Japanese Grand Prix talking points: Verstappen returns to winning ways as Perez solidifies grip on Red Bull seat


After a couple of days have passed to digest all the happenings at the Japanese Grand Prix, it’s once again time to go over all the big talking points after the latest round of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship.

It’s situation normal once again at the top

Let’s be honest here, did we really think that the Australian Grand Prix was a turning point and we were going to have something new happen in F1?

No, of course not.

Especially given the next race was Suzuka and a race in which Red Bull have seemingly been untouchable at for the last three years.

???? Max crossing the finish line ???? Winning the #JapaneseGP for the third time in a row, only previously achieved by Michael Schumacher (2000-2002). pic.twitter.com/Vajdg5SKM8

— Max Verstappen (@VerstappenCOM) April 10, 2024

Suzuka of course was the same race in which Red Bull and Max Verstappen vaulted right back to the top of the charts after their one blip last season in Singapore, meaning there really was no doubting that the pecking order would resume to normal after the anomaly that was the Australian Grand Prix.

So while every non-Red Bull and Verstappen fan relished Albert Park a fortnight ago, it now seems like a distant memory given we are back to the status quo in the world of F1.

Perez doing what is needed to stay at Red Bull

I’m going to be very cautious in writing this next point as I wrote a very similar section on Sergio Perez 12 months ago only for it to be sorely dated a few rounds later.

But, right now, Perez has done everything in his power to retain his seat at Red Bull in 2025.

Going into this season it was arguably the hottest available seat for the very hotly contested 2025 silly season.

With a Mercedes seat now available too, it’s got some competition, but there are many eyes on Perez and just whether or not he will be able to maintain his position at the team.

After four rounds, Perez has done what he has needed to do. Three second places and a fifth is solid particularly given the non-podium in Albert Park a fortnight ago can be put down to his penalty in qualifying and a technical issue with the car on the Sunday. So, it’s hard to argue against his driving so far in 2024.

Added to this his number one challenger in Daniel Ricciardo has been faltering badly at the junior RB team, and the one who has been shining in Yuki Tsunoda is seemingly being passed over. Perez right now has to be feeling a lot better than he was only a few months ago.

It is early though and perhaps this is a point we need to re-visit in a couple of months. But keep this up Sergio and the Red Bull seat will remain yours.

If there’s a gap, you have to go for it ????

Si hay un espacio, hay que ir por el ???? pic.twitter.com/uwyplRxpvd

— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) April 9, 2024

Tsunoda is being unfairly ignored by Red Bull

Speaking of Tsunoda, why isn’t he in more serious contention for the senior Red Bull seat?

All eyes were on RB for this season when it came to Daniel Ricciardo and the expectations that he was set to shine on his full time return to the sport and solidify his chances on the fairytale return to the senior Red Bull team for 2025.

But that so far has gone horribly wrong for the Aussie, while his teammate Tsunoda has done everything and more that people were expecting from his more experienced teammate.

But that seemingly has come to nothing when it comes to the attention of the Milton Keynes team.

Tsunoda has been driving the wheels off that RB in 2024 and really should be in the conversation more for a move up to the team, especially given in the past we’ve seen drivers promoted for less.

While that seat at Red Bull is seemingly safe for Perez right now based on form, should things go belly up for him once again as the season progresses and Tsunoda continues his strong form, he easily should be considered for a promotion.

Mercedes in a far worse position than feared

What is going on at Mercedes?

Pre-season things looked good, with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell praising the car and seemingly bullish about the prospects of the W15 going into the 2024 season.

However, after four races, things seemingly are getting worse for the team, with no podiums and only 34 points to show so far.

That puts them behind Mercedes customer team McLaren, and only one point ahead of another Mercedes customer team Aston Martin.

It is also their worst start to a season since 2011 where the team had scored 26 points after four rounds.

The frustration seems to especially be creeping in with Lewis Hamilton, who seemingly is confused as to what is going on at the team and constantly letting his frustrations out at journalists when questions are raised about his switch to Ferrari next season.

In hindsight, it seems like another incredibly smart move by the multiple World Champion in the same vein as his switch to Mercedes from McLaren in 2013.

For whoever ends up at the team replacing Hamilton next season, let’s hope that the team’s fortunes change and change soon.

“It is live testing now for us. We’ve been on the back foot and besides our issues for two seasons, and now we’ve taken a different direction and I think this is happening.”

Hear the latest from Toto on Mercedes’ development push ????#F1 #JapaneseGP

— Formula 1 (@F1) April 8, 2024

Will Williams end up missing a race?

Let’s be honest, if they keep crashing, they might just have no cars left.

Two crashes for the team in Suzuka puts them in a precarious position moving forward, and although Albon’s crash wasn’t his fault, they have to be getting nervous at every round as they continue to wait for their spare chassis to arrive.

That doesn’t look like it’ll happen until Miami, so both Albon and Logan Sargeant are on very thin ice right now when it comes to keeping their cars on the road.

Failure to do so could mean they have nothing to race at an upcoming round, and that would put the team in an even worse position than they already are.

Round 4 F1 team power rankings

Red Bull back to where they belong

After a brief blip on the radar, it’s situation normal at the top of the power rankings in the world of F1. But what about the other positions?

Before we get to those, the usual disclaimer. You know the drill, these are all subjective and based mainly on my (incredibly smart) opinion mixed with form and on-track results, meaning it is a generally subjective list that holds no real weight except for the large basis of fact I like to think I can generate.

Daniel Ricciardo’s world goes spinning ????‍????

Watch all the biggest moments at Suzuka from onboard with the drivers ????#F1 #JapaneseGP #DrivenToPerfection @qatarairways

— Formula 1 (@F1) April 9, 2024

So with that all in mind, let’s get to it!

5. Mercedes (-)
Honestly if Haas had scored points again, Mercedes would be out of the top five. That was a woeful race by the team, and the team right now is in the worst position it has been after four rounds in more than a decade. Given they are also being beaten by customer teams, it’s not good signs for the team right now.

4. Aston Martin (-)
Should’ve been double points for the team had the strategy for Lance Stroll not failed to deliver, but they can still leave the race off the back of Fernando Alonso scoring points a happy team. They’re not spectacular like they were a year ago, but solid. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

3. McLaren (-)
Lando Norris drove a great race to bring home fifth, while Oscar Piastri did what he could to get another four points for the team. With Mercedes seemingly getting worse, they are in a great position to aim for third in the championship this year with this current form.

2. Ferrari (-1)
I hate to put them down a spot but it’s hard not to given they went from 1-2 in Australia to 3-4 in Japan. It was still a fairly solid race for the team, especially from Charles Leclerc who made the one stop strategy work to go from eighth on the grid to fourth, while Carlos Sainz kept his perfect podium rate up for 2024.

More great points for the team who would gladly take being only 21 points behind Red Bull in the Constructor’s Championship.

The #JapaneseGP grid through our lens ???????? pic.twitter.com/QJXFlNdCX9

— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) April 9, 2024

1. Red Bull (+1)
They were always going to return to the top spot, and it only took them one race to do so.

Pure dominance by the team all weekend. Let’s see how that continues in China in a fortnight, a race they have only ever won twice in their history.

Round 4 F1 driver power rankings

The Hulk proving to be a contender for star of the season

A return to the top for one driver and a rise for another despite no points, the driver power rankings are back and as interesting as ever.

5. Lando Norris (-)
Third on the grid and fifth in the race, a solid weekend and race for Norris. He’s always just there isn’t he? A solid start by the Brit who won’t have much to complain about after four rounds this season.

4. Sergio Perez (+2)
It feels odd having Perez down in fourth and not higher, but that mainly comes to the form of those above him rather than his own ability.

The real difference Perez is showing right now is that he has almost accepted the number two role at Red Bull, which perhaps is what he needed to do a long time ago in order to really get that form out of him. That’s all he needs to do right now if he wants to remain with the team moving forward.

3. Charles Leclerc (-)
A great race by Leclerc in making the one-stop strategy work to go from eighth on the grid to fourth. He has been driving fantastic so far in 2024 and this ranking only goes to solidify that fact.

2. Carlos Sainz (-1)
Carlos Sainz is the only driver to have a 100% podium record in 2024. Yes, he wasn’t on the podium in Saudi Arabia, but he also didn’t start that race, so therefore his 100% record stands. Drove another solid race to get on the podium once more, and continues to showcase his skills and abilities as he hunts for a seat in 2025.

Sports opinion delivered daily 


1. Max Verstappen (+1)
Just like Red Bull were going to return to the top of the power rankings eventually, the same can easily be said for Max Verstappen.

Drove a flawless race and a flawless weekend overall to once again show why he is a class above the rest in Formula 1 right now.

What do you think of this list? Which order would you currently rank the drivers in? Let me know your thoughts below!

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