The Hamilton Spectator

Verstappen bounces back with dominant win


Max Verstappen’s record-breaking dominance in Formula One resumed Sunday with his victory in the Japanese Grand Prix, leading almost the entire race on a sunny day in central Japan.

His abrupt breakdown two weeks ago in Melbourne, Australia, looks like a blip in his total command over F1.

He was out on the fourth lap when the rear brakes caught fire. Nothing like that this time. Verstappen basically led from start to finish except briefly after a pit stop. He was followed across the finish line by Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez — 12.5 seconds behind — and Carlos Sainz of Ferrari. Sainz was 20 seconds off the pace.

The three-time defending F1 champion is again this season’s points leader and now has won 22 of the past 26 races dating from the start of the 2023 season. Only two other drivers have won in that span — Red Bull teammate Perez and Sainz, the winner in Australia two weeks ago.

Responding to a question, Sainz said Verstappen and Red Bull are so dominant the season might already be over after just four of 24 races.

“I think they are definitely going to have an advantage in the first third of the season until we bring in one or two upgrades,” Sainz said. “But, by that time, maybe it’s a bit too late with the advantage they might have in the championsh­ip.”

Verstappen, who now has 57 career wins, pushed his season points total to 77 and is 13 clear of Perez on 64. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc follows with 59 with Sainz on 55.

“It’s nice to win, and it’s nice to win here in Japan,” said Verstappen, whose car is powered by a Honda engine. “It’s always an important race for us and it’s great to win here in front of Honda.”

 ?? ?? Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

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