Verstappen hails ‘fantastic’ run to pole at Suzuka as Red Bull bounce back in style
Max Verstappen was suitably delighted after putting the bad memories of Singapore behind him to dominate Saturday’s qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix and return to pole position.
Verstappen and Red Bull’s impressive winning runs came to an end last time out at Marina Bay, but the RB19 was back to its best around the fast, flowing Suzuka circuit and ended Q3 in a class of its own.
Indeed, Verstappen’s final lap was more than half a second quicker than nearest rivals Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, giving the Dutchman his first pole since Zandvoort last month in the wake of Carlos Sainz’s back-to-back P1 results.
Speaking after qualifying at a circuit owned by long-time Red Bull engine partner Honda, Verstappen commented: “I mean first I want to say a big thank you to the fans, supporting us already the whole weekend, everyone being so passionate about Formula 1, so thank you very much for coming.
“From our side, it’s been an incredible weekend so far, especially in qualifying, where you can really push it to the limit, it felt really, really nice.
“We had a bad weekend in Singapore. I already felt from the preparation we had that this was going to be a good track, but you never really know how good it’s going to be.
“From lap one it’s been really, really nice. Of course, you try to find little improvements here and there, and I think we did that. To be on pole here is fantastic.”
It was not such a competitive session for Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, who wound up in fifth position and almost a second slower than the reigning double world champion.
“It was hard,” Perez admitted afterwards. “We struggled through the weekend, we kind of were always two steps behind and we just couldn’t get the entry stability I was looking to get over a single lap.
“But come race day I think we’re looking a lot better, I think that tomorrow is going to be such a degradation tyre battle that hopefully tomorrow we can still be able to do a one-two.”
Red Bull can secure a second successive constructors’ title in Sunday’s Grand Prix, providing they outscore Mercedes and are not outscored by Ferrari by more than 24 points.