Following the action-packed night in Singapore, Formula 1 headed to the Land of the Rising Sun. In spite of Red Bull’s loss last week, Max Verstappen still topped the drivers’ standings—by a mile. Meanwhile, his team could secure the constructors’ title if it scored enough points ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG. So, here are five things we learned from the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.
1. The early part of the race was filled with carnage. Although there was no rain, this year’s Japanese Grand Prix had multiple accidents. Right after the lights went out, Sergio Perez (Red Bull) pushed Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG) off the track as the pack tried making its way to the outside for the first corner. Meanwhile, Alex Albon (Williams) made contact with Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo), who was squeezed to the left by Esteban Ocon (Alpine).
Things didn’t get any better for Bottas as he got spun around by Logan Sargeant (Williams) on Lap 5 before retiring on Lap 9. With severe damage to their cars, both Williams drivers had to throw in the towel. A clumsy overtake attempt on Lap 12 by Perez on Kevin Magnussen (Haas) resulted in contact, and forced the Red Bull driver into the pits three laps later to retire the car.
2. Sergio Perez made a fool out of himself. After making contact with Hamilton on the first lap, the Mexican driver incurred a penalty for overtaking a car going into the pits while the virtual safety car was in effect. If that wasn’t enough, he got another one for colliding with Magnussen. Although he was supposed to quit the race once and for all, he was sent back to the track—multiple laps behind everyone else—to return to the pit lane and serve his punishment, so that it doesn’t carry over to the next race.
3. Mercedes-AMG got the strategy wrong. In an attempt to overcut its rivals, the team executed a one-stop strategy for George Russell with the British driver pitting only once for hard tires on Lap 24 out of 53. This didn’t play out well in the latter stages of the race as he was left defenseless against a charging Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), who easily passed him after team orders forced the Mercedes driver to swap positions with Hamilton.
4. McLaren scored a double-podium finish. For the first time in his F1 career, Oscar Piastri started on the front row after qualifying P2, with his teammate Lando Norris behind in P3. Concerned about the McLaren’s speed, Verstappen aggressively defended against Piastri going into the first corner. And this gave Norris the opportunity to get the jump over his teammate. While they were no match for the Red Bull driver, the McLaren duo had the pace to hold off the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG. And this ended with another P2 finish for Lando and the rookie’s first F1 podium.
5. The constructors’ champion has been decided. As early as the season-opener, the question wasn’t whether Red Bull was going to win the championship, but when. In spite of its record-ending blunder in Singapore and the retirement of Perez in Japan, Verstappen’s victory secured the constructors’ title for the Milton Keynes-based team.
It may feel like the season is nearly over, yet there are still six races to go with the next one being the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix on October 8 (October 9, 1am, in Philippine time).