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Another double for Red Bull but Ricciardo’s woes worsen in Japan

After the sultry and rather sensational outcome of the Australian Grand Prix, expectations for Round 1, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka were very high.

What added intrigue to the race was the fact that in practice Red Bull appeared not as dominant over Ferrari and, probably, McLaren, who had to start from the second row. Max Verstappen took pole in Japanese GP qualifying for the fifth time in a row, again repeating his own best performance in his career.

But this time Sergio Perez lost to Max on just one fast lap for some ridiculous fractions of seconds, so in the main race it should have been assumed that there would be surprises. And we only had to wait three corners from the start.

As they roared into Turn 1 at a packed Suzuka, the favourites held their positions. But behind them there was mayhem: Ricciardo tagged Albon with his rear wheel, both flew into the safety barrier. As a result, both drivers were out, cars wrecked but they walked away unscathed.

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Japanese Grand Prix Start 2.0

More Williams embarrassment, more pressure on Ricciardo

After 25 minutes of stagnation, the second start was announced. It turned out to be even easier than the first one.The leaders again did not give their way, the peloton began to stretch out very quickly. It is worth highlighting only the failure of Hulkenberg, who fell back to the very tail of 10th position.

The drivers who started on the soft decided to lose the soft sets on the eighth lap, but of the favourites, only one Fernando Alonso chose red-rimmed Pirellis for the start. Aston Martin driver Fernando did not stop while others dived in early to change tyres. Of those who spent the early part on the Mediums, Lando Norris got rid of it on the 11th lap.

Then Piastri went to the pits, and Ferrari did not respond to pit stops. The peloton also lost another car – Zhou had difficulties with the gearbox.

As a result, Sainz and Perez lost positions after the pit stop to Norris – an undercut in action. If Norris had not lost time behind Hamilton, he would have had a good chance of taking the lead, but he remained in second place, a couple of seconds behind Verstappen.

On the 21st lap, Max regained his position as leader, passing Leclerc, who was not in the pits at that time. Next, Perez passed Norris, regaining a nominal second place in the race.

Ferrari next best at Suzuka

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari celebrate with Craig Dear, Principal Aerodynamicist at Oracle Red Bull Racing on the podium the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 07, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

On the 27th lap, Leclerc found himself in the pits, Norris also dropped in for the second stop, while Lando was unable to get past Charles. Due to the extended starting period, the Monegasque was able to win back several places.

Verstappen at that time was already ten seconds ahead of Sergio. Leclerc, after his only pit stop, was able to go at a pace of a second per lap better than Perez, who went to the pits on the 34th lap and returned to the track only in fifth.

After a couple of laps, Perez confidently dealt with Norris and set off to catch up with Leclerc. Verstappen was leading after his pit stop.

Perez also passed Leclerc on the next lap, regaining second place. After the pit stop, Sainz let Leclerc, Norris, and both Mercedes drivers pass.

With 10 laps left, Sainz caught up with Norris on fresh tires. Sainz used the DRS zone quite easily and overtook Norris, chasing his teammate Charles, who, like Norris, was on a more shabby hard court.

2024 Japanese GP marked another Red Bull 1-2

Verstappen: Simply lovely, I enjoyed the race

After three laps, Sainz easily passed Leclerc – Charles was told not to waste time fighting the Spaniard. Leclerc did not easily let Carlos pass, giving him the outer rather than the inner radius in the initial turn, but Sainz confidently passed the Monegasque, setting the fastest lap in the race.

On the decisive lap, George Russell was able to cope with Oscar Piastri in the neck for the seventh step. Max, in turn, moved well and brought the race to his victory, which became his third this season and the 57th in his career.

Perez reached the finish line second, scoring a double for the Bulls. Sainz also found himself in the top 3, Leclerc was in fourth position – Ferrari’s tactics became productive for both team representatives. Among the five strongest, Lando Norris also stood out – as a result, McLaren’s undercut did not function at all.

The top ten also included Alonso, Russell, Piastri, Hamilton and Tsunoda, who surprised the home fans.

The 2024 Japanese Grand Prix turned out to be very interesting regarding tactical actions, although this time the result turned out to be quite predictable. The “royal race” is moving to China for the first time since 2019 – the Formula 1 stage in Shanghai will take place in two weeks.