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Verstappen matches Schumacher feat in Japan after early red-flag drama

Max Verstappen secured his third successive Japanese GP victory, becoming the first driver to do so since Michael Schumacher two decades ago.

Verstappen race Japan
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen cruised to a relatively anonymous Japanese Grand Prix victory, spearheading a Red Bull one-two to open up a 13-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez.

Such was the ease of this latest win for Verstappen, the 57th of his F1 career and 20th in the last 22 grands prix, he was barely in the picture, primarily due to the action behind that centred around tyre offset strategies amongst the teams.

But it is now three successive victories in Japan for Verstappen, becoming the first driver to achieve the feat since seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Verstappen finished 12.535 seconds clear of Perez, with Carlos Sainz completing the podium ahead of Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, who made a one-stop strategy work to perfection as he climbed four places to finish fourth.

From third on the grid, McLaren's Lando Norris dropped to fifth at the chequered flag, with Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso sixth, ahead of George Russell in seventh, although he faces an investigation for pushing eighth-placed Oscar Piastri off the track at one point late on.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton finished a miserable ninth, with RB's Yuki Tsunoda securing 10th for his first points in his fourth race on home soil.

Result Race - Japanese

# Driver Team Time Tyre
Results are being loaded...

Red flag after opening-lap crash

Once the five red lights disappeared, it was a case of 'as you were' through the opening corners in relation to the grid slots, with Verstappen leading the field, followed by Perez, Norris, Sainz, and Alonso.

Further down the pack, however, RB's Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon in his Williams were involved in a major shunt on the approach to Turn 3, sparking an immediate red flag and a delay of 28 minutes.

With the cars naturally jostling for position, Ricciardo saw Aston Martin's Lance Stroll in his left wing mirror, resulting in him opting to take the racing line into the gentle third corner left-hander.

But as he did so, and without noticing Albon on his right-hand side, the front-left wheel of the Thai-British driver's Williams impacted with the right rear on Ricciardo's RB, sending both into the tyre barrier directly ahead.

Fortunately, both drivers jumped out of their heavily damaged cars unaided, but it led to an immediate decision from race control to stop the grand prix due to the damage to the tyre barrier and the time required for repairs.

The decision was taken for a standing start, but as the cars had already passed the first timing sector, the positioning of the cars was determined from that point.

Whilst there was no change to the top nine from the original grid, there was movement further down, primarily as a result of the crash as Ricciardo had started 11th and Albon 14th.

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg started 10th and Stake's Valtteri Bottas 11th, with Ricciardo's RB team-mate Tsunoda dropping to 12th.

In terms of strategy, and with teams being allowed a free tyre stop, Mercedes opted to switch Hamilton and Russell onto the hard tyre as they had originally started on the mediums. Those around them remained on the same rubber.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Tyre offsets dominate

From the restart, whilst Verstappen again made a clean getaway, on the hard compound, Hamilton lost seventh place to the medium-shod Leclerc, with Russell dropping to 10th due to a lock-up coming out of Turn 1.

For Bottas and Hulkenberg, who had remained on the soft tyre for the restart, they were forced to soon pit for a change onto the hards, relegating them to 17th and 18th respectively, similarly with Tsunoda who pitted on the following lap, with the Japanese falling to 16th.

It was not long before degradation started to impact the medium-tyre runners, with Norris the first in of the leaders after just 11 laps, followed by team-mate Piastri a lap later, relegating them to eighth and 11th respectively, and with the latter into traffic.

With Hamilton and Russell up to fifth and sixth, as Alonso had got rid of his soft tyres, the seven-time champion allowed by his fellow Briton at the start of lap 14 after recognising his team-mate was quicker on the hard tyre.

From second and third positions, Perez and Sainz stopped after 15 laps, with Verstappen following suit after 16 after building up a comfortable lead over the former.

Norris was the winner from the opening round of stops, moving up a place to within two seconds of Verstappen, with the duo second and third on the road as Leclerc had assumed the lead as he attempted to stretch his opening stint on the mediums.

Intriguingly for Norris and Verstappen, there was a tyre offset as the Briton had switched to hards, whilst the Dutchman had taken on another set of mediums.

On old hards, Russell and Hamilton were sitting ducks compared to those on fresh Pirellis as they soon dropped down back the top-10 pecking order, resulting in the latter making a stop for a new set of hards after 23 laps.

Shortly before that, Norris had lost a position to Perez who, like Verstappen, had also taken on a new set of mediums at his first stop.

Leclerc inevitably lost his lead to Verstappen, and whilst running a fine second and keeping Perez at bay, he then made an error that allowed by the Mexican, resulting in Norris closing in behind.

At the end of lap 26, Leclerc and Norris, from third and fourth, both pitted at the same time, with Ferrari matching McLaren to keep the Monégasque ahead.

As the duo emerged from the pits, they encountered Russell, with Leclerc managing to edge ahead of the Mercedes, but with the McLaren having to fall in behind, although it was not long before Norris passed his fellow Briton around the outside of Turn 1 on a following lap.

At the halfway stage of the 53-lap race, Verstappen was cruising ahead of Perez, with Sainz third and Alonso fourth, followed by Piastri, Leclerc, Norris, Russell and Hamilton.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Russell gives Piastri a shove

On lap 32, Russell complained of heavy turbulence along the back straight that was, in his own words, almost lifting the helmet off his head.

A lap later, from second and fourth, Perez and Alonso made their second stops, taking on the hard tyres, with Verstappen doing likewise on the following lap, resulting in Sainz taking up the lead, albeit not for long as he pitted after 36 laps.

Russell then took on a new set of mediums after 37 laps, giving him a tyre advantage for the closing stint compared to those ahead of him all on the hards. Hamilton followed suit at the end of lap 39, leaving the duo in eighth and ninth.

On lap 42, Williams' day became worse when lone-runner Logan Sargeant made a mistake on the approach into Degner 1, leading to him going into the gravel in the second Degner, stopping in time before hitting a barrier.

The American managed to safely reverse his way back onto the track, albeit falling to 17th and last.

The following lap, Norris locked up into Turn 11, allowing Sainz to close the gap and eventually make a move to claim fourth along the main straight soon after.

With Leclerc informed not to hold up Sainz, the latter moved up to third at the start of lap 46 to secure a podium place behind the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Perez.

There was late race drama for the minor places behind fifth-placed Norris, with Russell challenging Piastri for seventh on lap 50 albiet pushing the Australian off the track through the chicane, an incident noted by the stewards.

Russell eventually managed to get Piastri at the start of the final lap to claim seventh behind Alonso, but he could be in trouble with the stewards.

Behind the top 10, Hulkenberg was 11th ahead of Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, followed by Kevin Magnussen in his Haas, Bottas, the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, with Sargeant last.

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying