Japanese GP: Max Verstappen cruises to victory in Red Bull 1-2

Carlos Sainz secured third place ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc

By Web Desk
April 07, 2024
Max Verstappen. - F1

Max Verstappen dominated the Japanese Grand Prix for Red Bull in Formula 1, easily surpassing Sergio Perez in a race that was halted early due to a collision involving Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon.

Carlos Sainz secured third place ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, who made significant gains in Perez's wake, advancing several positions from his starting position in the middle of the pack by executing a rare one-stop strategy at Suzuka.

At the initial start, Verstappen, starting from pole position, effortlessly led Perez off the line, while the real action unfolded further down the grid as the Red Bull cars starting on medium tyres were overwhelmed by their soft-shod rivals.

As they approached Turn 3, Ricciardo unintentionally pushed Albon towards the barriers, unaware that the Williams was on his right-hand side, resulting in a collision at the beginning of the Esses.

The race was promptly halted, with a nearly 30-minute delay occurring as repairs were made to the tyre wall.

During the second standing start, Verstappen once again maintained his lead from pole position, this time making a more aggressive move to defend his position from his teammate on the downhill stretch towards the opening corners.

Perez managed to stay within a second until the activation of DRS on lap four of 57 but gradually fell behind until lap six when he lost nearly a second after running wide out of Degner two.

The gap between the leaders continued to widen until Perez made his first pit stop for medium tyres on lap 15, trailing by nearly five seconds.

Verstappen followed suit the following lap, but upon rejoining the race, he found himself pursued by Norris, who had been the first frontrunner to pit on lap 11, opting for hard tyres.

At this stage, Leclerc led for Ferrari, having stayed out the longest among the leading pack - except for the Mercedes cars that switched from mediums to hards during the red flag - starting from eighth on the grid.

However, by the end of lap 21, Verstappen had reclaimed the lead, overtaking Leclerc with the help of DRS into Turn 1, establishing a 4.3-second lead over Norris in third, with Perez a further 1.2 seconds behind.

On the following lap, Perez passed Norris at the chicane, starting lap 23 with a 6.5-second deficit to his teammate.

Throughout the second stint, Verstappen extended his lead to 11 seconds over Perez, who took several laps to overtake Leclerc, successfully passing him when the one-stopping Ferrari ran wide at Degner two on lap 26.

Perez made the first pit stop of the two leaders for the final time on lap 33, both Red Bulls opting for hard tyres, with Verstappen following suit the next lap.

During the final stint, the leading duo were initially separated by Leclerc, who had pitted for the first time just before sliding off in front of Perez, while McLaren brought Norris in simultaneously, wary of Russell's undercut threat from the pack behind.

Leclerc managed to stay ahead of Norris, but Perez quickly overtook the Ferrari with a DRS run into Turn 1.

The last 15 laps saw Verstappen's lead reduced to eight seconds due to the powerful effect of undercuts, but he extended it to 12.5 seconds by the end of the race.

In the battle for the final podium spot, Leclerc held off Norris throughout his second stint and the McLaren's third stint, but both were overtaken by Sainz in the closing stages after the Spaniard gained a significant tyre life advantage during the middle stint of his two-stopper.

Norris finished fourth, three seconds behind Leclerc, ahead of Fernando Alonso, who seemed to adjust his pace late in the race to enable Oscar Piastri to gain DRS in their last-ditch battle with Russell.

The pair collided at the chicane with four laps remaining, where Piastri locked up on the penultimate lap, allowing Russell to overtake him at Turn 1 at the start of the final lap.

To the delight of the home fans, Yuki Tsunoda secured the final point in 10th place after an aggressive drive, including two thrilling passes through the Esses complex.

The race's only retirement was Zhou Guanyu, who retired due to a gearbox issue aboard his Sauber on lap 13.