Red Bull Wins Constructors Championship

Let’s be honest, it was a foregone conclusion that Red Bull would win the Constructors Championship again.  Either Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez has won every single race this year except one.  In Qatar, Verstappen can win the Drivers’ Championship outright during the Sprint race.  As Max said, Red Bull built a rocket ship.  Max appears to be the only one on the grid that can drive it…or is he?

Sergio Perez certainly contributed to the Constructor’s Championship last year and this year.  However, today’s efforts by Perez were abysmal.  His front wing was clipped at the beginning of the race.  That was not his fault.  However, when he collided with Kevin Magnussen later in the race, he was at fault.  Eventually Perez had to bow out of the race.  Perez is a fan favorite, but one has to wonder if Red Bull is willing to give his seat to Liam Lawson next year.

Lawson is Daniel Ricciardo’s substitute driver.  He has been something of a revelation.  Since he hit the grid, he has consistently finished higher than his teammate Yuki Tsunoda.  Last week he finished in the points ahead of Tsunoda.  If Red Bull doesn’t give Lawson a drive, then someone else will.

The start of the race eventually caused five cars to DNF.  Logan Sargeant smashed up his car during qualification for the second time in four weeks.  He started at the back of the grid and ended up catching damage from the dust up at the start of the race.  Fellow Williams teammate Alex Albon was severely jostled, when Valtteri Bottas was squeezed into Albon causing a significant collision, sending parts and wings flying down the track causing damage to Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Zhou Guanyu’s Alpha Romeo.  Stroll, Albon, Sargeant, and Bottas did not finish the race.

McLaren had a great weekend qualifying P2 and P3.  They finished the race P2 and P3 as well.  The only difference is Oscar Piastri finished third but started second.  This was due in large part because of Lando Norris’s start.  At the start of the race, Norris was a hair quicker off the line than Verstappen and he drifted to Verstappen’s outside getting ahead of his teammate who was being squeezed by Verstappen into the oncoming apex.  Norris went wheel to wheel around the first corner with Verstappen until Verstappen finally pulled away.  After that, the rest of the race was all about tire strategy.

Oscar Piastri is the first rookie this year to podium.  We will all watch his career with great interest.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, left, and McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain lead the field after the start during the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, central Japan, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Toru Hanai)

The Japan Grand Prix features 18 turns on 3.6 miles of banked tarmac.  It is a 53-lap race.  To add a bit of spice, it has been hot all weekend long.  Given all the turns, coupled with the heat, tire degradation is high.  Tire management really didn’t affect the front runners though.  Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz all qualified and finished in the top six positions.  Lewis Hamilton managed to finish fifth after starting seventh.  After the first lap excitement, the race really settled in and there wasn’t much overtaking.  Despite all the turns, this track is fast and it is difficult to overtake another racer.

McLaren and Ferrari seem to have found their late season stride, while Mercedes an Aston Martin appear to be falling off.  McLaren seems to do well at any track now, however Ferrari seems to favor the tracks that have long stretches of tarmac.  McLaren and Ferrari will battle each other to see who joins Verstappen on the podium until this season ends.  The only person that knocks Verstappen off the podium is Verstappen himself.  On to Qatar.


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