2024 MSC Cruises Japanese Grand Prix Race Recap

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By jeenmediaa

SUZUKA, Japan – Max Verstappen returned to winning ways at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday with a comfortable victory ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Two weeks on from the brake fire which ended his Australian Grand Prix and handed the win to Sainz, Verstappen turned in a faultless display to put Red Bull back on top of the order.

Verstappen said on the team radio as he took the chequered flag: “Yes, that was a very lovely race. The car just got better and better throughout the race. Well done, a really good result for the team.”

Verstappen won with a comfortable 12.5 second gap from Perez and 20 seconds ahead of Sainz, extending his title lead to 13 points four races into F1’s record 24-race season.

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Verstappen had to twice convert pole position into the lead at Turn One, with the race red-flagged on the first lap due to a crash between Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon, but was only ever out of the lead after that due to his timing of pit-stops relative to the others.

He told Mark Webber in a post-race interview: “It was very nice. I think the critical bit was the start to stay ahead, after that the car just got better and better for me throughout the race. I had a bit to do with the clouds coming in but very nice, everything went well — pit stops went well, strategy went well. Couldn’t have been any better.

“It was a little hiccup the last race, but very happy we are here back on top. Great fans and it’s good to be here,” he added.

Behind the Dutchman, Perez continued to display his huge turnaround in form compared to the middle and end of 2023 as he recorded his third podium finish in four races.

Perez said: “It was a good weekend for the team first of all. Doing the restart again, it’s always hard to keep focus for such a long period of time. My second start was just a little bit better, just not enough to get Max. I think we paid the price a little bit, we were a little bit off-balance, we couldn’t keep it alive. We were undercut by Lando [Norris].

“We are in a good momentum, last year here was probably my worst weekend. I think if we are strong in places like this, we can be strong anywhere else. It’s been a good weekend.”

Max Verstappen matched Michael Schumacher’s record of three wins in succession in Japan.

Clive Rose – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

The battle for third was tighter than the Red Bull one-two out in front, playing out as a strategic battle between Sainz, Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Sainz, still yet to secure a contract for 2025, when he will make way for Lewis Hamilton, continued his superb recent run, passing Leclerc five laps from the end for third.

“I had a good race to be honest, very happy,” Sainz said post-race. “It was quite tough out there with the degradation, then suddenly the clouds came the degradation went a lot lower and then I thought one-stop was quicker and we were on the two [stop].

“I had to overtake a lot of cars out there today — overtaking is tricky at Suzuka you really need to nail the last chicane to get a good run turn one. I thought it was going to be very difficult to get back into to P4, P3 with how tricky it was to overtake the Mercedes on the second stint and and how difficult it was to follow … I was quick on that hard tyre and liked how it gave me a good feeling to push,” he added.

Although he changed tyres during the restart, Leclerc completed an impressive one-stop strategy from that point to beat Norris and McLaren to fourth position.

Norris had to settle for fifth, with McLaren’s decision to call him in for an early pit stop likely to be called into question given the pace the team has had in hand over Ferrari this week.

Norris finished ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Mercedes’ George Russell and McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri.

Russell passed Piastri on the penultimate lap, but the pair will visit the stewards after the race after the Australian driver turned in some aggressive defensive driving to keep Russell at bay a couple of laps earlier.

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