Race Weekend Central

Max Verstappen Gives Hometown Honda the Win at the Japanese Grand Prix

Max Verstappen led from lights out, both times, at Suzuka, to win the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday (April 6). He won his third race of the 2024 Formula 1 season and his 57th of his career. Teammate Sergio Perez grabbed second, his third time doing so this year.

Carlos Sainz continued his strong season by again finishing on the podium, taking third.

Charles Leclerc put together a stellar one-stop race and claimed fourth. Lando Norris looked like he had short-run pace but could not maintain it to hold on to his third-spot starting position and finished in fifth.

Fernando Alonso proved wily once more and held on to take the sixth spot with a smart drive. George Russell made a last-lap pass over Oscar Piastri to snag the seventh position, pushing Piastri into eighth. Lewis Hamilton found no comfort in his team’s strategy plays and could manage only ninth while the story of the day for the Japanese crowd was seeing Yuki Tsunoda earn the final points-paying position in tenth.

The front of the grid got away clean, but Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon banged into one another, smashed into the barriers, and caused the race to go into a red-flag condition by the end of the first lap. Verstappen established himself at the point with Perez in tow, while Norris positioned himself in third.

The trackside workers faced the challenge of re-establishing the tire barriers that Ricciardo and Albon compromised in their crash. One of the entertaining elements came in the form of a second standing start, basically serving as a re-do for the race.

With lights out again, Verstappen did his best Verstappen impression and jumped into the lead and looked to control the race. Most of the running order fell into their expected place except for the Mercedes drivers, who the team set out on hard tires for the restart. Sauber and Haas also felt that that the hard tires were the way to go and brought their drivers in by lap 10 for the switch.

By lap ten, Verstappen gapped Perez by 2.5 seconds and seemed to be doing what has become the standard narrative in F1 over the past two years.

Lando Norris pitted on lap 12 but found no one following into the pits, setting up a situation where McLaren and Ferrari looked to be playing slightly different strategies of undercut versus overcut. 

Zhou Guanyu retired on lap 14 with what was reported as electrical issues after the crew were seen working on the cockpit of the car during his stop.

Russell and Hamilton had stayed out through the pit stops that much of the field had enjoyed. The attempt to make the hard tires last for a one-stop strategy looked questionable. At the front, Verstappen, Norris, and Perez faced no issue in holding down the top three spots.

By lap 37, the frontrunners’ pitting brought Sainz in for a set of fresh Pirellis and sent him into seventh place. Verstappen held onto the lead by 7.5 seconds over Perez with Leclerc sitting in third but with worn hard tires.

The top seven drivers all ran hard tires by lap 41, with the two Mercedes drivers sporting mediums. Sainz enjoyed the benefit of fresher mediums and pulled past Norris on lap 44, moving into the fourth position, with his teammate Leclerc ahead, with Sainz dispatching Leclerc on lap 46. At that point, the race settled into a steady parade, save for Russell making the move on Piastri as the two came through for the final lap.

“That was a very lovely race,” Max Verstappen claimed at the conclusion, his voice flat almost flat, reflecting his own expectations and underwhelming response to once again winning.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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