After a week off in Singapore, Max Verstappen was able to return to form and win the 2023 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix from the pole.
“Only the start, probably,” Verstappen said when asked during the podium interviews if he had any trouble on the day. “A bit too much wheelspin. But after that, it was a pretty straightforward race.”
Just a normal Sunday drive for a driver who has now won 13 of the first 16 Grands Prix in 2023.
The McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri continued their hot streak that began in the mid-summer, with Norris finishing second and Piastri in third. Piastri was able to take the first career podium of his young career.
Verstappen’s win, the 48th of his career, was good enough to clinch the 2023 World Constructors’ Championship for Red Bull Racing. It was a championship that was already all but decided months ago, with Verstappen’s win simply serving as statistical confirmation.
It was a very sloppy start to the race. Cars from fourth to seventh went four wide into turn one, leading to Sergio Perez hitting Lewis Hamilton into the grass and a chain reaction in the back of the pack where an Alfa Romeo squeezed into Alex Albon and made contact with the other Alfa Romeo.
Esteban Ocon also sustained damage. No cars were unable to finish the race directly as a result of the crash, but the debris was too great for the FIA not to send out a safety car for clean-up. It was a start of a downward spiral for Perez, who had to stop for a new front wing and restarted 18th when the safety car came back in to start lap 5. Perez served a five second penalty for passing cars on pit lane entrance under a safety car.
Perez then made contact on lap 12 with Kevin Magnussen, locking up into the Dane in the hairpin and sending the Haas into a slide. Perez was then told to park the car due to sustaining more damage to his Red Bull; he’d later return in the closing laps just to serve an outstanding penalty simply so that it would not carry over into the next race.
Perez’s struggles forced Verstappen to win the constructor’s championship singlehandedly. After the start, it was never really a race, with Verstappen winning by almost 20 seconds ahead of Norris.
The next mark for Verstappen will be the 2023 World Driver’s Championship, in which he only needs to gain five more points on Perez.
Russell let Hamilton go after being ordered to by the team, in order to give him space from a charging Carlos Sainz behind him. Hamilton was able to hold off Sainz for fifth, while Russell drifted all the way back to seventh. Russell was the lone driver who went the full race distance on just one pit stop.
Next up for Formula 1 is an off-weekend, before the weekend warriors return again at Losail International Circuit at Qatar. The fourth of six Sprint Weekends, lights out for the Sprint will come at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 on Saturday, Oct. 7.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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