After a week off from their typical winning ways, Oracle Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen returned to the top step of the podium in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Verstappen started on pole and held off the McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in the opening laps, promptly running away for the remainder of the race on Suzuka Circuit.
All the while, Red Bull secured their second consecutive constructors’ championship. The team also won the title between 2010-’13.
“What an incredible weekend! It’s been a massive team effort, there are a lot of people involved in getting us to where we are today,” Verstappen said after his 13th victory of the season. “You only really see very few people here at track, there are lots of people working tirelessly at the factory to make sure we are always performing at our highest.
“What we are showing this year is pure dominance, we can all be extremely proud. It was an amazing feeling to see the team celebrating in the garage on the track TVs during my in-lap. We’re definitely enjoying it but we won’t take anything for granted.”
As Verstappen celebrated with the winner’s trophy, McLaren enjoyed a double podium with Norris finishing second and rookie Piastri securing third.
Fresh off a victory in last week’s Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari had one driver in the top five with Charles Leclerc finishing fourth. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line in fifth after starting seventh.
“I’m exhausted after that one! Ferrari brought an upgrade this weekend and they were just that little bit quicker than us here this weekend,” Hamilton said. “It was a hell of a fight. I was really trying to hold on. We did manage to get ahead of Sainz which was great teamwork and good work from the guys in the pit stop and the strategy group.
“That was the maximum we could have achieved today. We know how important the battle for second in the constructors’ championship is. I know how hard everyone at Brackley and Brixworth is working to achieve that. Minimizing our points loss to Ferrari today was critical. There is still a long way to go until the end of the season.”
Electing for a one-stop strategy, George Russell saw his Mercedes fade in the closing laps, with Carlos Sainz leapfrogging Russell after the British driver was instructed to let Hamilton pass moments before.
“We will take the positives from today. The one-stop strategy didn’t seem to be the optimal one at the start of the day, but we made it work better than expected,” Russell said. “Ultimately though, we just didn’t have the pace this weekend to challenge those ahead.
“I’m glad we tried something different, but the end result was a fair representation of where our speed was. I think we achieved the maximum we could today.”
The final points of the day went to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and the Alpine duo of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.
Haas F-1 survived a calamity-stricken lap one, with Nico Hulkenberg leading the charge in 14th and Kevin Magnussen slotting in 15th.
Lap One Chaos
The initial start saw multiple incidents on the track, starting with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez making contact with Hamilton, which sent the seven-time champion into the grass.
A chain reaction occurred behind them as Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon all collided, sending Albon briefly airborne. That brought out the safety car until lap four.
American Logan Sargeant endured a hectic day after having to serve a 10-second time penalty at the start, due to exceeding the amount of cars his Williams team could use over the course of the weekend. The team was forced to build a new car after his qualifying crash on Saturday.
Sargeant would later get in the back of Bottas, which prompted a five-second penalty. The 22-year-old finished 17th.