Update Post: November 28, 2023 11:02 am
The traditional morning race of the autumn Formula 1 season, the Japanese Grand Prix, hinted from the beginning of the weekend that the most interesting battle on the track would probably be the fight for the podium. Unlike what happened a week ago in Singapore, this time Max Verstappen dominated on the track from Friday, so the question of the winner seemed to have been eliminated even before the start of the race.
initiation of contact
As Ron Dennis said, to finish first, you have to finish. And for this it was necessary to at least have a good start. And at the start Verstappen maintained his position, despite the fact that both McLarens started very well. Lando Norris overtook his teammate and moved into second position, while Pérez stayed behind, dropping to seventh position after contact with Lewis Hamilton. Fernando Alonso had an excellent start: the two-time Japanese Grand Prix winner was ahead of Mercedes and Tsunoda.
In the second half of the peloton there was a slight collapse: Ocon, Bottas and Albon were three together in the race towards the first corner, Ocon launched himself towards Valtteri and sent the Finn towards Albon. All three of them were injured and Zhou also suffered in this situation. Everyone continued racing after entering the pit lane and the safety car was on the track due to debris on the track. Sergio Pérez also entered the pits to replace his front wing.
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The safety car soon left the track and the leaders maintained their positions at the restart. Behind him there was contact between Bottas and Sargent, and in the top ten, Hamilton and Russell had a fairly tough battle: Lewis held on to the side of the road, allowed Russell to get close to him, but fairly firmly repelled the attack of Your partner.
Verstappen quickly separated himself from the McLarens by two and a half seconds, the situation in the top ten stabilizing on lap ten. The race took a tactical turn, however, among the leaders only Alonso had “soft”, the rest started with “medium”.
Behind, Perez and Sargent received fines: Checo committed an infraction under the safety car and Logan ended Bottas’ torment after the initial crash of this race, sending him into the gravel.
Alonso was the first of the leaders to launch into his pit stop, and at that point Perez continued his adventures, placing a divebomb as he overtook Magnussen and simply crashed into the Dane’s left rear wheel. For the second consecutive race, Perez literally solved every problem he could.
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The first of the “middle” leaders to pit was Óscar Piastri, and Sergio Pérez ended his torment by abandoning the track after being damaged in a series of incidents. It should be noted that before leaving, Pérez almost took out one of the McLarens.
After a wave of pit stops, the leaders swapped positions between the McLaren drivers: Piastri pitted under the virtual safety car, so he was able to overtake his teammate and reach second position. However, the Australian’s pace was worse, and after repeated calls from Norris on the radio, they asked Oscar to let his partner return.
It is noteworthy that McLaren chose an alternative strategy, switching from “medium” to “hard”, while Verstappen and the Ferrari drivers replaced the “yellow tires” with equal, but new ones. A few laps into the pit stops, Lance Stroll ended the race early due to technical issues.
Mercedes chose an even more alternative tactical approach: Russell changed his “medium” eight laps later than his teammate, so for George, Mercedes chose the tactic of a pit stop.
By mid-race we had lost two more cars: first Sargent retired and then Albon. Williams’ career in Japan ended inglorious. Curiously, Red Bull decided to return Sergio Pérez to the track so that he could defend his fine in Japan and not receive it in the form of grid positions in Qatar.
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Mercedes came up with a strange tactic
The second wave of pit stops was opened by Leclerc and Hamilton, switching to hard. Piastri did the same a lap later, and then Norris; Despite the alternative tire strategy, the team opted for two pit stops. Ferrari chose a strange strategy, delaying Sainz’s pit stop and ultimately letting Hamilton take the lead.
Both McLarens stood up to Russell’s resistance and returned to the double podium; Soon Leclerc also caught up with Russell, quickly dealing with the Brit. Almost immediately, Hamilton also caught up with George, and Carlos Sainz also approached this couple.
Mercedes swapped positions between Hamilton and Russell; George’s one-stop tactic didn’t work at all. The young Briton also let Sainz pass, Carlos went after Hamilton, but never caught up with Lewis.
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Red Bull won the Constructors’ Championship for the sixth time in history!
Verstappen confidently led the race to victory, which became the 48th of his career and the 13th this season. Furthermore, even despite Pérez’s retirement, Mercedes scored only 16 points, allowing Red Bull to win the Constructors’ Championship ahead of schedule. McLaren achieved a double podium with Norris finishing second and Piastri third. The top five were completed by Leclerc and Hamilton. Also among the top ten were Sainz, Russell, Alonso, Gasly and Ocon.
The race in Japan was eventful, although Verstappen did not allow anyone to fight for victory. In Japan it was not possible to win the title ahead of schedule in the individual competition, but, apparently, already in Qatar, in two weeks, Verstappen will officially become a three-time world champion.