Japanese Grand Prix talking points: Normal service resumes as Verstappen gets back to dominating
Updated: Oct 2
After a brief break in the global Red Bull domination tour of 2023, it was back to normality in Japan last weekend as Max Verstappen claimed a dominant win for the Austrian team, who also claimed the 2023 Constructors Championship.
But as with every race, there is always plenty to talk about. Find out what exactly in the latest edition of F1 talking points.
Champions of the World
For the sixth time in their 19 year history, Red Bull Racing are F1 Constructor’s Champions.
It’s an incredible feat given their relatively short existence, and also their recent surge in form over the last 18 months.
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
We knew it was never in doubt. Clearly it was always going to happen. But it’s no doubt a big sigh of relief for the Austrian team to get it locked away and firmly focus now on securing Max Verstappen his third Driver’s Championship, something that he should do next round in Qatar.
The dominance of Red Bull though does continue a somewhat worrying monopoly in the sport that has continued now for 14 consecutive seasons, with no team other than Mercedes or Red Bull winning the Constructor’s Championship in that period.
If you count Brawn, the team that Mercedes was before it become Mercedes winning in 2009, you have to go back to 2008 when a team other than those two won the Championship, either for the Driver’s or Constructor’s Championship.
No matter how you look at it, it was a thoroughly deserved win for the team.
Perez pressure won’t go away
I said way back in my Azerbaijan talking points article in May that Sergio Perez could win the Championship.
Nearly five months later, and we all know that isn’t happening. What is happening is that he is under all kinds of pressure to even retain that seat after 2024, and possibly even in 2023.
While the Mexican has a contract in place for next year, we know Red Bull is never opposed to letting go of their drivers if they don’t perform. And after Perez’s horrible weekend in Japan, that performance continues to slip.
His mid-season dip seemed to be improving with a string of good return-to-form drives, but the last couple of rounds have seen him sleep back into a worrying level of form that everyone is noticing.
(Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
While Daniel Ricciardo’s injury might’ve released some pressure on Perez, he still has to know the Aussie is waiting in the wings given his recently signed contract to remain with AlphaTauri in 2024.
And with plenty of other drivers on the grid out of contract soon, there are plenty waiting in the wings to fill the most coveted seat on the grid.
So while Red Bull usually gives you wings, it might be soon about to take away Perez’s if these performances continue.
Piastri’s podium celebrations
Another prediction I made earlier in the year was that Oscar Piastri would be on the podium by the end of the year. And while that maybe wasn’t as outlandish as Perez fighting for the title, it was something that was finally achieved by a stellar performance by the Aussie across the weekend.
After a bit of a slow start to the year, Piastri has shown just why he was so highly sought after on the grid and is shining as brightly as many predicted.
And while he couldn’t turn his front-row into at least a second spot, a podium was still a thoroughly deserved finish for the Melbourne driver.
Piastri joins a very exclusive club of Australian F1 drivers to finish on the podium, joining Mark Webber, Daniel Ricciardo, Jack Brabham, Alan Jones and Tim Schenken in achieving a top three finish.
How long until we celebrate him joining Webber, Ricciardo, Brabham and Jones in the winners club?
(Photo by Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
McLaren v Ferrari and the battle of 2023
I might be getting a little bit nostalgic all of sudden for the great days of the late 1990s and early 2000s when McLaren and Ferrari were the top teams in the sport battling for supremacy.
Over the last few rounds, it seems as though both these teams have become the main battling duo for best-of-the-rest honours with their turn up in form, albeit with Mercedes also snipping at their heels.
After two very strong rounds by Ferrari, McLaren took the ascendancy in Suzuka to take a double podium, the first time they have achieved this since the 2021 Italian Grand Prix. And with Ferrari not too far behind, it brought a great sense of nostalgia to those like me who have been following the sport for more than 30 years.
It also sets up an epic showdown between the teams heading into the final rounds of the season. McLaren are in fifth in the Constructor’s Championship, while Ferrari are third. And while Ferrari sit 20 points behind the consistent Mercedes in second, there is no doubt that McLaren will be able to close that gap to the pair if their form continues.
A great reason to keep fixated to your screens for the remaining races for 2023.
AlphaTauri were right to sign Ricciardo
AlphaTauri over the weekend confirmed their driver line-up for 2024, with Yuki Tsunoda remaining at the team alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
And while this of course is exciting for Ricciardo fans and Australian F1 fans, it was met was a large amount of criticism, especially given the performance of Kiwi Liam Lawson while he has filled in for the injured Ricciardo.
In the long term, Ricciardo is by far the better choice between the pair given his experience and knowledge he can bring to the team. He is a proven race winner, on his day one of the best racers on the grid and has a marketability that no driver on the grid can match.
(Photo by Mario Renzi – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Lawson, while supremely talented and worthy of a seat on the F1 grid, is still an unknown, and a few good performances are not enough to establish if he is capable of maintaining that long term. See Nyck de Vries as a recent example of how that can turn out.
2024 will also mark a key moment for Ricciardo, as it could be his last chance to prove that he hasn’t lost anything in his ability and skills to remain on the F1 grid. Perform well against Tsunoda and show how good he is, then a Red Bull seat could be his for 2025. Fail against Tsunoda and slip into his McLaren form, and it’s likely the last we will ever see of the honey badger.
Let’s just hope that having two Aussie drivers on the grid full time in 2024 will pay off in spades for all those concerned.
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here