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Helmut Marko

Marko fears eased after challenging Ferrari qualifying

Red Bull secured a 1-2 qualifying finish in Japan as Helmut Marko voiced relief over Charles Leclerc's lacklustre result following his strong practice pace.

Verstappen Perez Japan
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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko was left to breathe a sigh of relief amid Charles Leclerc's difficult qualifying in Japan, following the strong long-run pace the Monégasque showed on Friday.

Leclerc ended qualifying from the Suzuka Circuit in eighth place while Red Bull bagged a 1-2 with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez respectively.

Ferrari entered the race weekend hoping to keep the pressure on rivals Red Bull after the Italian squad won the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

However, it suffered a challenging qualifying session with Carlos Sainz being the lead Ferrari driver in fourth place almost half a second down on Verstappen.

Marko has admitted to being concerned by Leclerc's high-fuel pace during practice, but had his fears cooled following the Ferrari man's lacklustre session.

"Leclerc is relatively further back. Thank God, because in the long runs [on Friday] he was the fastest,” Marko told ORF.

“I think the race is going to be a battle between McLaren, Ferrari and ourselves.”

Marko praises Perez

Red Bull's strong session saw Perez push Verstappen for pole position, with the gap reading just 0.066s at the chequered flag.

Its front low lockout comes at a weekend it introduced upgrades, which Marko asserted are working as planned.

“The most important thing this weekend is that the updates worked well right away and that we succeeded well in fine-tuning the setup,” he said.

“That makes us now one and two. It's been a long time since Perez was on that front row of the grid, I have to dig a lot into my memory for that.”

It marked Perez's first top-two finish in qualifying since last year's Belgian Grand Prix.

“I think Perez was better than expected, especially after his bad weekend here last year,” Marko added.

“He has improved since then.”

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