by F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Red Bull's Max Verstappen returned to form with an emphatic victory in Sunday's Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, as Red Bull secured the 2023 Constructors' Championship with six races still to run.
After Red Bull had been uncharacteristically uncompetitive at last week's Singapore Grand Prix, normal service was resumed at Suzuka, beginning on Saturday when Verstappen secured pole position by over half a second.
Starting from the head of the grid, Verstappen held off the threat from the two McLarens at the first corner, and was never threatened as he led every lap on the way to his 13th Grand Prix win of the 2023 F1 season.
"Unbelievable weekend. To win here was great. The car worked really well on every compound [of tyre]," said Verstappen, who also took the bonus point for the fastest lap.
"The most important thing was to win the Constructors' [Championship]. Very proud for everyone working at the track and at the factory. We are having an incredible year.
"I had too much wheelspin at the start but after that it was a very straightforward race."
Behind Verstappen, McLaren enjoyed their best weekend of the year, with Lando Norris second and Oscar Piastri taking his first podium finish with third place, as the Woking squad close on fourth-placed Aston Martin in the Constructors' Championship.
Charles Leclerc took fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who just held off Leclerc's teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth.
Hamilton's teammate George Russell took seventh ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso, with the two Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly rounding out the top ten.
A scrappy race for Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez saw the Mexican retire after incurring damage from two separate incidents. Alex Albon, Logan Sargeant, Lance Stroll and Valtteri Bottas were the other drivers to fail to see the chequered flag.
Following his win, Verstappen now has 400 points and can wrap up the 2023 Drivers' Championship next time out in Qatar. Despite not scoring, Perez remains second with 223 points, with Hamilton third on 190.
In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull now have 623 points and can no longer be overhauled. Mercedes stay second with 305, and Ferrari remain third with 285 points.
The 17th round of the 2023 F1 season is the Qatar Grand Prix at Losail on October 8.