Max Verstappen helped Red Bull win the Formula 1 constructors’ championship and took a giant step towards his third driver’s title in a row by winning the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
Runaway championship leader Verstappen finished ahead of McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri and can lift the title at the Qatar Grand Prix next month.
He has a 177-point lead over teammate and nearest challenger Sergio Perez.
Verstappen’s victory helped Red Bull win its second consecutive constructors’ title, even though Perez withdrew from the race.
“You built a rocket of a car,” he told his team over the radio after crossing the border.
Back to his best at Suzuka 💪
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 24, 2023
The nearest challengers Mercedes could not stay in contention: Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and George Russell seventh.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth, while teammate Carlos Sainz was sixth.
Verstappen was back to his breathtaking peak after a disappointing fifth place during the Singapore Grand Prix last week.
“Incredible weekend, winning here is great,” said Verstappen.
“The car worked very well on every compound, but the most important thing was to win the constructors.
“We are having an incredible year and I am very proud of everyone.”
Verstappen held off a double challenge from McLaren to take the lead at the first corner, ahead of Norris.
First the Dutchman swerved right to eliminate Piastri, who started from second on the grid, and then turned left to prevent Norris from shooting through the gap.
“The start had too much wheelspin, but after that it was a fairly easy race,” said Verstappen.
Norris also finished second in Singapore and said his McLaren team was “getting there”.
“My start was very good and I almost had Max, but Max is Max,” said the British driver.
“We’re not close to Max, but we’re not miles away either.”
Sergio Perez is retiring
Australian rookie Piastri achieved his first podium finish behind teammate Norris.
“It definitely feels very special – I will remember it for a long time,” said the 22-year-old.
“I can’t thank the team enough for giving me this opportunity.
“It wasn’t my best race ever, but it was enough to finally win a trophy.”
The safety car came out after a chaotic first lap, with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu suffering damage at the start of the race.
Perez got into trouble when he was given a five-second penalty for a safety car violation.
The Mexican retired from the race a few laps later, telling his team: “The car doesn’t feel right”.
Later he came back out and made sure he didn’t have to serve his time penalty at the next race.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner said Perez was “beaten a bit” during the race.
“It wasn’t his day, but he will bounce back,” Horner said.
“He also played a big role in this success.”
Red Bull still managed to win the constructors’ title without Perez taking points in Japan.
“It has been the most amazing year for us,” said Horner.
“Max is on another level at the moment – another incredible achievement.”
Russell and Hamilton tried to chase Leclerc, but Sainz got into the mix by passing Russell late on.
Bottas, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Williams duo Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant failed to finish the race.