Max Verstappen does not agree with nearest Formula 1 title rival Charles Leclerc that Japanese Grand Prix venue Suzuka will be a 'Red Bull track.' F1 returns to Suzuka after three years away this weekend, with its high-speed nature similar to that found at Spa-Francorchamps when Red Bull's RB18 in Verstappen's hands was unstoppable and Ferrari was firmly crushed. Leclerc - who admitted in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com that he felt the title was gone after Spa - said he feared a repeat in Japan, but was quickly rebuffed by Verstappen.
Leclerc believes Suzuka a Red Bull track
Should the Dutch driver outscore the Monegasque by eight points this weekend, a win and fastest lap combination, he will seal his second world title. And if Leclerc is to be believed, Verstappen enters a strong favourite to do that given the strengths of the RB18 package. "We've got very different cars here, a car which is much more solid on every type of track," Leclerc explained to media including RacingNews365.com. "Red Bull will be very strong here, it's a track where you run the car in a similar position to Spa and I expect them to be very strong. "Hopefully we will be stronger than we were there." Leclerc has enjoyed three podium finishes in the last three races, and taken the last two poles on vastly different circuits in Monza and Singapore's Marina Bay. He was mugged off the line by Sergio Perez in Singapore - losing a lead he never regained - but feels confident the problem was just a one-off before the long drag to Turn 1 at Suzuka. "I think we've been pretty strong with starts all year long," he explained. "Looking back at Singapore I don't think we need to do anything. Myself, Lewis [Hamilton] and Fernando [Alonso] all had bad starts on the right hand side of the grid - that was a little bit unfortunate so I'm confident that the start will be fine."
Verstappen pushes back
As for Verstappen, he does not agree with Leclerc's comments. He felt that at Spa, Red Bull simply did a better job than the other teams. "There are some similarities between the two circuits, but you drive with a bit more downforce here than in Spa," the 31-time race winner explained. "We did well in Spa, while other teams just couldn't do it. "Therefore I think that it will not be the same as in Spa - in Monza you saw that Ferrari was just very fast again over one lap. "That's why I think they are still not easy to beat over a lap, I hope we are better over a race distance, but I think it will be close again in Japan."