Formula 1 Focus: Red Bull return to winning ways as Ferrari continue to impress


Formula 1 Focus: Red Bull return to winning ways as Ferrari continue to impress

There was an all too familiar winner in Japan yet still plenty to talk about
There was an all too familiar winner in Japan yet still plenty to talk about AFP
There's always plenty to talk about in the non-stop world of Formula 1 and Flashscore's Finley Crebolder gives his thoughts on the biggest stories going around the paddock in this regular column.

I'd be lying if I said I was happy to see Max Verstappen restore order in Suzuka after Carlos Sainz's win last time out gave us the sweet, sweet taste of something other than Red Bull. However, there was still enough entertainment to ensure I didn't regret dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn for it.

Here are my main takeaways from the Japanese Grand Prix.

Perez makes a much-needed pitch 

Sergio Perez headed to Japan needing a strong weekend as much as anyone after failing to step up following the retirement of Verstappen in Australia, and he got one, doing exactly what Red Bull want from their second driver.

His biggest problem for a long time has been a lack of pace in qualifying but that problem was nowhere to be seen in Suzuka, with the Mexican securing second with ease on Saturday and only going 0.66s slower than his teammate.

The gap between the two was much larger in the race, but Checo still had more than enough in his locker to beat the rest of the field without any trouble, finishing eight seconds ahead of third-placed Sainz.

From Red Bull's perspective, it was the perfect performance; not fast enough to get in Verstappen's way, potentially slowing down and unsettling the Dutchman, but fast enough to beat everyone else.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez celebrates with the trophy on the podium after finishing second in the Japanese Grand Prix
Red Bull's Sergio Perez celebrates with the trophy on the podium after finishing second in the Japanese Grand PrixReuters

The most obvious alternatives to Perez currently look either too slow - in the case of Daniel Ricciardo - or too fast - in the case of Sainz and Fernando Alonso - to strike that balance, so if 'Checo' can do so consistently, I'm pretty confident that he won't be going anywhere in 2025.

For the sake of a title fight, I'd love to see Red Bull sign Sainz or Alonso as much as anyone, but putting myself in the team's shoes, I struggle to see why they would if Perez can regularly perform as he did in Japan.

Tsunoda shows his superstar potential

Reports state that one man Red Bull aren't considering is junior driver Yuki Tsunoda, but his weekend on home turf showed that he could be a hugely attractive option for someone else.

On track he continued to dominate Ricciardo, outqualifying the Aussie for the fourth time in a row, and then followed that up with an even better performance on race day, making some good overtakes and holding off Lance Stroll despite having a slower car to score his and his team's seventh point of the season. Off track meanwhile, thousands of adoring fans from his homeland showed what he can bring to the table aside from his driving.

Japan are one of the biggest and most passionate nations when it comes to F1, so any team with an exciting Japanese talent in their ranks will no doubt gain plenty of supporters and sponsors from The Land of the Rising Sun.

That's a hugely enticing combination for any outfit, and the more I think about it, the more I think Aston Martin - who are likely to have a 2025 spot to fill with Alonso potentially joining a bigger team and Lance Stroll surely considering his future in the sport given his struggles - will move to snap it up sooner rather than later.

It's a move that their future engine supplier Honda would undoubtedly love and are probably already pushing for, and the British team will be more than happy to give the Japanese manufacturer what they want if Tsunoda keeps driving as well as he is.

Expect to see the 23-year-old in green sooner rather than later.

Fred is starting to fix Ferrari

When Fred Vasseur became Ferrari's team principal at the end of 2022, one of his biggest goals would've been to eradicate the poor race strategies that had cost the team countless points in previous years. He made little progress in that area in his first season but is starting to do so now.

Charles Leclerc finished four positions higher than he started in Japan, and that was thanks to a one-stop strategy that was executed perfectly.

Yes, that's right, a Ferrari driver moved up the field because of a clever and well-executed strategy. No, really.

It feels like it's been literal years since that was the case, and Vasseur will be just as pleased about it as he will be about the fact that his team were around half a second closer to Red Bull than they were at the same race last year.

With the drivers they have and the car they have, they should be able to get second in the standings this season if they can stop shooting themselves in the foot, and maybe even pick up a few race-wins along the way.

Beyond that, the steady development of the team under Vasseur and the arrival of Lewis Hamilton will surely make them a serious threat to Red Bull for 2025 and beyond.



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