Formula 1: “Excellent”: Verstappen celebrates hat-trick of wins in Japan

Formula 1 “Excellent”: Verstappen celebrates hat-trick of wins in Japan

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen also won the Japanese Grand Prix. photo

© Hiro Komae/AP

Max Verstappen returns impressively. Two weeks after his retirement in Australia, the Formula 1 world champion won in Japan. In the overall ranking it becomes clearer again.

Within sight of the Suzuka Ferris wheel, Max Verstappen climbed onto his Red Bull and flexed his biceps in a bodybuilder pose after an almost playfully easy victory.

After a lightning crash from the competition on the opening lap, the Formula 1 star prevailed at the Japanese Grand Prix for the third year in a row and is racing towards his fourth world title early in the season.

“That was a very nice race. The car got better and better as the race went on,” said Verstappen, satisfied after Red Bull’s third double success of the year and enjoyed the award ceremony on the podium. “It couldn’t have been better. I’m glad we’re back at the top.”

“Well done Max, that was excellent”

Two weeks after his failure in Australia, Verstappen was once again in his own league on Sunday and remained unimpressed by internal team power struggles and transfer rumors.

Verstappen relegated his teammate Sergio Perez to second place, while Ferrari driver and Melbourne winner Carlos Sainz came third. “Well done, Max, that was excellent. Another double success,” praised Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

A crash after less than a minute

After four of 24 World Championship races, Verstappen now has 77 points to his name, followed by the Mexican Perez (64) ahead of the Monegasque Charles Leclerc (59) in the second Ferrari. After two trips to the points, Nico Hülkenberg came away empty-handed for the first time. The only German driver drove his Haas racing car to eleventh place. “On the one hand, I’m disappointed about the botched second start,” admitted the Rhinelander on the TV channel Sky. “On the other hand, we were still competitive on a track where we had stomach ache.”

In front of 102,000 spectators, Verstappen confidently defended his first starting position before the race was interrupted on the first lap. Daniel Ricciardo from Visa RB and Williams driver Alex Albon touched each other in the hustle and bustle after less than a minute of racing and crashed into the barrier. The pilots got out uninjured until the scene of the accident was cleared, but it was a good half hour before the restart.

Verstappen’s turbulent weeks

Even in the second attempt, Verstappen could not be overtaken at the top. In 2022 he won for the first time at the Suzuka International Racing Course and also secured his second world title early. Last year there was the next triumph, number three followed at the beginning of the Japanese cherry blossom season. Only Perez came along at the beginning, but the World Cup leader routinely completed his program right at the front.

Verstappen has had turbulent weeks. A power struggle with team boss Christian Horner is raging in his racing team at the center of an explosive affair, which also involves allegations from an employee of inappropriate behavior.

Will Verstappen really stay at Red Bull?

Verstappen himself is considered a preferred candidate for rival Mercedes. Despite a contract that runs until 2028, the Silver Arrows want to sign him as the successor to Lewis Hamilton, who will in turn go to Ferrari in 2025. Verstappen and the team assured that he would stay with Red Bull beyond the end of the year, but only the next few months will show what these words are really worth.

In terms of sport, the defending champion has hardly any reason to change; in Japan he controlled the action in his superior car the entire weekend. Behind them, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes were fighting for places. The Silver Arrows complained about high tire wear early on before Hamilton had to let his stable rival George Russell pass on orders from the team management. The Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Leclerc stayed behind the leading duo and wanted to put pressure on them. Two weeks ago in Melbourne, Sainz took advantage of Verstappen’s failure to score his first win of the season.

Ferrari presents itself strongly

On the 17th of 53 laps, Verstappen got new tires, Leclerc took the lead, but had to give it back quickly. The leader’s lead quickly grew again because Leclerc briefly went off the track on lap 26 and then also got new tires.

Although the Ferraris left a strong impression, they were unable to pose a threat to Verstappen over the entire race distance. Even after the second pit stop, the Dominator remained in the lead and again pulled away quite playfully.

dpa

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