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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Verstappen: Pole is great, not happy with race pace

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Third placed qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen hopes to convert pole position into victory at the Japanese Grand Prix but is wary of his Red Bull RB20’s long-run pace at Suzuka

The Dutchman will start the 53-lap race at the head of the field after setting the fastest lap in Saturday’s Qualifying, with teammate Sergio Perez lining up alongside him on the front row.

Verstappen will be looking to make amends for a disappointing Australian Grand Prix, where his RB20 pulled into the pits at the end of lap four with brake failure. This has allowed Perez and Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc to close in on the defending Champion in the Drivers’ Championship.

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The Newey-designed RB20 has proven exceptionally quick on an all-out lap, as Verstappen has demonstrated by taking pole in all four rounds of the 2024 season thus far. Perez just missed out this time round, just 0.066 seconds slower than his teammate around the Suzuka International Racing Course.

Race pace however, when fuel loads are high and tyre conservation plays a key role, doesn’t seem quite as strong for Red Bull. Despite looking unbeatable today, Verstappen has doubts about whether he can keep hold of the lead during the Sunday’s race.

We have not been fully happy

Verstappen: Pole is great, not happy with race pace

Speaking after the session, Verstappen said: “Overall, in qualifying the laps have been very nice and it was a great result for the Team.

“In the last lap I tried to push a bit more and I was gaining quite nicely in sector one, but ran out of tyres at the end so lost a bit of time which was a shame”, said the three-time World Champion.

He continued by expressing his concerns about the long-run performance of his car: “We have to work on our long runs as we have not been fully happy with these and still feel like we can work to control the balance of the car a bit more.

“It wasn’t perfect, but to still be on pole on a lap that I felt like could have been better, is great.

“All in all, the Team has a front row start which is a perfect start to the race tomorrow, but I expect it to be very competitive”, concluded Verstappen.

The Japanese Grand Prix will start at 6am GMT (2pm local time) on Sunday April 7th.

Big Question: Can Max Verstappen convert pole into victory in Japan?