Race centre verstappen victorious despite perez revival

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VERSTAPPEN VICTORIOUS DESPITE PEREZ REVIVAL The world champion put his Australian hiccup behind him at Suzuka, although his team-mate at least gave him pause for thought



Perez clambers out; Verstappen is already flexing his muscles after a race off from winning

he story of the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix was one of changing seasons. Just six months ago, Formula 1 arrived at Suzuka under hot, blazing skies of the mid-autumn climate in the north-western Pacific region. Last weekend, it was back for the first Japanese GP to take place in the spring. That meant cooler conditions and a potentially very different race.

New too to F1 eyes was the enchanting cherry blossom, which seemed to herald change in the air. Once again Max Verstappen emerged victorious, but this wasn’t a crushingly dominant display from the Dutchman on his own. As in 2023, the teams arrived at Suzuka following a rare Carlos Sainz triumph for Ferrari. But this time Sergio Perez made it an all-Red Bull front row and a race 1-2. And Perez was a threat to Verstappen across the whole event, one that even seemed to have a season pass every day.

On Friday it was a touch of winter returning, FP1 chilly and blustery as Verstappen led Perez by 0.181 seconds, then the afternoon running washed out by constant drizzle and even colder temperatures. Saturday therefore felt like a spring breakthrough as the sun finally reappeared, before major race day temperature rises in strong sunshine brought a summer feel to this brilliantly brutal, rough-and-ready venue.

Ultimately, the history books will record this as yet another Verstappen walkover given his 12.5s margin of victory over Perez, and the opposition basically just as far behind as was the case last year. But the seeds of it as a recovery journey were planted during the ‘spring’ of Saturday.

And it was here where Perez actually held a very real advantage, which had Verstappen concerned. “So far, I haven’t been happy with my long runs,” he said after qualifying. “I think the pace wasn’t what I would have liked [in FP3]. So, it’s a bit of a question mark going into [the race]… Our race pace is still not too bad, but it’s not how I have been feeling in some of the races this year, last year. As comfortable, let’s say, like that.”

At this stage, Verstappen was also talking up Ferrari’s long-run potential – something Red Bull had been doing since FP1, when its motorsport advisor Helm

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