Max Verstappen underlines his biggest fear ahead of Japanese GP

Red Bull locked out the front row of the grid in Japan with Max Verstappen on pole position following by Sergio Perez in second

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Max Verstappen has admitted he is concerned about Red Bull‘s race pace compared to Ferrari and McLaren ahead of Sunday’s Formula 1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

The Dutchman continued his perfect record in qualifying to make it four pole positions in a row by finishing seven hundredths of a second ahead of Sergio Perez to secure another front-row lockout for the Austrian manufacturer.

They were comfortably clear of Lando Norris, who exceeded expectations to secure P3 in his McLaren, with Carlos Sainz in fourth and Lewis Hamilton – who looked to be their nearest challenger in FP3 – down in seventh.

But in recent times, teams have compromised qualifying for a better race setup – and Verstappen has listed his concerns that Red Bull could be caught by their rivals in Suzuka on Sunday after looking at data for race run simulations.

Max Verstappen is on pole for Sunday’s Japanese GP. Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“The most important thing will be tomorrow, because I haven’t liked the race simulations this weekend very much so far,” Verstappen told Sky Sport F1. “We have some ideas as to why and we have tried to change something, we will try to optimise everything for tomorrow.

“We tried to try something in FP3, but at the moment everything is a bit of an unknown. The race pace of Ferrari and McLaren seemed very fast, so we will have to improve the balance to stay ahead of them in the race.”

Perez focuses on the positives

The Mexican has often been criticised for being too far behind his team-mate in the same machinery.

However, that wasn’t the case in the Far East as Perez came with in milliseconds of snatching pole away from Verstappen – and the 34-year-old believes that is a sign of progress.

“It was, like Max said, everything was on the margin. It was so easy to lose a tenth or two just by over-pushing a little bit in some of the corners,” Perez told the press in Japan.

“The amount of energy that we put into the tyres around here, it’s quite high, so it was quite difficult just to get the perfect lap nailed.

“It was close. It was close today, but I think the whole weekend has been good. We’ve made some good progress. We managed to keep that consistency through the qualifying. And now, yeah, let’s see what we are able to do tomorrow.

On the simulation worries, Perez added: “I don’t think we are looking great at the moment in our long-run pace, but we’ve done some changes and hopefully that will translate into a better race pace.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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