Since the 2023 Formula 1 season definitely belonged to Max Verstappen, it was only fitting that he single-handedly finished the constructors’ championship for his Red Bull team with a decisive victory at the Japanese Grand Prix.
In addition, he is now the champion of the chosen drivers, the title was almost claimed in Suzuka, it remains only the formality of closing it in Qatar.
The race was almost the season in the microcosm, when Verstappen dominated from pole to flag. Unshakable, untouchable, unstoppable, he is the terminator, who is still young enough to be decorated with strands of hair on his face as a teenager. He now has 13 wins in 16 Grands prix and was the immense contributor to capturing the sixth Red Bull title with a record of six meetings remaining.
The 25-year-old driver was joined on the podium by team manager Christian Horner to recognize the tag team championship, which has long been inevitable, but is rightly celebrated with dedication at one of the biggest F1 venues. For Verstappen, the drivers’ title is likely to be delivered under considerably more disappointing circumstances.
With his teammate Sergio Pérez enduring another shocking afternoon and retiring from the race, Verstappen is on the verge of winning his third championship in the sprint in the next round in Doha. He is 177 points ahead of Pérez and must have a 172-point lead after the sprint to seal him. Pérez has to surpass him by six points in the sprint, only to fight until Sunday, an extremely difficult task.
Verstappen is likely to win the title in an insignificant 30-minute race in the desert, a procession on what is probably an almost empty racetrack with no atmosphere. He will probably have claimed it without even having the honor of getting on a podium, as the sprint format celebrates its winners on the track when they get out of their cars.
F1 knew that this was a risk when they launched the format, and doubly so when they planned it at the end of the season, decisions that they could think long and hard about in the winter.
Verstappen said at the weekend that he didn’t care how and where the title was won, but that he was on the hump as he followed an unstoppable march marked by the race at Suzuka. After initially being challenged by McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, he held on tight and his seat was sandwiched between the two papaya cars in charge, holding his nose in front as they raced through the esses, and that’s it.
Clean air beckoned, and with it an ever-increasing gap-the McLarens threw everything they had at him, but still left behind. In the end, the gap to Norris, who finished second, was 19.4 seconds. Piastri took third place, a brilliant result for the rookie, who took his first podium on a hard track where he had never ridden before. The Australian is an undeniable talent.
The race had never been questioned for Verstappen after those first moments, and when Pérez again struggled with contact with other cars, suffered damage and a series of penalties before retiring, it was the world champion who returned the required Red Bull points.
Her title is a remarkable achievement, her second in a row and her sixth since her foundation in 2005. Her RB19 has been completely dominant this season, winning 15 of 16 races, only once rejected by Carlos Sainz of Ferrari on the last lap in Singapore. Their efforts were recognized by a bright Horner, who was visibly proud of the success of his team.