Now the failure of Melbourne is forgotten: Max Verstappen wins the race in Suzuka ahead of Sergio Pérez, Carlos Sainz wins a three-way battle for third place… Things went very badly for the Alpine, who also had to endure some ridicule.

Two weeks after his brake failure at the Australian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen made things clear again at the Japanese Grand Prix and won the race at Suzuka in dominant fashion. A demonstration of strength by Red Bull, since Sergio Pérez was second and Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), in third place, was already 20.9 seconds behind.

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) took fourth place with a one-stop strategy, ahead of Lando Norris (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), George Russell (Mercedes), Oscar Piastri (McLaren), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and the local hero. Yuki Tsunoda (Racing Bulls), whose point was wildly celebrated by the Japanese public.

Nico Hülkenberg (11th/Haas) narrowly missed 10th place this time. Also for a second failed start. At least he had better results than the Alpines, who were constantly outclassed.

“The Alpine is, forgive me, a crutch. “They are passed around like a baton.”

ORF commentator Ernst Hausleitner said: “The Alpine is, sorry, a crutch. “They are passed around like a baton.”

In total, 17 of the 20 cars that started saw the checkered flag. Daniel Ricciardo (Racing Bulls) and Alexander Albon (Williams) were eliminated in a collision at the start. Guanyu Zhou (Sauber) had to retire due to a gearbox defect.

Who was to blame for the launch accident?

Verstappen came out better and maintained his advantage until the first corner. There were no changes in the top nine positions. Only the two Racing Bulls had a relatively bad start and fell a little behind.

At the exit of the first corner, Albon sat to the right of Ricciardo, and the next corner was left. But surprisingly Ricciardo moved to the right and there was contact. Unnecessarily, because Lance Stroll's Aston Martin was on the left, but Ricciardo had enough space.

Both cars spun, went airborne, and crashed into the barriers. “He pushed me. “I didn't have any more space,” Albon said on the radio.

For ORF expert Alexander Wurz, the case is clear: “Ricciardo didn't see it, he was just concentrating on himself.” The race stewards announced that the question of guilt would be clarified once the race was over.

Because the two cars became deeply embedded in the tire wall and the safety barriers had to be repaired, the race management quickly decided to wave red flags and cancel the Grand Prix.

What went wrong for Hülkenberg?

One of the winners of the starting accident was Hülkenberg. At the start he had improved from 12th to 10th place and therefore started for the second time from the fifth row of the grid. Valtteri Bottas (Sauber) also gained two places; Tsunoda, on the other hand, fell from P10 to P12.

But the joy of improving the “initial position” was short-lived. Hülkenberg had a bad second start and fell far behind. Annoyed because: “The grip with the soft one feels good.” But the loss of position left him stuck on the field: “I have the feeling that I have the rhythm, but I can't use it. “I think we have to do what we said we would do if we were out of position.”

Said and done: on lap 5 he entered the pits in 17th place. After switching to hard tires, he was only in 18th place and last on the track, 20 seconds behind Logan Sargeant (Williams).

But on the hard tires, Hülkenberg's momentum quickly disappeared: “A lot of understeer, especially in the fast corners. I have oversteer in slow corners. The tires are already degrading,” he said over the radio, and was then told to slow down through the S-curves in the first sector, because “that will help the front tires,” his race engineer said.

Because the others tended to rely on undercuts, Hülkenberg did a long stint on hard tires and temporarily returned to the points. However, on lap 30 it became clear how high the price was when he lost 1.6 seconds to Tsunoda, who was behind him. “Practically” at that time he was only in 13th place.

In the end, Hülkenberg finished eleventh after a late pass on Stroll. There were 5.6 seconds left for a World Cup point.

How was the fight for third place decided?

At the front, the Red Bull Express rolled unhindered to a double victory. At the start of the tenth lap, Verstappen was 2.9 seconds ahead of Pérez and 5.7 seconds ahead of Norris. Alonso, in fifth position, led a group of three with Piastri and Leclerc, but at that point they were already ten seconds behind the leader.

As the race progressed, it became clear that undercutting was a real weapon due to the high level of tire wear. Only Leclerc opted for a contrary strategy and tried to make a pit stop. An ambitious undertaking to which he had to pay tribute during a tour of the second Degner curve.

With ten laps to go, the battle for the podium was: Leclerc and Norris (who had completed his two stops very early) on older tires, ahead of Sainz on relatively new tires.

But then Norris made a driving error at the hairpin, so Sainz overtook him with relative ease, and Leclerc offered no significant resistance to his own teammate on the tires ten laps older.

What is behind the “stagnation order” at Mercedes?

On lap 13 there was an internal position change. Mercedes. Hamilton was in P6, just ahead of Russell, and both were on hard tires that were eleven laps old after changing them during the break. But Hamilton's Mercedes was understeering badly, so he offered: “Should I let George pass?” He did it before the chicane.

One lap later, Russell was already 1.2 seconds ahead and had taken his teammate out of DRS.

Mercedes' ambitious plan was apparently to drive even on hard tires. A plan that didn't work. Already on lap 20, Hamilton realized: “The tires are wearing out. The right front tire is dead.” And a little later: “Change strategy!”

On lap 22/23, both Mercedes came in again and put on a new set of hard tyres. This meant they dropped back to 8th and 9th positions in the race. Hamilton asked, “How did I waste so much time?” The race engineer responded: “Only traffic and dismantling.”

While Hamilton crossed the finish line in ninth place, Russell was still battling with Piastri for seventh place at the end with the tire advantage. A few laps before the end, he was already at the same height when braking at the chicane, but Piastri escaped. He ran out of space during the maneuver and had to cut back.

The race stewards then investigated not “gaining an advantage”, but “forcing off the track”, meaning Russell and not Piastri.

However, on the penultimate lap, Piastri made a slight driving error and Russell overtook him with excessive DRS. Russell crossed the finish line in seventh place.

What's next in the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship?

The racing weekend in Suzuka continues after lunch: Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. German time Youtube channel Formula1.de also carried out a detailed analysis of the live race. As always, Kevin Scheuren and Christian Nimmervoll lead the F1 show programme. Channel members have the opportunity to ask both questions in the live chat.

Subsequently, the Grand Prix will be held from April 19 to 21. Porcelain in the program. The last race was held in Shanghai in 2019 before the race was temporarily removed from the calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic and strict requirements from Chinese authorities.

By the way, the first of a total of six sprints of the 2024 Formula 1 season will take place in Shanghai. This year, due to a slightly revised calendar, sprint qualifying will take place on Friday afternoon and the sprint on Saturday afternoon. the morning. and qualifying for Saturday afternoon and Sunday's Grand Prix.

By Christian Nimmervoll

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