April 19, 2024

Max Verstappen’s “mighty” pole position lap at the Japanese Grand Prix was one of Formula One’s best, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said.

After Red Bull’s unbeaten season came to an end last week at the Singapore Grand Prix, Verstappen resumed business as normal at Suzuka.

The Dutch driver was in a world of his own on Saturday and onboards showed a fully committed run through Suzuka’s daunting first sector.

His fastest run was half a second quicker than the next best car, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, a huge margin in F1 qualifying terms.

“I think what we’ve witnessed today is something very special,” Horner said, before referencing pundit Anthony Davidson’s analysis segments on pole laps.

“When you get Ant on his magic board, just have a look at Turn 5. That first sector was absolutely mighty.”

When asked the reason between the difference between Red Bull’s below-par Singapore performance and its dominant pace at Suzuka, Horner said: “I wish I could tell you all the answers.

“I’m not sure we totally understand. Singapore was a bit of an anomaly for us. We’ve learned a few lessons from that.

“This car’s been strong at this kind of circuit all year, particularly that first sector which is man and machine at the limit. Today, that was an awesome display.”

Verstappen cannot win the title on Sunday but will take a huge step towards doing so with a 13th win of the season.

After securing pole, there was more evidence of the strong relationship between Verstappen and his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

On the radio, Verstappen joked that he knew a lap in the 1:28 range was possible.

“Well, GP started winding him up for the last run, saying ‘let’s see a 28 in there'”, Horner said. “I said to GP, look, I’d like to see four wheels on the car at the end of it!

“That first run looked good enough to get the job done and he just went quicker again. All his laps have been stunning today, he did three laps on new tyres, the lap on scrub tyres in Q2 to go second fastest has been a mind-blowing performance.”

As has been a theme of the whole year, Sergio Perez failed to match Verstappen’s pace in the other car, qualifying fifth.

Horner expects the Mexican driver to be strong during the grand prix on Sunday.

“He’s slightly under the car compared to Max in those high speed turns. He’s closed the gap in the high speed turns but Max keeps moving it. P5 for Checo, he’ll have strong race pace, we saw that yesterday. He’ll be OK in the race.”

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