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Japanese Grand Prix 2023

Winners and Losers from 2023 F1 Japanese Grand Prix

A champion is crowned, big steps forward taken but horror weekends for the losers. It's the Japanese Grand Prix Winners and Losers.

Verstappen Norris Piastri Japan
To news overview © XPBimages

In the end, it was almost perfection from this generation's dominant driver and team.

It was a giants up yours to the doubters as one of the greatest cars handed out a walloping and one of the best combinations wrote the latest entry into its diary of success.

Behind Red Bull and Max Verstappen, others made a point, including one very loud one for a driver not on the 2024 grid, while some had an entirely forgettable weekend.

There is also a first-time entrant among the list - included for his ingenuity and shrewdness.

So, let's get into the 2023 F1 Japanese Grand Prix Winners and Losers from Suzuka.

Winner - Red Bull AND Jonathan Wheatley

From the first race in Bahrain, it has been a question of when Red Bull would win the 2023 Constructors' and not if.

Bouncing back from its invincibility bubble being pierced in Singapore, this was a masterclass from Max Verstappen all weekend.

Such was his dominance, he led FP1, FP2, FP3, Q1, Q3, and recorded a hat-trick by winning from pole with the fastest lap.

He was only denied a Grand Chelem by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz leading Laps 17 and 18, respectively through the pit-cycle. Charles Leclerc led Q2 after a second run on new tyres, ending just 0.024s up on Verstappen time on old Softs.

These misses denied him the chance of emulating Lewis Hamilton's effort at the 2015 Italian GP of topping every single session across a weekend and then posting a Grand Chelem. This was Verstappen and Red Bull at its brilliant best.

A word must also go to Sporting Director Jonathan Wheatley.

Knowing his rule-book inside out, Wheatley identified the possibility of Sergio Perez's unserved five-second penalty being turned into a penalty in Qatar next time out.

So, Perez's car was unretired to serve the penalty, and then promptly retired again.

There is nothing illegal about this and a clever reading of the rules. At this level of elite sport, that can make all the difference.

What did Horner say?

“It’s been the most amazing race for us, the most amazing year and it's all testimony to these guys and all the men and women back in the factory Milton Keynes."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Loser - Sergio Perez

As Valtteri Bottas showed at Mercedes, the insecurity of a driver on a one-year contract is destabilising.

Yes, Perez has been repeatedly assured that he will be in the RB20 of 2024, but all the noise around his future is not helping a bad run of form.

Qualifying continues to be a weakness and there is no excuse for being seven-tenths off your-team-mate in qualifying - even if it is Verstappen.

As for the race, the first contact with Lewis Hamilton was not his fault, but the second was and as for his drive after that, it left a lot to be desired.

A driver of 251 Grand Prix starts should not be getting a penalty for overtaking behind the Safety Car when making a pit-stop and the Kevin Magnussen lunge at the hairpin reeked of desperation.

Red Bull will be throwing everything behind Perez's bid to remain second in the Drivers' and thus complete just about the only thing that has eluded them in the championship - but Hamilton is lurking 33 points behind.

Given Perez's latest slump, that's an uncomfortably close gap. Must do better in Qatar.

What did Perez say?

"[I got a] horrible start, basically going into Turn 1, I was just a passenger. I had Sainz on my right, Lewis on my left, and they just took out the whole front wing endplate.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Winner - McLaren

Are you looking Mercedes and Ferrari?

This is how you turn around performance in-season and McLaren hasn't done it just once this year either.

From the doldrums of the early part of the season to this late all-out assault for fourth in the standings, the MCL60 is coming good.

McLaren currently has the second fastest car on the grid and although Mercedes and Ferrari are too far ahead at this stage to be under threat (133 and 113, respectively), McLaren is going to take huge chunks out of that before the end of the season.

Under the right conditions, could Lando Norris finally grab that elusive first win or indeed, Oscar Piastri who rookie star is shining brighter than ever.

What did Zak Brown say?

“I wish it was closer [than 49 points to Aston Martin]. But we're coming and I think it's going to be exciting. We just got to keep doing what we're doing and hopefully we'll be there at the end.”

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Loser - Valtteri Bottas

Bottas has slid into the one thing all drivers who have had spells at the front dread: midfield obscurity.

He has six points this season, four of which came in the Bahrain opener and only added to it with 10th places in Canada and Italy.

The Alfa Romeo driver was unlucky to be pinched in the first-corner melee and then being taken out by Logan Sargeant sort of summed up his season.

A nice was not rewarded except with a trip to the barriers and retirement. Here is a driver who cannot wait to see the end of 2023.

What did Bottas say?

"It was a pretty eventful, short race for me. I had a great start off the line, I was between two cars going into Turn 1, and the car on the right started squeezing to the left. Then in the end, there was no space, there was a collision and I had a puncture."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Winner - Liam Lawson

Perhaps the only thing missing from Liam Lawson's record so far was a direct comparison in a race with Yuki Tsunoda.

At Zandvoort, given his lack of running, it was unfair to compare the two, while Tsunoda completed half a racing lap at Monza and Marina Bay in total.

But at Suzuka, Lawson came out very well.

He beat Tsunoda fair and square by less than a second and looked the competent Grand Prix driver in the making.

He will not be on the full-time 2024 grid but all he can do is show he is capable of - and will likely get another chance with Daniel Ricciardo possibly out until the United States in four week's time.

What did Lawson say?

"I want to be in a seat and I don’t have one right now. It’s basically just doing the best job I can each time I get into the car. I’ll keep doing that for as long as I’m driving.”

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Loser - Williams

Alexander Albon said after qualifying that if track conditions were 10 degrees colder, he would have had a chance at making Q3.

Had he done so, he'd have avoided the accident at Turn 1 in which he was an innocent bystander minding his own business.

But the damage was so great, he was effectively out on the spot, while Logan Sargeant had a torrid weekend when he needed one the least.

His seat is now under direct threat and needs to arrest the slide.

Crashing in qualifying and then taking out Bottas in a clumsy move at the hairpin just is not good enough for a driver who does have potential, with 'GOAT' comparisons to Nicholas Latifi both uncalled for and cruel.

What did Sargeant say?

"I'm not sure, but he [Bottas] must not have seen that I was never going to make the corner. But I was surprised he just cut underneath me.

"But it was just locked for a long time from the second I hit the brake [pedal]."

F1 2023 Japanese Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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