Verstappen wins in Japan after crash delay

Formula 1
Max VerstappenGetty Images

Max Verstappen cruised to a comfortable victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, leading team-mate Sergio Perez to a Red Bull one-two.

Verstappen took an early race stoppage at Suzuka in his stride as he secured his third victory in four races this season.

Red Bull were in a league of their own in a race dominated by tyre strategy.

Carlos Sainz passed team-mate Charles Leclerc late on to secure third as Ferrari used differing strategies.

Early drama

The race was red flagged on the first lap when RB’s Daniel Ricciardo moved over on Alex Albon’s Williams on the run between Turns Two and Three and the two touched and crashed at high speed.

Both were unhurt but the barriers needed repairing and the race was stopped for 20 minutes.

Verstappen had converted pole position into the lead at the first start and he did so again on the second, and took immediate control of the race on his way to his 57th career victory and a 13-point championship lead despite retiring from the last race in Australia.

Perez was less serene but still comfortable compared to the rest of the field as Red Bull underlined their overwhelming superiority.

Why did Norris lose out?

McLaren’s Lando Norris had qualified third behind the Red Bulls but he could do nothing about the superior race pace of the Ferraris.

Norris held off Sainz for the first stint until making a relatively early first stop on lap 11. As the race developed and strategies played out, Sainz made his second stop 10 laps later than Norris.

It brought him out behind Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, Norris and Leclerc but his better tyres allowed him to pass all of them on the way to a third podium in four races, including a win in Australia and the Saudi race which he missed with appendicitis.

Strong as Sainz’s drive was, it was arguably surpassed by that of Leclerc, who moved up from eighth on the grid and deployed a one-stop strategy on the medium and hard tyres, to take fourth.

Leclerc ran a 27-lap stint on his medium tyres from the start of the race to bring himself into play after a frustrating qualifying where a 0.1-second deficit to Sainz cost him four places on the grid.

He displayed impressive tyre management to run so long on the mediums, being the only driver in the top 10 to do a one-stop.

But although he was nearly 10 seconds in front of Sainz when the Spaniard stopped with 17 laps to go, that extra tyre life was decisive.

Ferrari warned Leclerc “not to lose time” fighting Sainz for third and that his fight was with Norris behind, knowing that the extra grip from the fresher tyres would leave him helpless.

Norris in fifth was comfortably clear of a close fight in the final laps between Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Mercedes’ George Russell and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Alonso was holding off Piastri as Russell closed in on both, the Mercedes driver using medium tyres for this final stint rather than the hards on the other two cars.

Russell dived for the inside at the chicane with three laps to go but Piastri managed to hang on despite running wide.

Russell kept the pressure on and finally passed the McLaren down the pit straight at the start of the final lap.

Hamilton took ninth in another dispiriting race for Mercedes, despite professing himself happier with his car this weekend than at any point before this season, and Yuki Tsunoda was again impressive in securing the final point for RB.

His race was made when his team jumped a bunch of cars who all came in together for their first pit stops.

Japanese GP

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Japanese GP fans

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Daniel Ricciardo's car recovered at Japanese GP

Reuters

Jules Bianchi

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Japanese GP fans remember Jules Bianchi

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