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5 Winners and 5 Losers from Japan – Who tasted success in Suzuka?

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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Suzuka looked resplendent as it took up its new position on the calendar in spring, the track consumed by beautiful cherry blossoms. Red Bull’s season continued to bloom with a strong performance in Japan – but it wasn’t so rosy for some of their rivals. We pick out our winners and losers from the Japanese Grand Prix…

Winner: Max Verstappen

Normal service resumed for Max Verstappen in Japan, the Red Bull racer bouncing back from his first retirement in 43 races in Australia to clinch a convincing victory at one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar.

This was the reigning world champion’s third successive win at Suzuka, converting pole position for the 30th time in his career, and his third victory in four Grands Prix this season.

READ MORE: Verstappen overjoyed by victory comeback at Suzuka as he says race ‘couldn’t have been better’

The Dutchman became the fourth driver in history to lead more than 3000 laps of a Grand Prix, following Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, with his win coming 10 years after he made his Grand Prix weekend debut in F1 with Toro Rosso.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red

Verstappen clinched his third straight win at Suzuka

Losers: Williams

Williams can’t catch a break right now, the British team enduring a second big crash in as many weeks when Logan Sargeant got up close and personal with the barriers in first practice, the damage so significant he missed FP2.

Alex Albon was then pitched into the tyre wall after just three turns in the Grand Prix when he made contact with Daniel Ricciardo, leaving Williams with an even bigger damage bill from Suzuka.

EXPLAINED: Why Williams will be worried about Albon's Suzuka shunt – and what it could mean for the rest of the season

With both cars in the wars, both sets of upgrade parts they brought to Japan have had to be thrown in the bin – and they now face a race against time to produce more for the next race in China.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: The car of Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams is removed from the

Williams are facing another sizable rebuild following Albon's shunt in Japan

Winner: Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda is in the form of his life right now, the Japanese driver unbeaten in his qualifying head-to-head with RB team mate Ricciardo so far this season after he made it into Q3 for the third race in succession.

After a poor getaway at the start, which saw him swallowed up by the field behind, he made amends at the second restart (there was a red flag to repair the barriers following Albon and Ricciardo’s collision) to claw his way back into points contention.

READ MORE: ‘Relieved’ Tsunoda hails 'insane' RB pit stop as he nets a point on home soil

He showed supreme pace throughout the Grand Prix, pulling off a couple of sensational moves around the outside in the Esses to show his confidence in himself and the car on his way to 10th.

That point made him the first Japanese driver to score in his home race since Kamui Kobayashi achieved the feat in 2012.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Yuki Tsunoda of Scuderia Visa Cash App RB celebrates finishing in 10th

Tsunoda grabbed a first point on home soil to increase his tally

Losers: Mercedes

Mercedes looked like they had made a breakthrough on Friday at Suzuka, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton describing FP1 as the best session they’ve had all year with the car in a “sweeter spot”.

He qualified seventh – which was his highest start of the season – however the Silver Arrows were too slow in the first stint of the Grand Prix which dropped Hamilton and George Russell out of podium contention.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t turn’ – Hamilton explains Japanese GP issue that caused him to let team mate Russell past

Hamilton ended up a lowly ninth – the first time he has finished outside the top-five at Suzuka since the 2014 – while Russell was only a couple of places higher up in seventh.

Winner: Sergio Perez

Last time Sergio Perez arrived at Suzuka, he was struggling for form. This time, he responded to a disappointing result in Australia with a consistently strong performance across the entire Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Perez's podium jumped him back into P2 in the drivers' championship

He ended up just 0.066s off pole to secure his first-ever top-three start at Suzuka in 12 visits to the circuit and then drove smoothly to convert that into a podium and give Red Bull their 31st 1-2 finish.

In doing so, he reclaimed second in the drivers’ championship and sent another sign to Red Bull that they should sign him up for next year.

Loser: Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo was on the backfoot at Suzuka after having to give his car up to Ayumu Iwasa for FP1 and then getting no meaningful running in the second session because of persistent wet weather.

Even after a tough FP3, he pulled it together to take 11th, just a fraction adrift on Tsunoda, in what was his best start of the season.

READ MORE: Ricciardo and Albon give their views on first-lap clash at Suzuka as stewards opt against further action

Unfortunately, the Australian didn’t get a chance to see what he could do in the race as a collision with Albon ended his Grand Prix after just three turns. The wait for a first point of the season continues.

2024 Japanese Grand Prix: Ricciardo and Albon crash on Lap 1 to bring out the red flags at Suzuka

Winner: Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz came out on top in a strategic battle with McLaren and team mate Charles Leclerc to clinch a third podium of the season and maintain his 100% record of always winning a trophy in every race he has competed in this year.

The Spaniard, who was consistently fast in every stint, has already matched his podium tally from last season – with 20 races still to go in this campaign.

He sits fourth in the drivers’ standings, four points behind Leclerc and only nine adrift of Perez, continuing a fine run of form that comes at a time when he’s looking to secure his future on the grid next season.

READ MORE: Sainz thrilled with third place in Japan after making multiple overtakes during ‘tough’ race

Losers: Kick Sauber

Kick Sauber’s unrewarding start to 2024 continued in Japan, as they failed to score points for the fourth race in succession.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Sainz is on a rich run of form at the moment with two podiums and a win from the three races he's completed

The team managed four pit stops without any problems (suggesting they are starting to get on top of their issues) but in prioritising reliability over speed, they were slower than their direct rivals and that cost Valtteri Bottas when a gaggle of five cars pitted at the same time.

The Finn ultimately came home 14th – equalling the team’s best result of the year – while Zhou Guanyu failed to finish because of a drivetrain issue.

READ MORE: What the teams said – Race day in Japan

Winner: Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso described his race weekend as “one of my best for a while” the double world champion qualifying a superb fifth with laps he said were on the absolute limit of the car.

He lost a position in the Grand Prix, but the race pace overall was stronger than it’s been all season to suggest the upgrade did its job and Aston Martin’s understanding of the car is improving.

Fifth in qualifying was his best start at Suzuka for 10 years, while his finish of sixth was a best result for him in Japan since 2013.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24  leads Fernando

Alonso's upgrades helped catapult him up the order in Japan

Losers: McLaren

McLaren came to Suzuka with fond memories having scored a double podium at the track last year, and pre-event simulations suggested the team should excel on the circuit’s high speed turns to emerge as Red Bull’s closest challengers.

However, it became clear they couldn’t beat Ferrari on pure pace and were instead in a fight with Mercedes and Aston Martin.

READ MORE: Norris concedes ‘Ferraris on another level’ as Piastri rues ‘not his best’ weekend in Japan

Lando Norris ended up fifth – finishing 10 seconds further behind Verstappen than he did last year when he finished P2 – with team mate Oscar Piastri eighth.

The positives for the British team are that they continued their 100% scoring rate so far in 2024 and remain third in the constructors’ championship – however they are already more than 50 points behind second-placed Ferrari.

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