MAX Verstappen powered his way to a Japanese Grand Prix win at Suzuka to seal a sixth Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship title for his team, Red Bull Racing, and in the process moved one step closer to his third Drivers’ title in a row.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished second ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri, while Sergio Pérez in the other Red Bull was forced to retire after two early collisions.
“Unbelievable, guys, you deserve that,” Verstappen told his team over the radio after crossing the line. “You can all be very proud, here at the track and back at the factory. You have built a rocket ship of a car, well done!”
Verstappen’s win puts him on 400 points, just a handful of points away from a third title. The Dutchman is now 177 points ahead of his non-scoring teammate Pérez with just 180 points still on the table from the remaining six rounds and Verstappen is almost certain to take the crown at the next race.
The Singapore Grand Prix last week was a not a good race for Red Bull, Verstappen battled his way to a hard-fought 5th ending a run of eleven straight victories for the Dutchman, with his teammate Pérez back in eighth. But normal service was quickly resumed by Verstappen in Japan with an outstanding pole position lap in qualifying and a dominant victory, putting the Red Bull Racing Team on an unassailable 623 points.
Starting from pole, Verstappen held the lead off the line. And though his progress was briefly slowed by an early safety car, once he had calmly navigated the re-start the championship leader simply drove away from the rest of the field to eventually beat Norris to the flag by 19.3 seconds. On the other hand, Verstappen’s teammate Pérez had a nightmare, getting off to a poor start from fifth on the grid and on the approach to Turn 1 was squeezed by the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Forced left, he impacted the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, which dropped him back to seventh. Behind the resultant safety car, he pitted for a new nose cone. But the Mexican’s awful race unravelled further when he rejoined incorrectly, receiving a five-second time penalty, and it would only get worse as he received a further second five-second penalty for causing a collision, before eventually retiring.
At the front Verstappen was simply untouchable as he built his lead over Norris, Piastri now in third after being ordered by his team to let his quicker teammate Norris through. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was up to fourth with Lewis Hamilton now fifth ahead of Carlos Sainz. George Russell, who made only a single pit stop during the race, came home in seventh place, with Fernando Alonso in eighth ahead of the Alpine driver Esteban Ocon. The final point on offer in the race at Suzuka went to Pierre Gasly in the Alpine.
There is now a two-week break until the next round in Qatar. which will almost certainly see Verstappen crowned World Champion for a third time.