Reigning and soon to be three time Formula 1 World Champion, Max Verstappen told Red Bull’s doubters to “go suck on an egg” after taking a dominant Japanese Grand Prix pole position, a week after the team’s record run of 15 wins in a row ended in Singapore.
The runaway 2023 Formula 1 championship leader’s lap of one minute 28.877 seconds around Suzuka was 0.581 faster than McLaren’s Australian rookie Oscar Piastri, who will line up on a Sunday front row for the first time.
There had been some who suspected a recent technical directive on flexible bodywork had clipped Red Bull’s wings in Singapore and possibly beyond, but Verstappen showed normal service had resumed.
He said there had been no recurrence of any of last weekend’s handling problems: “We had a bad weekend. Of course, then people start talking about: Ah, it’s all because of the technical directives.
“I think they can go suck on an egg. But for my side, I was just very fired up to have a good weekend here and make sure that yeah, we were strong,” added the Dutch ace.
Verstappen, who was on an unprecedented streak of 10 victories in a row before the shock of Singapore, said his car had given him a lot of confidence.
“When you have that confidence, especially in sector one you can really push it to the limit in a controlled way. It brought a smile on my face while driving,” Verstappen added.
The 25-year-old, who is a massive 151 points clear of Mexcian teammate Sergio Perez in the standings after 15 of 22 races, said it had been an incredible weekend so far.
The pole was Max’s ninth of 2023 ending a run of three in four races for Ferrari
“You have pole positions where you feel ‘Ah, the lap was quite OK’ but it always feels like a bit edgy or you think there was a bit more lap time in it or we could have changed the balance around a little bit,” Verstappen said.
“I think today and the whole weekend already the car has been like I knew that if I would go out I could just smash the lap time in without even having to think about it,” added Verstappen whose Red Bull team are set to retain their constructors’ championship in Suzuka on Sunday.
“I think what we’ve witnessed today is something very special,” team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports television.
“That first sector was absolutely mighty. That first run looked good enough to get the job done but then he just went quicker again. All his laps have been stunning today … it’s been an absolutely mind-blowing performance,” raved Horner.
Verstappen’s race engineer also played a part in revving up the driver said Horner: “GP (Gianpiero Lambiase) started winding him up for the last run to say ‘let’s see a 28 (seconds) in there. I said to GP I’d like to see four wheels on the car at the end of it.”
Horner said Singapore was “a bit of an anomaly” and the team had learned a few lessons: “The car’s always been strong at this type of circuit all year, particularly that first sector which is man and machine at the limit. And today that was an awesome display. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)