Race Report: Verstappen wins Japanese GP

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podiu during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 07, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202404070315 // Usage for editorial use only //

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez made it a one, two finish for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in third.

After a DNF in Australia, Max rebounded to a reliable and dominant victory despite narrowly claiming pole position over his teammate Sergio Perez. The question mark heading into the race was what had happened to Ferrari’s pace as they started 4th and 8th with McLaren and Aston Martin ahead of them.

In the end, it was their long-run pace that saw Ferrari fight back with an inspired 1-stopper from Charles Leclerc and a podium for Carlos Sainz.

Win

A win for Red Bull for their 1, 2 finish with Max leading Sergio to the top of the podium. After a DNF in Australia, the team bounced back with a dominant performance and maximum points haul with Max securing the fastest lap.

A win for Ferrari who seemed to be on the back foot on Friday and Saturday but their long-run pace and tire management worked a treat. A big win for Charles Leclerc who managed a terrific 1-stopper to take 4th just behind Carlos Sainz who patiently let the race and tire management strategy come to him for a podium finish. What seemed to be a challenging weekend turned into the exact scenario many feel this year presents, Red Bull vs Ferrari for constructor’s championship.

A win for McLaren who finished ahead of Mercedes with Lando Norris capitalizing on his brilliant qualifying position to finish in 5th. Oscar Piastri kept Lewis Hamilton behind him for 8th. A good points haul for McLaren and, like Ferrari on Friday, they didn’t seem to have the pace but clearly did.

A win for Fernando Alonso who managed his race perfectly keeping Oscar in his DRS range to help stave off a charging George Russell on fresher tires. Eventually Oscar bobbled and lost the position but by then, the damage was done and there wasn’t enough laps left for George to use his fresh tires to pass Fernando. A veteran move from the champ.

A win for Yuki Tsunoda for scoring his first point at his home race for RB. That’s the first Japanese driver to score points at their home race in 12 years!

A win for the undercut! Wow, that was powerful around Suzuka this year. Also a win for the tire strategies of the teams. Interesting to see how Max started with understeer, then as track cooled, fuel burnt off and the tire compound chose to finish the race left his car in perfect balance.

Fail

I can’t ascribe it as a fail for Mercedes as they have made a lot of progress with their car this weekend but their attempt at running both cars on a 1-stopper didn’t play out very well for them and dropped them down the order eventually forcing them to switch to a 2-stopper costing them track position.

A fail for Lance Stroll as he was of the pace all weekend while his teammate was scoring serious points and with the upgrades the team brought to Japan, that should have been in the cards for Lance as well.

A fail for Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon who had a racing incident ending their race early. To be fair, it was, effectively, a racing incident but both needed a good results and Williams needed an undamaged car.

A fail for the reliability of Zho Guanyu’s car given his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, had decent pace this weekend and together they may have mounted a points challenge.

WTH

Such a head-scratching situation for Alpine. It’s stunning how far off the pace they are and yet I know they are working as hard as they can to solve the performance issues and that makes it even more difficult to see them struggle so much.

Not sure how much damage was done to Alex’s car but if its’s substantial, Williams could be down to one chassis between the two for China. Let’s hope everything is sorted.

Pirelli Report:

For the start, there was a pretty even split between the 20 drivers in terms of those who opted for the Medium (all in the top ten except Alonso, plus Ricciardo, Tsunoda and Zhou) and those who went with the Soft. However, the red flag on the opening lap meant that seven drivers – the Mercedes and Alpine pairs, Sargeant, Tsunoda and Zhou – all took the opportunity to switch compounds. The Mercedes duo went from Medium to Hard, both Alpines and Sargeant in the Williams went from Soft to Medium, Tsunoda (Racing Bulls) and Zhou (Sauber) from Medium to Soft.

The restart meant the race was effectively shortened by two laps, with the original opening lap and the one to the grid for the second start still valid. Teams thus went for various strategic options both in terms of the number of pit stops and in their use of the available compounds. The most used was the C1 (545 laps, 60%), with the C2 next (281 laps, 31%) with not much in the way of difference in terms of degradation. While the Hard and Medium were the most popular, the Soft (81 laps completed, 9% of the total) also had a role to play, either at the start or in the closing stages, despite it demonstrating significant degradation.

Japanese Grand Prix Results:

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
11Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT531:54:23.56626
211Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT53+12.535s18
355Carlos SainzFERRARI53+20.866s15
416Charles LeclercFERRARI53+26.522s12
54Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES53+29.700s10
614Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES53+44.272s8
763George RussellMERCEDES53+45.951s6
881Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES53+47.525s4
944Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES53+48.626s2
1022Yuki TsunodaRB HONDA RBPT52+1 lap1
1127Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI52+1 lap0
1218Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES52+1 lap0
1320Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI52+1 lap0
1477Valtteri BottasKICK SAUBER FERRARI52+1 lap0
1531Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT52+1 lap0
1610Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT52+1 lap0
172Logan SargeantWILLIAMS MERCEDES52+1 lap0
NC24Zhou GuanyuKICK SAUBER FERRARI12DNF0
NC3Daniel RicciardoRB HONDA RBPT0DNF0
NC23Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES0DNF0
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race-report-verstappen-wins-japanese-gpA fun race to watch and see the strategies play out with regards to tires, track temp and strategy.
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Fabio

Lance seems just crushed. With his comments after quali and then during the race, it’s not a good place to be in.

Worthless Opinion

I think the problem with calling turn 1 a racing incident is it only happened because Ric just can not do this anymore. If you watch the turn previous he has utterly no handle on his car he’s sawing the wheel around looking for SOMEthing while he careens backward through the pack. Albon doesn’t know wtf he’s going to do next or what to do with him. It looks like one of those top gears where they put clarkson in a touring car race. Get him out.

Xean Drury

Can we please get rid of the DRS on Suzuka? It’s not required. Your friend, every F1 fan.

Worthless Opinion

I know it’s illegal to support drs on this site, but i actually thoughtit was better here than usual, because of the intrigue of leaving the drivers to shutit off (or not!) in turn one. I think that’s how Lando made that wild last second slingshot round rhe Ferrari, and the risk was massive.

Xean Drury

Heh, hardly illegal. I was a huge booster of DRS in the previous ‘Hamilton’ generation, but with the current regs, the dirty air isn’t the problem it used to be. Most of the DRS passes shown were moves that were going to be done, regardless of if the back wing was open or not. I think other courses still need the crutch. But this course… How many passes were made with DRS versus not? I don’t have the numbers, but it seemed most passes didn’t require or use it. That’s all I’m saying. Did you see Stroll? lol the heck… Read more »