Japanese GP 2023
SEPTEMBER 24, 2023
Race Notes - Verstappen cruises to Suzuka win
By Mark Karp
Max Verstappen took a flag-to-flag victory in his Red Bull-Honda to win the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, taking the Constructors Championship.
Lando Norris in the McLaren-Mercedes finished in second place, 19.387 seconds behind. His team mate Oscar Piastri took his first career podium, in his 16th race, 36.494s behind the winner.
Charles Leclerc (43.998s) in the Ferrari finished fourth, followed by Lewis Hamilton (49.376s) in the Mercedes GP was fifth, Carlos Sainz (50.221s) in the second Ferrari was sixth, George Russell (57.659s) in the second Mercedes was seventh, Fernando Alonso (1m14.725s) in the Aston Martin-Mercedes was eighth, Esteban Ocon (1m19.678s) in the Alpine-Renault was ninth, and his team mate Pierre Gasly (1m23.155s) took the final point in tenth place.
Red Bull has taken it’s sixth Constructors Championship.
Liam Lawson (1 lap) in the AlphaTauri-Honda was 11th, his team mate Yuki Tsunoda was 12th, Guanyu Zhou in the Alfa Romeo-Ferrari was 13th, Nico Hulkenberg in the Haas-Ferrari was 14th, and his team mate Kevin Magnussen was the final finisher in 15th.
The top eight runners are on medium tyres.
At the appointed time the field took to the formation lap, lined up on the grid, the lights went out and the race started with Verstappen took the lead with the two McLaren’s charge into the first corner, Norris goes to second, Piastri falls to third, followed by Leclerc, Sainz, Alonso, Perez, Hamilton, Russell and Lawson tenth.
Hamilton is squeezed by Perez and the two touch as Hamilton has to take to the grass.
There is debris and the safety car is deployed.
On lap 3 Perez pits for a new front wing, and rejoins 18th. Valtteri Bottas pits for a new front wing as well and rejoins 20th. Williams reports to Albon that they think he has floor damage.
At the end of lap 4 the safety car comes in and the race resumes with Verstappen out in the lead, Norris Piastri, Leclerc, Sainz. Alonso, Hamilton, Russell following.
On lap 5 Bottas goes off the track after taking a hit from Logan Sargeant.
On lap 6 Russell passes Hamilton into the first corner. Hamilton comes back and retakes seventh.
Bottas pits and then rejoins well behind.
On lap 9 Sargeant is given a 5-second penalty for contact penalty for contact with Bottas.
Bottas retires in the pits. Perez is given a 5-second penalty for passing in the safety car period.
On lap 11 Ocon passes Magnussen for tenth.
On lap 12 Alonso pits from sixth switches from soft to hard tyres and rejoins 14th.
At lap 12 Perez hits Magnussen into the hairpin and spins the Haas.
Perez pits again for another front wing change.
The virtual safety car comes out, and Piastri pits from third for hard tyres and rejoins ninth. Albon pits as well.
The virtual safety car period is over and the race resumes.Stroll pits from ninth.
Perez goes to the pits and retires the car.
At lap 15 Verstappen leads Norris by 9.6 seconds, followed by Leclerc (12.0s), Sainz (13.5s), Hamilton (16.8s), Russell (17.4s).
On lap 16 Hamilton goes wide and Russell is able to pass him
On lap 17 Verstappen pits for medium tyres and rejoins fifth. Hamilton pits.
Norris and Leclerc pit the next lap,
Sainz and Russell yet to pit.
On lap 19 Sainz pits and rejoins ninth.
Verstappen passes Russell for the lead. Leclerc passes Ocon on old tyres for fifth.
Norris sets fast lap at 1m36.689s.
At lap 20 Verstappen leads Russell by 2.6 seconds, followed by Piastri (7.6s), Norris (11.2s), Leclerc (15.4s), Sainz (18.8s), Ocon (20.4s), Alonso (21.5s), Hamilton (22.3s), and Tsunoda (32.7s) in tenth.
On lap 22 Hamilton passes Alonso, then Ocon for seventh. Stroll pits and retires with a rear wing failure.
Russell in second is the only driver yet to pit, looking to do a one-stop strategy.
On lap 23 Gasly passes Lawson for 11th.
Alonso reports that Ocon is pulling away from him on the straights.
On lap 25 Russell pits from second for hard tyres and rejoins ninth.
On lap 26 Russell passes Alonso and then Ocon. Alonso pits and rejoins 12th,
Piastri and Norris are running close, Norris gets by on fresher tyres for second place.
On lap 27 Albon pulls into the pits and retires the car.
Alonso passes Zhou for 11th.
Perez gets back in the Red Bull in the pits.
On lap 29 Ocon pits for hard tyres and rejoins 12th.
On lap 30 Alonso
passes Tsunoda for ninth.
At lap 30 Verstappen leads Norris by 13.8 seconds, followed by Piastri (18.2s), Leclerc (21.9s), Sainz (24.4s), Hamilton (28.5s), Russell (33.6s), Gasly (47.4s), Alonso (55,2s) and Ocon (1m05.2s) in tenth, with only 15 drivers still running.
Tsunoda pits for hard tyres and rejoins 14th.
Mercedes is telling Russell that they are going to be under pressure at the end of the race, and he should pick up the pace.
On lap 35 Leclerc and Hamilton both pit for hard tyres and rejoin sixth and seventh behind Russell. Gasly pits for hard tyres and rejoins 11th.
On lap 36 Piastri pits from third and rejoins fifth.
On lap 37 Gasly passes Hulkenberg for tenth.
Norris pits from second for hard tyres and rejoins fourth.
Hamilton sets fast lap at 1m36.611s.
On lap 38 Verstappen pits for hard tyres and rejoins still leading,
Norris passes Russell for third.
On lap 39 Sainz pits from second for hard tyres and rejoins seventh.
Perez continues to sit in the car in the pits, and rejoins the race after sitting for 25 laps.
On lap 39 Verstappen sets fastest lap at 1m34.183s.
At lap 40 Verstappen leads Norris by 15.2 seconds, followed by Russell (22.4s), Piastri (23.3s), Leclerc (25.8s), Hamilton (30.4s), Sainz (36.3s), Alonso (42.3s), Ocon (52.0s) and Gasly (56.4s) in tenth place, followed by Lawson, Tsunoda, Zhou, Hulkenberg and Magnussen.
Piastri passes Russell for third.
Perez serves his 5-second penalty and retires in the pits once again.
On lap 45 Leclerc passes Russell on the outside of the first turn, taking fourth place.
Hamilton is closing on Russell, and Sainz closing an both of them.
On lap 49, Mercedes gives Russell the instruction to swap places, and Hamilton goes by Russell at the first corner to take fifth place.
On lap 50 Sainz passes Russell for sixth place.
Sainz chases after Hamilton, but Hamilton is able to keep the position across the line.
At the finish Verstappen leads Norris and Piastri.