(Reuters) – World champion Max Verstappen got back to winning ways on Sunday with a third straight pole-to-flag victory at the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix, leading team mate Sergio Perez across the line for a Red Bull 1-2 at Suzuka.

The Dutchman suffered his first retirement since 2022 in Melbourne last time out to snap a nine-race winning streak but had no mechanical issues this week in a dominant performance to make it three wins from four races this season.

“You know it was a little hiccup, of course, the last race, but very happy that we are here back on top,” said Dutchman Verstappen, who finished 12.535 seconds clear of his team mate and also had the fastest lap.

Verstappen, who becomes only the second driver to win three consecutive Japanese Grands Prix alongside seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, now has a 13-point lead in the driver standings over Perez.

Red Bull lead the constructor standings on 141 points ahead of Ferrari (120) and McLaren (69).

“I think we have good momentum,” said Perez, who jumped ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the driver standings. “I think if we are strong in places like this with a lot of high speed corners … we can be strong anywhere else.”

Ferrari’s other driver Carlos Sainz, the winner in Australia two weeks ago, rode fresher tyres in the latter stages of the race to grab the final podium spot, edging out Leclerc, who used a one-stop strategy.

But the Spaniard was more than 20 seconds behind Verstappen, underlining the gap between the teams in dry, sunny conditions.

Sainz, who will be replaced at Ferrari next season by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, said after the race he was nervous about how the competing strategies with his team mate would work out in the fight for third.

“It was quite tough out there … I thought that maybe one stop was quicker and we were on the two. I had to overtake a lot of cars out there today,” said Sainz.

Featured image: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has sparkling wine poured over him by third placed Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. as he celebrates winning the Japanese Grand Prix