Oracle Red Bull Racing secured their sixth Constructors’ Championship as Max Verstappen got back to winning ways at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix. There were also celebrations for McLaren F1 Team – who claimed their first double podium since Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris took a one-two finish at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix – as Lando Norris secured second and Oscar Piastri finished on the podium for the first time.

Story of the Race

Qualifying results on Saturday meant, Piastri became the fifth Australian to start on the front row and started alongside Verstappen, who had secured his ninth pole position, of the season. When the race got underway, the McLaren drivers launched an attack on the Red Bull, with Piastri on the inside and Norris on the outside. However, Verstappen maintained his lead while Norris moved ahead of his teammate, moving up into second place.

Further back in the pack, there were several collisions, first involving Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton, with the Mexican driver picking up damage to his front wing and pushing the Seven Time World Championship wide on the run into turn one. There were also incidents involving Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, and Alexander Albon off the start This resulted in debris scattered across the track, prompting the deployment of the Safety Car before the first lap had even finished. As a result, Pérez, Albon, Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Esteban Ocon all entered the pit for new tires or repairs.

The race resumed at the start of the fifth lap, with Verstappen in the lead, followed by Norris, Piastri, and the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. George Russell, in eighth place, challenged his Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team teammate at the final chicane and briefly moved ahead. However, Hamilton quickly re-passed him along the pit straight.

Towards the rear of the field, Logan Sargeant received a five-second time penalty for colliding with Bottas at the hairpin, causing enough damage to the Alfa Romeo to force Bottas out of the race. Upfront, the top five drivers were all on medium tires, and Verstappen extended his lead to five seconds over Norris by lap thirteen.

Pérez, who had earlier pitted for a new front wing, was making his way through the field behind Magnussen. In their battle for eleventh place, Pérez made a daring move on the Haas at the hairpin, resulting in Magnussen spinning and Perez having to pit for yet another new front wing.

Due to the debris on the track, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed. Piastri took the opportunity to pit for hard tyres while a frustrated Norris found himself stuck behind the struggling Pérez, who was on his way to retirement with a damaged car. When the race resumed, Verstappen had nearly doubled his lead to nine seconds over Norris with the latter losing lots of time because of Pérez.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen and Norris eventually pitted once the VSC period ended. Verstappen opted for a second set of medium tires, while Piastri moved ahead of his teammate, who switched to hard tyres. Russell, on medium tires, stayed out until lap 25, with Mercedes attempting a one-stop strategy. When Russell eventually pitted, Norris quickly closed the gap to his teammate in second, and Piastri was instructed to allow Norris to pass.

Piastri and Norris later pitted for a second set of medium tyres, with Piastri falling behind Russell into fourth place. Verstappen made a stop for hard tyres and returned to the track with a comfortable lead, setting the fastest lap of the race on his first full lap out of the pits.

Piastri made an impressive pass on Russell around the outside of turn one to reclaim third place, as he targeted a maiden Formula 1 podium, while Verstappen steadily increased his lead over Norris. Verstappen completed the remaining laps without any issues to secure his twelfth win of the season and clinch the constructors’ title for Red Bull.

Norris secured second place, finishing nineteen seconds behind the race winner, while Piastri claimed his first podium by finishing seventeen seconds further back in third. Leclerc took fourth for Scuderia Ferrari, followed by Hamilton in fifth. Sainz finished sixth, less than a second behind Hamilton’s Mercedes, with Russell in seventh on a one-stop strategy, having been passed by the four drivers ahead of him during the final stint of the race.

Fernando Alonso secured eighth place for Aston Martin Armaco Cognisant F1 Team, and the final points positions were taken by BWT Alpine F1 Team drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, the latter being instructed to let his teammate through on the last lap. Interestingly, Pérez, who retired from the race earlier, was later sent back out to serve his five-second time penalty for the collision with Magnussen before retiring permanently from the race.

Up Next…

Formula 1 heads to the Middle East for the next Grand Prix as the drivers gear up for a return to Qatar, where Verstappen can secure his third Drivers’ Championship as early as the Sprint Race.

1 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 53 1:30:58.421 26
2 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 53 +19.387s 18
3 81 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 53 +36.494s 15
4 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 53 +43.998s 12
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 53 +49.376s 10
6 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 53 +50.221s 8
7 63 George Russell MERCEDES 53 +57.659s 6
8 14 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 53 +74.725s 4
9 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 53 +79.678s 2
10 10 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 53 +83.155s 1
11 40 Liam Lawson ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 52 +1 lap 0
12 22 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 52 +1 lap 0
13 24 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 52 +1 lap 0
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 52 +1 lap 0
15 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 52 +1 lap 0
NC 23 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 26 DNF 0
NC 2 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 22 DNF 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 7 DNF 0