McLaren CEO Zak Brown is hopeful that his drivers will give Max Verstappen “a bit of a race” in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Verstappen will start at Suzuka from pole position, ahead of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris in second and third place respectively, with Piastri bagging the first front-row start of his F1 career on his first visit to the track, on the same week his contract extension with McLaren was announced.
It is the second time in 2023 that McLaren has secured a two-three on the grid - coming at ths similarly fast Silverstone in July as the upgrade packages have transformed the MCL60, with Brown praising his driver line-up.
"[Oscar’s] driving great,” Brown told Sky Sports F1. “That’s exactly why we signed him up for another three years.
“I think our driver pairing is awesome. The team is really jelling, and Andrea [Stella’s] leadership has been fantastic.
“Everyone is doing a first-class job and the results are coming.
“The team back at the factory that's been designing and building have been pretty confident that they were going to put the results on that we're getting.
“I’m always cautiously optimistic and, from the start of the year, still very much one day at a time. But you got to give hats off to the team. What a fantastic job they're doing.”
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Brown backs McLaren to perform
Last time out in Singapore, Red Bull suffered defeat for the first time this season, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz securing victory.
However, Red Bull had lacklustre pace compared to its competition throughout the weekend, a factor that doesn’t appear to be in play this time around.
Despite that, Brown says he hopes McLaren can make Verstappen’s life difficult during the Suzuka race.
“I think we can,” he said, when asked if McLaren could retain their starting positions during the race.
“I don't think it's going to be easy. Our tyre degradation looks pretty good. Our race pace looks good.
“It'd be nice to get a car or two ahead of Max at the start and give him a bit of a race.
“I think we can definitely end up with a couple of cars on the podium.”