Dutch racing driver Max Verstappen was undeterred by an early threat from the two McLarens at the launch of the Japanese Grand Prix. He swiftly reassured Lando Norris‘ pre-race prognosis that his British team would fall short of challenging Verstappen if the Dutch driver maintained the lead past the second turn of the race.
Crossing the finish line, Verstappen bested Norris by a significant 19.3s. He consistently established his dominance throughout the 53-lap challenge at the Suzuka Circuit, with the real contest dwindling after the beginning stages.
In particular, the championship frontman made his mark during the initial corner, pulling to the inside to fend off a potential challenge from his fellow pole position starter, Oscar Piastri. Norris attempted an outside manoeuvre, but after failing to secure a lead by the second corner, he managed to outflank Piastri.
Norris then sought to seize the lead from Verstappen in a subsequent restart after the emergence of a safety car in the first lap to clear debris from a collision between Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon. Verstappen, however, applied full throttle, exiting the Casio Triangle and quickly increasing his gap over the chasing field.
The power of Verstappen’s command ensured his lead remained safe from undercut tactics. Throughout each pit-stop phase, Verstappen held enough of a buffer to hold onto his overall lead, resulting in Red Bull tying up the constructors’ championship. This marks the sixth victory for the team during its 19 seasons in Formula 1.
Lando Norris, aided by his McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri‘s successful debut podium finish, led their team to second and third places respectively. Despite Piastri taking an early lead after applying the undercut strategy under the virtual safety car, Norris reclaimed his spot in the 27th lap.
However, Charles Leclerc missed out on a podium finish, ending 7.5s behind Piastri, despite presenting an initial threat for the coveted third spot. Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz and George Russell rounded up the top seven spots.
However, disappointments abounded with Fernando Alonso feeling abandoned by his team, likening his early tyre switch experience to being “thrown to the lions”. Alonso saw out the rest of the race with weakening hard tyres, securing an eighth-place finish.
The race finale saw home favourite Yuki Tsunoda being bested by Liam Lawson and Zhou Guanyu ahead of the Haas pair, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen managed to fend off a clumsy attack from Sergio Perez. This resulted in a dual retirement for Williams drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, who bowed out of the race due to their damaged cars.