Put the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, September 24, on your calendar as a potential championship-clinching race for Max Verstappen.
Verstappen’s victory in the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday put him 138 points clear of teammate and points runner-up Sergio Perez—and the gap is increasing by a double-digit number of points each time the checkered flag is waved.
If Verstappen, who has won an F1 record nine consecutive races, can increase his advantage to 154 points by the time the series leaves Singapore on Sept. 17, then it will give him his first match point a week later in Japan, where a lead of 180 or more points would mathematically give Verstappen his third consecutive title.
Should he wrap it up in Japan, that would be with six races—including U.S. stops in Austin and Las Vegas—left on the schedule.
Red Bull, meanwhile, could secure the Constructors’ Championship in two races’ time in Singapore.
Here’s more news and notes from the Dutch GP:
Liam Lawson Will Get more AlphaTauri Starts
Liam Lawson will continue to fill in for injured Daniel Ricciardo until the Australian is deemed fit to drive.
Ricciardo sustained a fractured metacarpal in his left hand in an accident during second practice at Zandvoort on Friday. He had surgery on Sunday in Barcelona with the successful procedure understood to have been carried out by Dr. Xavier Mir, who is renowned for treating injured MotoGP riders.
A timeframe for Ricciardo’s comeback has not yet been outlined, and on Monday AlphaTauri confirmed that Lawson will remain in the AT04 until Ricciardo is given the all-clear.
Lawson has been contesting this year’s Super Formula championship in Japan, but the doubleheader finale at Suzuka—the sole event left in 2023—does not take place until the weekend of October 28-29, which clashes with the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Lawson finished 13th at Zandvoort on Sunday.
Ferrari Test Driver Gets Track Time
Ferrari handed duties in the first practice session on Friday to its test and reserve driver Robert Shwartzman.
Under F1 regulations, teams must field a rookie driver—classified as someone with two or fewer starts—during two practice sessions in 2023, and each regular racer must give up one of those sessions.
Shwartzman, runner-up to McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in the Formula 2 championship in 2021, has had a lengthy affiliation with Ferrari and replaced Carlos Sainz during FP1 on Friday. The majority of teams have yet to even chalk off one of their two sessions for a young driver, with several upcoming events impractical due to different tire rules (Monza), a challenging circuit (Singapore, Suzuka) or Sprint (Qatar, Austin, São Paulo). It means Mexico City and Abu Dhabi are likely to feature a plethora of young drivers in FP1 as teams tick the required boxes.
Laurent Mekies Gets Start Date at AlphaTauri
Outgoing AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost confirmed at Zandvoort that successor Laurent Mekies will take up his role on January 1. AlphaTauri’s announcement of Mekies in April only outlined that Mekies would join in 2024, in place of the retiring Tost, as AlphaTauri and Ferrari worked on a start date for the Frenchman.
Mekies remained as Ferrari’s sporting director through until last month’s Belgian Grand Prix before formally leaving the team.