Verstappen tells critics to 'suck on an egg' after winning pole


All eyes were on Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing this weekend following their strange slump in performance during last week's Singapore Grand Prix.

It had coincided with the FIA issuing a new technical directive on flexible flooring, which prompted many to speculate that the team had been forced to change the RB19 to comply with the new rules.

But Red Bull denied they had needed to make any changes, and Verstappen appeared to be a man on a mission to prove the point in Japan, sweeping all three practice sessions and charging to pole in qualifying.

At the end of Q3, Verstappen ended up over half a second clear of his nearest challenges - McLaren's Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris. He was 0.773s ahead os his own team mate Sergio Perez who will start from P5.

After the end of qualifying, Verstappen made no secret of how much he had wanted to put the conspiracy theorists in their place and show that Red Bull was still setting the pace in F1 this season.

"We had a bad weekend," Verstappen said of last week's strange blip in performance. "Of course, then people start talking about 'It's all because of the technical directives' - I think they can go suck on an egg!

Verstappen had previously said that the team had experienced no recurrence of last week's problems and declared that the RB19 was enjoyable to drive once more - ominous news for everyone else on the grid.

"From my side, I was just very fired up to have a good weekend here and make sure that we were strong," he said.

"As soon as we put the car on the track, it's been very enjoyable to drive - very predictable, which I think is the most important. Lap after lap in qualifying as well, it was getting better.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 23.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"In sector one, once you feel very confident with the car, you can push it a little bit more and that's what happened in qualifying.

After his record streak of ten back to back Grand Prix race wins was brought to to an end last week by Carlos Sainz, Verstappen had been expecting Ferrari to be one of the main threats again at Suzuka.

But Red Bull were right to be just as wary about McLaren's pace here, and Piastri and Norris duly emerged as the main threat to Verstappen in the final practice and into qualifying.

"After FP3 I was like '[McLaren is] quite close', but then luckily we made some tiny adjustments and I think it helped the car a little bit."

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19 in the pits. 22.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

The threat prompted Verstappen to go even quicker in his final Q3 run, punching in a best time of the weekend of 1:28.877s to make sure he was completely out of reach of everyone else by the time the chequered flag came out.

"I knew that there was still a little bit left in a few places and that's what I tried to tidy up, which worked out quite well," said Verstappen, who had been discussing the possibilities with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

"He told me a 1:28s would be nice, so I said, 'Don't worry, I'm going to send it.' He was like, 'Yeah, but like, don't shunt the car, right?' I was like, 'That's not what I want to do!'"

While Verstappen will line up on the front row with Piastri alongside him, his team mate Perez will start from fifth on the grid after struggling to match the Dutch driver's pace throughout the weekend to date.

“He has been very strong, when we see the difference that he is making he definitely had a tremendous lap," Perez acknowledged. “Well done to him.”

(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in qualifying parc ferme with Mohammed Bin Sulayem (UAE) FIA President. 23.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Verstappen's pace had meant he had been able to save a set of tyres in the previous rounds, allowing him to use to sets in Q3. By contrast, Perez felt his lack of new tyres had been a handicap on Saturday.

“You know, I think that P2 was on the cards today," he told the media in the paddock at Suzuka International Racing Course. "But missing that second set of tyres was not ideal.

"It put us on the backfoot, Mainly by just having one set of new tyres. That was not ideal,” Perez said. “But anyway, let’s look forward to tomorrow.

"We believe that in the race pace we are strong, we have good tyre deg, and hopefully we can finish one-two tomorrow," he said. "That would be a great way to go to seal the constructors title."

Red Bull have a 308 lead over Mercedes in the championship standing with seven races remaining in the season, and can clinch the title this weekend if they score more than Mercedes and Ferrari.

But despite holding a 151 point lead over Perez in the drivers standings, Verstappen can't seal the title this week and will have to wait until October to secure his third consecutive championship.

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