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Red Bull drivers reflect on ‘really close’ qualifying at Suzuka as Verstappen beats Perez to pole by half a tenth

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Max Verstappen admitted that his pole position lap was not “perfect” after an exciting conclusion to qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix saw him edge out Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez and secure top spot.

Verstappen set the pace throughout qualifying but was challenged by Perez in the decisive top 10 shootout, with the pair ultimately separated by just 0.066s after their final laps to the chequered flag.

READ MORE: Verstappen seals pole position for Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Perez and Norris

It marked a third successive pole position for Verstappen at Suzuka, one he will be looking to turn into a third successive victory around the iconic track, while also aiming to bounce back from a painful retirement last time out in Australia.

Reflecting on the session, Verstappen said: “It was quite close at the end. I think overall this track is very sensitive with the tyres, with the tarmac being really aggressive, and when you really want to go to the limit it doesn’t always work out.

2024 Japanese GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen crosses the line to seal pole position at Suzuka

“But nevertheless I think the most important [thing] is to be on pole. Of course, you want every lap to be perfect, but around a track like this that’s not always the case. Overall, a very good day, a good starting position for tomorrow, and of course tomorrow is what counts.”

Asked about Sunday’s race, and whether Perez forming an all-Red Bull front row makes him feel more relaxed, the Dutchman added: “Well, it’s great as a team, of course, to be P1 and P2, and hopefully we can keep that going for tomorrow.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix

Perez echoed Verstappen’s sentiments about the challenge of qualifying in the cool, overcast conditions as he argued that pole could have been possible with a slightly stronger start to his final lap.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Verstappen has now claimed pole on the last three visits to Suzuka

“It was close today, really close with Max,” said Perez. “It felt like a good lap. It was quite tricky out there, actually, especially closing up the lap it was quite easy to lose a couple of tenths into the last section into the chicane. We hooked it all together but unfortunately it was just not enough.

“I think we’ve been really close all weekend, all the way through qualifying as well. When you are in that little margins, anything can make a difference. I didn’t have a great exit opening up the lap, so probably that could have been the difference.”

READ MORE: Wolff admits Vettel is ‘never a name you can discount’ amid rumours of F1 comeback with Mercedes

As for his chances on race day, he signed off: “I think we are in a good position for tomorrow. Our long-run pace hasn’t been that strong this morning, but we worked quite a bit so hopefully tomorrow we will be able to be strong.”

Verstappen heads into the Grand Prix holding a four-point lead over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ standings, with Perez a point further back, while Red Bull sit four points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ battle.

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