Yuki Tsunoda in car 22 at the Japanese Grand Prix

Race recap: Red Bull redemption, Sainz proves his worth and Tsunoda banks points at home in Japan

Now four races into the 2024 Formula One season, Japan brought more drama with a first-lap smash between RB's Daniel Ricciardo and Williams' Alex Albon delaying the action. With another one-two victory for Red Bull in the end, Max Verstappen returned to dominance after a brief hiatus in Australia, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz once again stole the show with his third podium in four races and Japanese driver Tsunoda claimed points on home soil. Here are all the highlights from the race at Suzuka.


Redemption drive for Verstappen to regain supremacy 

Following Max Verstappen's dramatic retirement in Australia, which allowed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to steal a freak win, Japan marked a return to normality as the Dutch driver went unchallenged from lights out to the final flag.

Starting on Pole in Suzuka - the 30th win from Pole in his career - with teammate Sergio Perez right behind him in second, both Red Bulls went on to claim their third 1-2 finish in just four races.

"It was very nice," said the Dutchman after the race. "The critical bit was the start to stay ahead and after that, the car got better and better for me throughout the race," he added. "Everything just went really well, the pit stops went well, the strategy I think worked out well, so it couldn't have been any better."

Verstappen once again extends his lead in the Drivers' championship standings to 77 points - 13 points ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez in second and 18 points ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in third. As for the Teams' championship, Red Bull sit in front with 141 points, ahead of Ferrari in second with 120 points and British outfit McLaren in third with 69 points. 

See also: Formula 1 2024: Calendar, Results and Standings


Sainz proves his worth once again 

Driven by an overwhelming sense of determination following his Ferrari shun and stint in surgery for appendicitis, Carlos Sainz once again proved his worth in Japan. Still, despite being the only non-Red Bull winner since 2022, the Spaniard is currently without a seat for 2025.

"I had a good race to be honest," he commented. "Very happy because it was quite tough out there with the degradation, but then suddenly the clouds came, the degradation went a lot lower, and suddenly I thought that maybe one-stop was quicker and we were on the two."

Now third in the Drivers' standings behind the dominant Red Bull duo, Sainz has outperformed his teammate Charles Leclerc this season when it comes to podiums, despite experiencing significant setbacks.

Given his performance this year and lack of a seat for next season, Sainz impressive run of form is clearly driven by his determination to prove any doubters wrong and find another drive for 2025. Admitting that he's in talks with "a few teams" ahead of the race in Japan, Sainz stressed it was time to "speed up everything" in the hope that he can get a drive sorted "sooner rather than later."


Three British drivers in the points

For British drivers Lando Norris (McLaren), Mercedes' George Russell and his teammate Lewis Hamilton, the trio all finished in the points - 5th, 7th and 9th respectively.

Despite starting P3, Norris lost ground during the race, conceding that the Ferraris were on "another level" compared to McLaren. Despite starting just behind the two Red Bull drivers, Norris was powerless to stop the charge of Ferrari's Sainz and Leclerc, who both passed the British driver during the race.

"Never had the pace today, was tough, just trying to cover a lot of things, trying to stay ahead but on a track like this it's the opposite of what you want to do," said Norris after the race. "I think it was a good day - doesn't look nice starting third finishing fifth, shouldn't be happy with it, but we didn't have any more pace today. Clearly the Ferraris were another level to us, [we] did what we could but it wasn't enough."

For the two British Mercedes drivers, Russell and Hamilton traded places from their starting positions. Russell, who started ninth, ended up finishing seventh, while Hamilton dropped from his seventh-place start to finish the race ninth.

"I had lots of understeer, particularly during that first stint, which was why I decided to let George past," explained Hamilton after the race. "We need to keep working hard as today, our pace was likely only good enough for P6. If we want to move up the grid, then we will need to add more performance to the car."


Opening lap smash takes Ricciardo and Albon out early 

Following Alex Albon's disastrous smash ahead of the Australian race only a few weeks ago, the Brit was once again caught up in an incident that took both him and RB's Daniel Ricciardo out of the race on the opening lap.

Ricciardo, who started on medium tyres, came under attack through Turns 1 and 2, with Albon getting a run on him around the outside as they approached Turn 3. As the Australian driver drifted across the track, with Lance Stroll's Aston Martin on the inside, Ricciardo's RB made contact with the Williams and sent the pair of them sliding onto the grass and into the barriers.

"I think I had not a great start, but obviously a bit better than the medium tyre [drivers], I had good traction coming out of Turn 2 and that was it really," reasoned Albon after the incident.

"I don't think Daniel saw me and then it was just a bit of a pinching moment. I tried to back out of it but couldn't quite get out of the way quickly enough. It was a tough one to take. Obviously we're not in a great position as a team with parts and just general damage for the cars."



Tsunoda in the points for the first time at home race

In Japan, home race hero Yuki Tsunoda became the first Japanese driver to score points in his home race since Kamui Kobayashi in 2012.
Finishing P10, Tsunoda banked points on home soil for the very first time in his Formula One career. With back-to-back top-10 finishes so far, the RB driver is enjoying a rich run of form this season.

Starting from P10, the Japanese driver lost out off the line, falling down the order to 12th as a result. Restarting the race two places down after the first lap smash between Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo brought out the red flag, Tsunoda was able to climb back into P10 with the help of some used soft tyres.

Coming back into the pits, he initially lost ground again but his team's quick work on the pitstop ensured Tsunoda regained 10th, to claim those all-important home race points.

"Our team did a fantastic job, the mechanics were very fast and we overtook two cars, insane!" he said after the race. "So – without them, without that – it probably would have been a lot more difficult to score a point today so big credit to the team and obviously able to score in front of Japanese fans finally, so very happy."


It's all to play for as the season unfolds. Join us for the British Grand Prix this July to see all the action for yourself.