Max Verstappen went from words to deeds. After the difficult weekend in Singapore, he declared that they would have been ahead in Suzuka and that there was no problem. And so it was.
In Japan Red Bull returned to dominating with the usual tranquillity, relegating the first of the rivals, Lando Norris on a good McLaren, to more than 19 seconds behind. Seconds that rose (and went back to being so) to forty-five seconds in the case of Ferrari, fourth across the finish line with Leclerc.
After fourteen laps Verstappen’s lead on Norris was already ten seconds. At that point the Dutchman only had to administer the race, lapping more than 1” slower compared to his fastest lap (1:34.183 against 1:35.247 Lando Norris – 1:35.611 Lewis Hamilton – 1:36.187 Carlos Sainz). Without overdoing it, he won easily with a 19” second lead, also safeguarding the car.
It would be interesting knowing what happened in Singapore because such a problem cannot be resolved in so little time. Red Bull’s only real problem at the present time is Sergio Perez. The Mexican suffers fearfully the personality and competitiveness of Max Verstappen who confirms he is a “driver killer”. Today Perez again made a series of mistakes which are unacceptable from a Formula 1 driver, especially one as experienced as he is.
It was only a question of time, as it will be for Verstappen. Red Bull mathematically won the constructor’s title in Honda’s home. An important result also from the marketing point of view for both Honda and Red Bull itself.
Ferrari finished in fourth place and the result confirms its current potential, behind McLaren in outstanding form which can count on two young drivers, one of which is an excellent rookie: Oscar Piastri celebrated his first podium finish. He suffered a 17” gap from his teammate, but the strategy also intervened. From this emerges a positive image of a cohesive team that respects team orders. They are strongly on the rise and can still become a troublesome antagonist with six rounds remaining. They currently occupy fifth place, only 49 points from Aston Martin which did not go beyond eighth place with an anonymous Alonso. It was another race to forget for Stroll.
With 4th and 6th place Ferrari gained four points on the ladder at Mercedes’ expense taking the gap to only twenty points, but with this McLaren nothing can be taken for granted.
Also noteworthy was Liam Lawson’s good performance, finishing his third grand prix in eleventh place ahead of his teammate Tsunoda. Eleventh and twelfth place which gave no points to Alpha Tauri, but which highlights the Australian’s technical value. Despite Ricciardo’s and Tsunoda’s renewals Lawson earnt conformation as the reserve driver for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri. An important sign for the starting drivers.
The next round is in two weeks with the Qatar Grand Prix.
Gian Carlo Minardi