From start to finish, Max Verstappen won for the 13th time in 2023 in the early hours of Sunday, at the Japanese Grand Prix, closer than ever to his third world championship. The result also secured RBR’s sixth Constructors’ Championship with six races remaining. Lando Norris came in second place, behind McLaren rookie teammate Oscar Piastri – for the first podium of his career.
RBR won its sixth consecutive constructors’ title, after winning its fifth in 2022. The result underscores the renewed dominance of the team, which already has nearly three drivers (2021, 2022 and 2023) with Verstappen but has faced a nine-year drought in the championship. World Teams Championship, four times with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013.
On the other hand, the team only scored points with its leaders in this Sunday’s race. Sergio Perez started 5th but had two crashes, was twice given 5-second penalties, and even returned to the track to do three laps – more than 20 laps after initially retiring from the race. The Mexican now had Lewis Hamilton, third in the World Championship, 33 points behind him – and they had been 40 points ahead until then.
And if Verstappen succeeded in achieving his advantage safely in the 53 laps, the situation was not very calm in the main positions: McLaren, the second force at the weekend, found itself in some internal conflicts as well as with Mercedes, which emerged as its competitor for the world championship title. . Final positions on the podium. Ferrari, running on the outside, put Charles Leclerc fourth, achieving their best result.
Piastri, who had an unprecedented start on the front row, was overtaken by Norris at the opening of the race. During the race, he ended up ahead of his teammate, who had stopped early, but ended up giving up the lead after some resistance. McLaren appears on the podium for the fourth time in 2023.
- Max Verstappen (RBR)*
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +19s387
- Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +36s494
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +43s998
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +49 seconds 376
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +50s221
- George Russell (Mercedes) +57s659
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +1m14s725
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – +1m19s678
- Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +1m23s155
- Liam Lawson (Alpha Tauri) – 1 lap
- Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) – 1 lap
- Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) – 1 lap
- Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) – 1 lap
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 1 lap
Alexander Albon (Williams) – abandoned
Logan Sargent (Williams) – abandoned
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – abandoned
Sergio Perez (RBR) – abandoned
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) – abandoned
Piastri and Norris surrounded Verstappen on both sides, but the Briton’s approach to McLaren, the new deputy leader, was not enough to threaten the two-time champion. Just behind them, Charles Leclerc, fourth, reacted slower at the start, forcing Carlos Sainz to take the lead and pass Sergio Perez.
While the Spaniard moved from sixth to fifth, the RBR driver fell from fifth to seventh, and even collided with Lewis Hamilton, eighth on the grid. At the back of the grid, Turn 1 was the scene of the first incident of the race: contact between Bottas and Alexander Albon, who also collided with Esteban Ocon and Guanyu Zhou. The safety car has been activated.
Pérez replaced the car’s front and medium tires with hard tires on lap three, and was given a 5-second penalty for overtaking under the safety car. Zhou, Ocon and Bottas also underwent repairs; Finn’s stop was slow due to confusion among the mechanics in the pits. At the start of the second half, on lap five, he was hit by Logan Sargeant and spun in the escape zone.
Sargent received 5 seconds to make contact with Bottas, who retired. And he was not the only one: Perez suffered damage to his front wing again when he collided with Kevin Magnussen on lap 13, when he was competing for 12th place. By the way, it took another 5S.
Returning to the pits under the virtual safety car, Chico entered the pit lane entry line, a move ignored by the stewards. He left the race on lap 16, returned on lap 40 to take a penalty and retired again three laps later.
With no threats throughout the entire race, it was enough for the two-time champion to establish his advantage. Which increased during the yellow flag in the incident between Perez and Magnussen. The Dutchman made his first stop on lap 17, changing the medium tires for a new set, and in three laps, he regained the race lead.
In the last half of the race, he had a lead of about 30 points, which allowed him to stop for the second time, on lap 38, to stand on the hard tires.
Hamilton started from eighth position and overtook Russell on lap six to take seventh place. He then put pressure on Fernando Alonso for P6 – which he gained through his rival’s pit stop on lap 12. Four laps later, the seven-time champion ran through the grass, allowing Russell to get closer. The veteran even threw the car at his colleague, who complained on the radio about the excess.
This was not the only conflict between test colleagues. After the first placed teams stopped, Piastri started on the thirteenth lap. Followed by Verstappen in 17th and Norris and Leclerc next, the McLaren duo returned to the track behind Russell, the interim deputy leader.
The team advised its drivers on the potential strategy of the Mercedes rival, and Norris, concerned, requested a change of positions with Piastri, which took some time to implement due to the rookie’s defence. Russell visited the pit lane on lap 25 to change from medium to hard tires. Piastri finally gave in and, on lap twenty-seven, paved the way for his teammate to return to second place.
The second round of pit stops for the front-runners began with Hamilton putting on new hard tires on lap 35. After that, Leclerc and Piastri made stops, and on lap 37 of the race, it was Norris’s turn, returning Russell to third place.
Verstappen’s new visit to the pits on lap 38 did not threaten his lead, but things heated up directly behind him: Norris, who was then in fourth place, was able to pass his compatriot Mercedes, who came within range of Piastri while Sainz stopped again. The Australian beat Russell on lap 42 to return to the podium. The Briton even saw Leclerc overtake him in the next round.
In the final laps, Russell began to suffer from Hamilton’s pressure for fifth place and ended up giving up the position to his teammate, who feared Sainz was approaching. The Ferrari Spaniard then overtook the Mercedes driver and threatened the seven-time champion, who ultimately remained in fifth place.
The race also witnessed the exit of Lance Stroll from the race on lap 23 due to problems with the rear wing of his Aston Martin. Later, the cars of Logan Sargeant and Alexander Albon were also removed for reasons that are not yet clear. In total, five drivers were unable to reach the end of the race.
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