2024 F1 race review: Japanese Grand Prix | Business as usual

Hold on, Ferrari made a good strategy call?

The 2024 Japanese Grand Prix certainly wasn’t the most exciting race but it was the most telling up and down the grid.

Coming just six months after the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix, it was a good indicator as to where each team is now compared to where they were in the last edition and the gains they have made in that time (if there are any).

As usual, the Red Bulls made light work of the competition on the Saturday and Sunday, but for the rest, there were things that each team could learn from and work from or towards.

Let’s take a look at the race itself and then dive into the lessons learnt from round four of the 2024 championship in our Japanese Grand Prix race review.

Two starts and an end

The red flag on the first lap came from Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo, two drivers who absolutely did not need to crash, and not in an avoidable incident kind of way but for their current situations.

Albon and Williams are having a torrid time with simply keeping two cars together for both their drivers. Logan Sargeant crashing on the Friday in the repaired chassis of Albon’s car from Australia is bad enough, but Alex binning his again this weekend does not help the legendary British team one bit.

As for Ricciardo, he is not helping himself in his efforts to reclaim his Red Bull seat. He has had a tough start to the season and is being completely shown up by his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, so he needs to change his fortunes around sooner rather than later.

The restart provided no theatrics and from then on there wasn’t much to really write home about.

Max Verstappen ran away with the lead while Sergio Perez did the same in second. Apart from falling back due to pit stops, there really was no showing or mention from either driver out in front.

Credit: "We've got to sort it out" | Wolff, Hamilton and Russell REACT to tough Japanese GP (Sky Sports F1, Youtube)

Lewis Hamilton cut the figure of a perfect teammate, allowing and even suggesting he let George Russell through early on as he was running quicker than him. The pair finished seventh and ninth respectively.

Charles Leclerc gained the most from the race, starting in eighth but finishing fourth due to a well-executed one-stop strategy (technically two with the first lap red flag). With his teammate Carlos Sainz finishing on the podium in third, it was enough strong showing for the ever-improving Ferrari.

Fernando Alonso got himself well into the tussle with Mercedes and McLaren, finishing in sixth place. Too bad his teammate couldn’t also bring home some valuable points for Aston Martin, with Lance Stroll finishing a lap down in 12th.

As for the McLarens, fifth for Lando Norris and eighth for Oscar Piastri are respectable results. The car isn’t quite where they thought it would be this season but it is comfortably the better of the four teams powered by Mercedes and, as we know from last season, are more than capable of building upon this platform.

Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10, earning RB another valuable point in the midfield battle - something which multi-time Grand Prix winner Ricciardo is yet to do.

Credit: EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS! Japanese Grand Prix (Sky Sports F1, Youtube)

Japanese Grand Prix classification

Here is the full classification for the race:

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull (FL)
  2. Sergio Perez, Red Bull
  3. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
  4. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
  5. Lando Norris, McLaren
  6. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
  7. George Russell, Mercedes
  8. Oscar Piastri, McLaren
  9. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
  10. Yuki Tsunoda, RB
  11. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas
  12. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
  13. Kevin Magnussen, Haas
  14. Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber
  15. Esteban Ocon, Alpine
  16. Pierre Gasly, Alpine
  17. Logan Sargeant, Williams
  18. Zhou Guanyu, Kick Sauber (DNF)
  19. Daniel Ricciardo, RB (DNF)
  20. Alex Albon, Williams (DNF)

What the teams learnt

As mentioned, many teams could take some positives from the race weekend, while others can use their result to learn and improve.

Both Hamilton and Russell seemed happier with the car at the start of the weekend, and despite a less-than-pleasing race result, the platform is there for them to build upon, as the outgoing Hamilton said on Friday.

Aston Martin needs to think about their priorities this season, and we’re talking about their driver lineup. The car is clearly capable of points finishes and fighting in the top 10, as Alonso continues to show, yet Stroll’s Q1 exit is another example of how he simply isn’t right for the car. 

12th in a car that was keeping the Ferraris at bay for a little while during the race isn’t a great look for him. Yes, he’s the son of the team owner, but if Lawrence Stroll is really as committed to building a winning team as he says he is, it's time to let his boy go.

Red Bull are also learning a lot as to who they should take as Verstappen’s teammate going forward. Ricciardo is doing a good job of getting himself thrown back off the grid again, and with Sainz performing as he is while not having a job next year, it could be an easy decision.

Perez has been doing a better job to be fair, and Alonso certainly is a candidate too. Plus, they could go full ballsy and put Liam Lawson straight in the seat. Whatever they decide to do, they’ll be hoping it’s with Max still in the other car.

Credit: "It's a SMOOTH operation" 👌 | Leclerc, Sainz and Vasseur discuss impressive Japanese GP (Sky Sports F1, Youtube)

Ferrari can look at the weekend as the real biggest success they’ve had this year so far, even more so than their win in Australia. They made up 23s of ground to Red Bull between their finish in the 2023 Japanese GP and this year’s, so whatever they are doing they need to keep it up.

It was touched on earlier but Williams are in big trouble. Another two crashes this weekend are adding to their problems, and while they have some time before the next round in China, they can’t afford this many crashes.

Drivers’ & Constructors’ Standings after Round Four

World Drivers’ Championship 
Position Driver Team Points
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 77
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 64
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 59
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 55
5 Lando Norris McLaren 37
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren 32
7 George Russell Mercedes 24
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 24
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 10
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 9
11 Yuki Tsunoda RB 7
12 Oliver Bearman* Ferrari 6
13 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 3
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1
15 Alex Albon Williams 0
16 Zhou Guanyu Kick Sauber 0
17 Daniel Ricciardo RB 0
18 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0
19 Pierre Gasly Alpine 0
20 Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber 0
21 Logan Sargeant Williams 0

*Oliver Bearman drove in place of Carlos Sainz during the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

World Constructors’ Championship
Position Team Points
1 Red Bull 141
2 Ferrari 120
3 McLaren 69
4 Mercedes 34
5 Aston Martin 33
6 RB 7
7 Haas 4
8 Williams 0
9 Kick Sauber 0
10 Alpine 0
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