With the exception of a brief period at the start, Max Verstappen once again dominated the Japanese Grand Prix to help Red Bull win the Constructors’ Championship.
Following his collision with the wall during yesterday’s qualifying, Logan Sargeant will start from the pit lane. Williams’ vehicle was rebuilt with a new configuration, but he will also be subject to a 10-second time penalty at the start of the race because the team started putting together their backup chassis as soon as they understood it would be required given the restricted amount of time they had to work with.
Results of the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix
The extra chassis had already been assembled to the point that the race organizers mistook it for a third vehicle by the time they were given permission to use it. Though it is proposed that the Sporting Advisory Committee look at when mechanics can start working on such things, the squad will serve the time penalty because that is now against the rules.
While on Friday it seemed as though Ferrari were his closest competitor, in qualifying the two McLarens got the closest to putting pressure on the Red Bull driver. Max Verstappen will start from pole after dominating so far this weekend. Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc will start in the row behind Oscar Piastri, who will start from the front row for the first time.
The medium compound tyre was the most often used for the race’s opening lap, but Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso, Liam Lawson, Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg, and Zhou Guanyu all decided to use the softs.
Verstappen shifted to the right to block Piastri as soon as the race got underway, but Norris now had a clean path to the front. Verstappen, however, managed to hold off Norris and seize the lead.
Sainz was able to pass Perez into the fifth position as Hamilton slid down to P8, handing Alonso the spot because of the Ferraris’ brief collision with each other behind them when they started four wide.On the approach to Turn One, a different incident involving Esteban Ocon, Bottas, and Alex Albon occurred when the Alpine skidded into the Alfa Romeo and struck the Williams, lifting it briefly into the air.
The debris on the start-finish straight prompted the Safety Car to be deployed before the end of the first lap. While the other participants in the incident worked on fixes, the Sergeant finished his punishment. Hamilton was told that he had sustained minor aero damage, but Perez’s decision to pit allowed him to stay outside and retake P7.
When the race restarted on lap 5, Verstappen made a perfect start and was able to gain a second and a half on the previous lap back. George Russell briefly passed his teammate for P7 after a collision between the Mercedes, but Hamilton was able to retake it by using the slipstream.
The Finn was forced into the runoff when the Williams driver lost control at the bend and crashed into him. After a few more laps and further pit stops, Bottas decided to leave the competition. There was additional turmoil for Sargeant and Bottas towards the back. Sargeant received a 5-second fine for the event.
Perez spun the Haas and further damaged his own front wing on lap 13 when he surged inside Kevin Magnussen for P11. In addition, Perez received a 5-second time penalty for breaking the Safety Car rule by passing a vehicle as he came up to the pit lane. Despite suffering a further 5-second penalty on lap 15, Red Bull decided to retire Perez.
Piastri made his pit stop on lap 14 as the virtual safety car was briefly activated. On hard tires, the Australian restarted in P9.
Russell was able to overtake Hamilton once more on lap 16 as he veered off course at Degner 2. Up until their collision at Spoon curve, the two engaged in a wrestling match. Verstappen pitted while in the lead on lap 17, keeping to medium tires, and finished in fifth place as Mercedes put an end to the teammate brawl and brought Hamilton in. The seven-time champion changed to hards and continued to advance through P10.
On lap 18, Norris and Leclerc pit. They then restart the race in positions P7 and P9 on either side of Alonso. The Ferrari is still using medium tires, while the McLaren is now on hard tires. On lap 19, Sainz made his first pit stop, and Russell took over as the driver. Russell followed the Ocon/Leclerc/Alonso battle for fifth place by finishing eighth while maintaining the same tire strategy as his teammate.
Alonso lamented to his crew that “You’ve thrown me to the lions by pitting me so early” as his Aston Martin struggled on the rough surfaces and he fell farther behind Sainz and Hamilton. In the interim, Lance Stroll was forced to retire from the race after his rear wing failed.
The Mercedes driver made a pit stop on lap 25 and put on hard tires before coming out in P9, directly behind Alonso. However, he immediately overtook Alonso and Ocon who were slightly ahead of him. McLaren told Norris that Russell, who was running in P2 and hadn’t stopped, was preparing a one-stop strategy and would only pose a threat if they misused their tyres.
After much radio discussion, McLaren moved cars at the start of lap 27 to put Norris, who had fresher tires and was outpacing Piastri in lap times, into P2 and a clear area. The British driver distanced himself from his teammate by four seconds over the following three laps.
The two Williams drivers were obliged to cease racing because they were “suffering progressive damage from their respective incidents” and Perez was observed climbing back into his Red Bull at that very moment. It’s possible that Perez did this in order to finish his time-based punishment and have it turned to a grid penalty for the next race.
On lap 35, Leclerc and Hamilton made pit stops from positions 4 and 6, respectively, making quick turns to leave in positions 6 and 7. The Australian driver continued in front of them on the following lap as McLaren countered with Piastri, rejoining in P5 a few seconds ahead of the Ferrari.
Verstappen, Norris, and Sainz each had their own second pit stops during the succeeding laps. The McLaren driver had to overtake Russell when he emerged but held P2, the Ferrari driver restarted in P7, seven seconds behind Hamilton, and the Red Bull driver kept P1.
Perez eventually made his way back onto the circuit on Lap 40, 26 laps after retiring, after spending a large amount of time in his car. The Mexican started the race and completed a few laps before pausing to complete his punishment and withdraw once more.
Russell dropped from P3 when Piastri and Leclerc passed him as the lap count went to 10 and below because he was on tires that were significantly older than those around him owing to a different strategy.
Hamilton and Sainz moved closer to Russell’s rear as Mercedes gave the signal for the cars to switch positions. Russell argued that as the DRS train worked for Sainz and Norris last week, it might be safer for them both to hold one before switching on the last lap. Sainz was able to pass on lap 50 and set his sights on Hamilton, who was just over a second ahead of him. Mercedes did push Hamilton to give Russell DRS after the manoeuvre.
Verstappen ultimately won the race with a lead of 19 seconds over Norris, providing Red Bull the necessary points to guarantee their retention of the Constructors’ Championship for the current season. Norris earned his fourth P2 of the year while Piastri earned his first F1 podium for McLaren.
Leclerc came in fourth, and Hamilton came in fifth, holding off Sainz. Ocon finished ahead of Gasly, with Russell taking seventh, Alonso taking eighth, and the two Alpines rounding out the top three in terms of points. The fastest lap was completed by Verstappen at 1:34.183.