After his Formula 1 drive through Suzuka, Max Verstappen is about to attend the coronation ceremony in Qatar. The Dutch Red Bull driver raced almost like a dream to his 13th victory of the season at the Japanese Grand Prix.
In two weeks, Verstappen can become world champion for the third time in a row in the desert. Despite the retirement of teammate Sergio Pérez, Red Bull was able to secure its second constructors' title in a row in the 16th race of the season.
After a domino crash on the first lap and five retirements at the Suzuka spectacle, World Cup dominator Verstappen relegated Lando Norris to second place in the McLaren. His teammate Oscar Piastri secured his first career podium in third place in his debut season. Nico Hülkenberg in the Haas was once again unable to fight for points in 14th place.
WM-Titel in Qatar?
With his 48th career win and the fastest lap, Verstappen increased his lead over Perez to 177 points. He has scored 400 points so far this year. If he has a total of 180 points more than his first rival after the Qatar weekend, he will be world champion again.
Just a few seconds after the red lights went out there was a crash. Pole man Verstappen, who had determined all the units in Japan, was just able to free himself from a McLaren pair of Piastri and Norris and race into the first corner as the leader. But the first pieces of debris flew behind it. Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas as well as Alex Albon (Williams) and Esteban Ocon (Alpine) collided. Their cars were damaged and the safety car had to be deployed on lap one.
Mercedes man Lewis Hamilton also got something, he reported a push from Pérez, who had a short Grand Prix to forget. The Mexican had to go to the pits immediately to have a new front installed on his car. Pérez also received a five-second penalty for illegally overtaking cars during the safety car phase. At the end of the fourth lap, Verstappen was allowed
The World Cup dominator traveled to Japan highly motivated after his mixed weekend in Singapore. Verstappen showed all his determination in qualifying and secured his ninth pole of the season with a mega lap. Even the failure of the steering wheel screen didn't stop the Dutchman from his 29th career pole. Behind them, Piastri and Norris were clearly behind.
Hülkenberg in the Haas took advantage of the initial confusion and raced from 18th to 13th. Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso worked his way up from tenth to sixth place. Things continued to be miserable for Pérez. During a hasty overtaking maneuver against Hülkenberg's teammate Kevin Magnussen on the twelfth lap, he damaged the front of his Red Bull again and had to come back in for a stop. “The car doesn’t feel good,” Perez complained afterwards.
What's next for Pérez?
The Red Bull management assures that the man from Guadalajara has a contract for 2024. However, it is still questionable whether Pérez will actually remain Verstappen's teammate beyond this season, given his mixed performances. On lap 15 he had to park his car, but came out again to serve a penalty.
Meanwhile, Verstappen extended his lead over Norris to ten seconds. Just two laps after his first tire change on lap 17, the Red Bull driver took the lead again. Optimal race management with Verstappen. Behind them, Norris and Piastri fought for second position within the team. After a warning from Norris over the pit radio, Piastri had to let the faster McLaren man pass on the 27th of 53 laps.
A year after winning his second world title early in Japan, Verstappen once again brought his success home and was able to get to know an interactive trophy on the podium that would light up in his national colors when activated.