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Max Verstappen Claims A Dominant Win In The Japanese GP, Red Bull Secures Constructors Championship

Max Verstappen and Red Bull returned to winning ways in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix after surviving a dramatic first lap and pulling comfortably clear of McLaren pair Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, confirming another constructors’ title for the Milton Keynes team.

Verstappen was attacked by Piastri and Norris at the start but kept both of them at bay, navigated Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car periods and then romped into the distance, taking the chequered flag first for the 13th time this season.

As such, Red Bull mathematically put the constructors’ championship out of their rivals’ reach to back up their 2022 win and make it two triumphs on the bounce, underlining the outfit’s superiority under F1’s latest ground effect era so far, while adding to the teams’ titles they achieved in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

A battle between the McLaren drivers was ultimately settled in Norris’ favour, the Briton getting ahead at the start, dropping behind when Piastri pitted under a Virtual Safety Car but then displaying enough pace for the team to swap positions.

Charles Leclerc led Ferrari’s charge in fourth position, completing a bold, late move on Mercedes rival George Russell – the only front-runner to attempt a one-stop rather than two-stop strategy – around the outside of Turns 1 and 2.

Russell fell into the clutches of team mate Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps and was instructed to let him by, which he agreed to do, after the Mercedes drivers had gone wheel-to-wheel and almost collided earlier in the race.

Carlos Sainz also pounced on Russell’s ageing tyres to take sixth behind Hamilton, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly – despite a first-lap incident for the former – scoring the final points of the day.

With their cars starting ninth and 11th, AlphaTauri had been points contenders in the opening exchanges, but faded as the various strategies played out – F1 newcomer Liam Lawson beating home favourite Yuki Tsunoda to the flag in 11th and 12th respectively.

Zhou Guanyu was another to bounce back from Lap 1 drama as he crossed the line 13th, the only Alfa Romeo driver to finish after team mate Valtteri Bottas was punted into the gravel by Williams rival Logan Sargeant.

Haas pair Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were the final finishers in P14 and P15 respectively, a theme of their 2023 season amid tyre degradation struggles, with a gaggle of cars behind retiring at different stages.

Williams suffered a double DNF as Sargeant returned his car to the garage after clashing with Bottas, having been penalised pre-race and given a pit lane start for major car changes following his qualifying crash, while Albon retired with damage after his own Lap 1 incident involving the Alfa Romeo.

Another bottleneck moment at the start saw Red Bull’s Sergio Perez bang wheels with Hamilton, before a separate incident with Magnussen forced him to pit for a second new front wing, leading to his retirement (albeit reappearing late on to serve time penalties). Lance Stroll was the other driver to retire with a rear wing issue on his Aston Martin.

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Photo's: Oracle Red Bull Racing


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