Max Verstappen cruised to a comfortable victory at the Japanese Grand Prix as Red Bull clinched the constructors’ title for 2023.
After holding off an early challenge for the lead from Lando Norris, the Dutchman never came under pressure at the front of the field as he crossed the line comfortably ahead of the Briton.
Norris’s teammate Oscar Piastri completed the podium, giving the Australian his first top three finish in F1.
Verstappen covered Piastri off the line, but in doing so almost left the door open for Norris, who tried to go around the outside of the pole sitter as he moved up to second.
There was contact on the opening lap as Sergio Perez had to take avoiding action to miss the Ferrari, but in doing so gave Lewis Hamilton a tap, but both were able to hold their positions.
Further down the field, a similar situation saw the Alfa Romeos and Alex Albon colliding, with Albon’s car briefly on two wheels, while both Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou were left with front wing damage.
After the restart, the Mercedes’s battled for seventh, with George Russell briefly getting ahead of Hamilton, before the seven-time champion fought back.
Bottas’s struggles continued as he was spun around by Logan Sargeant, who collected the Alfa Romeo after locking up, spinning the Finn around and causing damage to the side of his car. Bottas tried to continue, but had to retire a couple of laps later, while Sargeant was given a five-second penalty.
Perez also picked up a penalty early on, having been found to have committed a safety car infringement when overtook on the way into the pitlane.
The Mexican’s day went from bad to worse when he locked up trying to get past Kevin Magnussen, hitting the Haas and causing damage to both cars. Red Bull put a new front wing on Perez’s car, but the damage was too much and he had to retire.
The debris caused by Perez’s and Magnussen’s collision resulted in a virtual safety car, with Piastri the only one of the front runners to stop under VSC conditions.
With both Williams cars having been involved in incidents, the team had to retire both drivers, while Lance Stroll had to pull out of the race due to a rear wing failure.
Despite Perez having retired his car, Red Bull sent him back out so he could serve his time penalty, ensuring he avoids a grid penalty at the next race. After serving the penalty, Perez quickly returned to the garage to retire again.
While the majority of the front runners made a second pitstop, Russell stayed out to try to make a one-stop strategy work to hold on to third, but as he tyres faded he fell backwards towards Piastri.
The Australian cruised past Russell, before Charles Leclerc also moved ahead a couple of laps later, allowing Hamilton to close up to the back of his teammate.
As Carlos Sainz started to put Hamilton under pressure, Mercedes instructed their drivers to switch positions, allowing Hamilton to pull away from Russell and the Ferrari driver, securing fifth position.
Russell tried to keep Sainz behind, but his tyres were too worn, giving the Spaniard an easy overtake to drop Russell down to seventh.
Perez’s retirement means Verstappen will be able to clinch the drivers’ title for a third year in a row in the sprint race in Qatar next time out.
1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Lando Norris (McLaren)
3. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
7. George Russell (Mercedes)
8. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
10. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
11. Liam Lawson (AlphaTauri)
12. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
13. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
14. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)
15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
Alex Albon (Williams)
Logan Sargeant (Williams)
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)