It was champagne time for Red Bull as they clinched a second successive constructors’ championship with a crushing performance from Max Verstappen at Suzuka. But it wasn’t so bubbly for everyone on the grid. We’ve picked out five winners and five losers from the Japanese Grand Prix.
Winner: Max Verstappen
This was one of Max Verstappen’s most crushing weekend performances, the Red Bull racer proving the team’s lack of pace in Singapore was a one-off by leading every practice session before taking pole by a stunning 0.581s.
On race day, he converted pole into victory for the 13th consecutive time, in what was his 13th win in 16 Grands Prix this season. His fastest lap in the race was a staggering 1.064s quicker than anyone else.
The Dutchman now heads to Qatar in the knowledge he can clinch his third successive title in Saturday’s Sprint – with six Grands Prix still to go.
Loser: Sergio Perez
As one Red Bull starred, the other had a bit of a shocker. A poor getaway sucked Sergio Perez into the pack and led to a collision with Lewis Hamilton and subsequent damage.
The Mexican later clumsily clattered into the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, picking up a five-second time penalty, and ultimately parked his battered RB19.
His retirement ended Red Bull’s 100% finishing record and leaves him exposed to Hamilton in the fight for P2 in the drivers’ standings, his Mercedes rival now just 33 points adrift.
Winners: Red Bull
Red Bull have been the class of the field this year and thoroughly deserve their sixth Formula 1 constructors’ championship – a feat achieved with six Grands Prix and three Sprint events still to go.
Verstappen gave them their 15th win in 16 races this year in what is set to become the most complete and dominant performance from a single team in the history of the sport.
As McLaren boss Andrea Stella said: “hats off” to them. “I don’t think they need comparisons,” he added. “They are setting references in the history of F1.”
This was a race to forget for Williams, who suffered their first double retirement since the Australian Grand Prix.
Alex Albon’s race was essentially over in the first few seconds as, after a poor start, he was hit by Valtteri Bottas who was himself squeezed and that caused damage to his floor which ultimately forced his retirement.
Logan Sargeant started from the pit lane after a qualifying crash and also had to retire with damage after he locked up and hit Bottas at the hairpin.
McLaren’s rapid rise through the pecking order shows no sign of abating as the papaya-clad team scored only their second one-two finish since 2014 with a brilliant display at Suzuka.
Lando Norris had oodles of confidence as he was best of the rest behind Verstappen, securing his fourth second-place finish in seven races. Team mate Oscar Piastri followed up his first front row start in a Grand Prix with a first podium in F1 in third, becoming the sixth Australian to stand on a F1 rostrum.
So good is McLaren’s form right now, CEO Zak Brown has set a goal of catching Aston Martin for fourth in the constructors’ championship. That would have been a tall order a few races ago, but they are now only 49 behind with six race weekends to go.
Losers: Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo had hoped the upgrade package they originally brought to Singapore would bear fruit on the fast, sweeping turns of Suzuka, but it started off badly when both cars were eliminated from Q1 for the second race in a row.
Bottas was then sandwiched by Albon and Esteban Ocon at the start to pick up damage – and then suffered further pain when he was hit by Sargeant to end his afternoon early.
Zhou Guanyu was caught up in the opening lap melee and while he recovered to the pits for a new front wing, the damage was done and 13th was the best he could recover.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is one of only two drivers (Verstappen is the other) to have scored points in every Grand Prix this year, the Mercedes driver making up two places on his grid slot to finish fifth.
The healthy points haul consolidates P3 in the drivers’ championship and opens the door to catching Perez for P2. Do that and he’ll prevent Red Bull from achieving a one-two in the drivers’ championship for the first time in their history.
2023 Japanese Grand Prix: Hamilton and Russell go wheel-to-wheel in battle for P7
Losers: Aston Martin
Fernando Alonso remained the only driver to reach Q3 at every race this season as he scraped into the top 10 in qualifying.
And while he made up two places to finish eighth, Aston Martin simply didn’t have the pace to fight Ferrari and Mercedes – their rivals for P2 in the constructors’ championship.
Lance Stroll failed to finish because of a rear wing issue with the team now at risk of losing P4 in the constructors’ to McLaren.
Alpine looked like they would struggle to challenge for points after both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly failed to make Q3.
But their race pace was better, with Ocon recovering from a puncture on the opening lap following contact to finish ninth with Gasly 10th.
The only shadow on their day was Gasly’s frustration at being asked to swap positions with Ocon at the death, having earlier been allowed through by Ocon as per a team call with both on differing strategies.
Haas are doing the best with what they’ve got, as they count down the days until their big upgrade package arrives at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, but Suzuka marked another difficult weekend for the American outfit.
Neither Nico Hulkenberg nor Kevin Magnussen – the latter having his afternoon further compromised after he was hit by Perez to force an early stop – had the pace to challenge for points and both ended up one lap down.