Verstappen bounces back with a dominant win at the Japanese Grand Prix

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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen,( left), of the Netherlands leads the field shortly after the start of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan. (AP)

SUZUKA, Japan, April 7, (AP): Max Verstappen’s record-breaking dominance in Formula 1 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 his rear brakes caught fire.
Nothing like that this time.

Verstappen 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 last 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 suggested that Verstappen and Red Bull are so dominant that the season might already be over after just four of 24 races.

“I think they are 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, of course, said the season would be competitive and suggested Red Bull might struggle in street races.

“It’s still a very long season,” he said. “I don’t want to think about the rest of the season too much.”
A red flag just seconds into the tightly packed first lap when Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo clipped each other on the second turn and crashed out halted the race.
That was the only real drama.

“The critical bit was the start to stay ahead and after that, the car just got better and better,” Verstappen said later. “It couldn’t have been any better.”
Both Albon and Ricciardo walked away, apparently without serious injuries. The restart was delayed 30 minutes to get the cars off the track and clear debris.
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.

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