Max Verstappen took another comfortable victory in the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of the two McLaren drivers to win the constructors’ championship for Red Bull.Oscar Piastri secured his first podium finish in his rookie season, taking the chequered flag third behind team mate Lando Norris.
Despite Sergio Perez failing to finish after collisions with two other drivers, Verstappen’s win was easily enough to clinch the title for his team.
At the start of the race, Piastri lined up alongside pole winner Verstappen on the front row. When the lights went out, the McLaren drivers attacked the Red Bull from both sides, Piastri on the inside, Norris the outside, but Verstappen held his lead as Norris moved ahead of his team mate into second.
Back in the pack, there were multiple collisions between Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton and, further back, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Alexander Albon. That left debris strewn across the track, so the Safety Car was deployed before the end of the opening lap, with Perez, Albon, Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Esteban Ocon all pitting for new tyres or repairs.
The race resumed at the start of lap five, with Verstappen leading from Norris, Piastri and the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr in fifth. Eighth placed George Russell challenged Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton into the final chicane and moved ahead, only for Hamilton to re-pass his team mate along the pit straight.
At the back of the field, Logan Sargeant earned a five second time penalty for colliding with Bottas at the hairpin in a clash that damaged the Alfa Romeo enough to put Bottas out of the race. Out front, the top five drivers were all running on medium tyres, with Verstappen pulling out a five second advantage over Norris behind by lap 13.
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After pitting earlier for a new front wing, Perez was making his way through the field behind Magnussen. As they battled for 11th, Perez lunged at the Haas into the hairpin and punted Magnussen into a spin, leaving him facing backwards while Perez had to pit for another new front wing.
With debris on track, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed. Piastri pitted from third for hard tyres, while Norris found himself stuck behind the ailing Perez who was cruising into retirement with a damaged car. When the race went green, Verstappen’s lead had almost doubled to nine seconds over Norris as a result of the McLaren being held up by the second Red Bull.
Verstappen and Norris soon pitted after the VSC was lifted, the leader taking a second set of medium tyres and Piastri moving ahead of his team into second, joining Norris on hards. Russell remained out on his mediums until lap 25 in an apparent attempt to run a one-stop strategy. Once the Mercedes pitted, Norris cruised up to the back of team mate in second with Piastri receiving the order to allow him through soon after.
Piastri and Norris eventually pitted for a second set of medium tyres, with Piastri falling behind Russell into fourth. Race leader Verstappen eventually stopped for hard tyres and resumed with a comfortable lead, setting the fastest lap of the race on his first full lap out of the pits.
Piastri passed Russell around the outside of turn one to move back up to third place. Verstappen gradually moved further ahead of Norris, who himself was pulling clear of his team mate. Verstappen duly checked off the remaining laps to secure his 12th win of the season and secure the constructors’ title for his Red Bull team.
Norris took second place, 19 seconds behind the winner, with Piastri 17 further seconds behind to secure his first podium in third. Charles Leclerc took fourth for Ferrari with Hamilton behind in fifth. Carlos Sainz Jnr took sixth less than a second behind Hamilton’s Mercedes, with Russell in seventh on a one-stop strategy after being passed by the four drivers ahead of him over the final stint of the race.
Fernando Alonso finished eighth for Aston Martin, with the final points positions taken by Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, the latter having been ordered to allow his team mate through on the last lap. After retiring from the race, Perez was sent back out in the later laps to serve his five second time penalty for hitting Magnussen before retiring permanently from the race.
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2023 Japanese Grand Prix
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