Max Verstappen asserted his dominance with a “very special” pole position lap that left the rest of the field trailing by over half a second at Suzuka.
Verstappen, who had set the pace in all three practice sessions leading up to qualifying, showcased his unmatched prowess by outpacing second-placed Oscar Piastri by a commanding 0.581 seconds, while Lando Norris secured third place on the grid.
This remarkable achievement marked Verstappen’s ninth pole position of the season and came just one week after a disastrous qualifying session for Red Bull in Singapore, where they faced a challenging weekend.
With the possibility of clinching the constructors’ championship on the horizon, Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Team Principal, was effusive in his praise for Verstappen’s stellar performance.
Horner, speaking to Sky Sports F1, remarked, “I think what we have witnessed today is something very special.
“That last lap, just have a look at Turn Five.
“That first sector was absolutely mighty.”
He also revealed a humorous exchange with Verstappen’s engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, saying, “GP started winding him up before his last run ‘let’s see a 28 in there’ and I said to GP ‘I would like to see four wheels on the car at the end of it.’
“That first run looked good enough to get the job done but then he went quicker again.
“All his laps have been stunning today.
“An absolutely mind-blowing performance.”
Karun Chandhok, a pundit and former driver, was equally astounded by Verstappen’s mastery on a circuit where driver skill and courage play a pivotal role.
Chandhok declared, “I’m still breathless watching that. I think that was one of the great qualifying laps in F1 history.”
He praised Verstappen’s meticulous attention to detail, saying, “The detail with which he drove – pinching little bits on the entry into Spoon Curve, 130R not using all the width.
“He thought about every metre, and for me, that’s a driver who’s ahead of the car.”
Even Verstappen, known for his stoic demeanour outside the car, couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for the performance he had just delivered.
He admitted to finding the perfect limits of his car, stating, “It’s been good from Lap 1 onwards. It gave me a lot of confidence.
“Of course, throughout the weekend, you make little adjustments to the car, especially in Qualifying for Q3.”
Verstappen’s supreme confidence in his car allowed him to push it to the limit while maintaining control, an experience that brought a smile to his face as he navigated the challenging Suzuka circuit.
In the wake of Red Bull’s disappointing performance in Singapore, where they faced criticism and speculation about the impact of technical directives on their performance, Verstappen was unwavering in his determination to rebound at Suzuka.
He dismissively commented, “We had a bad weekend, of course, the people start talking about that it’s all because of the technical directives.
“I think they can go suck on an egg.”