Verstappen could be crowned champion in Suzuka
Monza provided an action-packed weekend as Red Bull and Ferrari duelled for victory around the renowned Temple of Speed.
After qualifying second, Max Verstappen kept up relentless pressure in his wheel-to-wheel battle with Carlos Sainz and later successfully nursed temperature issues. The Dutchman was ultimately victorious, overtaking Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine wins in a row and claiming an unparalleled 10th consecutive victory.
Meanwhile, Sainz brought home pole position for Ferrari in front of the fervent tifosi, securing an excellent result alongside teammate Charles Leclerc who qualified third.
Ferrari’s season has been unpredictable so far, having bounced between podiums and the midfield. Only last week in Zandvoort, Leclerc had to retire and Sainz placed fifth. After a challenging season for the Italian team, it’s an impressive feat to have held off Verstappen for 14 laps, and it is the longest stint of laps led by a non-Red Bull driver during any race this season.
In the end, Red Bull seized the win in an exceptional display of consistency, recording their 15th consecutive win and their 24th victory of the last 25 races.
The race marked one of Perez’s best performances of 2023. After overcoming a suspected power unit leak during Saturday’s practice, Perez climbed from fifth to second. In doing so, Perez established a 49-point advantage over Fernando Alonso, resulting in the largest gap since the start of the season.
Elsewhere, it was another outstanding drive from Alex Albon who fended off the McLarens to finish seventh in his best result for Williams so far. It’s excellent progress and a strong sign of improvement for Williams who have been under the new leadership of Mercedes ex-chief strategist James Vowles. To contextualise this year’s progress, Albon scored just 1 point in the first seven races of the season; in the last seven races, he’s scored 20.
Looking ahead, now 145 points clear in the Drivers’ championship, Verstappen could be crowned World Champion as soon as Japan, in three weeks' time. In doing so, he would tie Michael Schumacher’s record of being crowned with six races remaining.
Now standing at 47 career wins, Verstappen could also surpass Alain Prost's 51 total wins and Vettel’s 53 victories before the season ends to become the third most victorious driver of all time.
The question now is how long Verstappen can extend his record and whether he can complete the season without a single DNF to deliver a full sweep for Red Bull. No team in history has won every race of a Formula 1 season – yet. It may seem an inconceivable achievement had Verstappen not already broken several unprecedented records thus far. Surely, a few more broken records are within Red Bull’s reach before the end of the year.