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Max Verstappen

Verstappen reflects on 'lucky' Suzuka start amid McLaren challenge

The Dutchman did not have the best start as both McLaren drivers flanked him into the tight first corner at Suzuka.

Verstappen Norris Piastri
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To news overview © XPBimages

Max Verstappen said he was "lucky" at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix to stay ahead of the McLaren drivers and go on to win the race.

Both Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris had good starts off the line and managed to get alongside Verstappen into the tight right-hand first corner, with the Red Bull driver angling himself towards Piastri.

Norris used the outside line to get ahead initially through Turn 1, but Verstappen managed to switch to the inside after getting ahead of Piastri and forced Norris wide on the exit of the double apex.

Verstappen would stay ahead for the rest of the race despite a Safety Car and two Virtual Safety Cars, only losing the lead for two laps during the pit-stop cycle, going onto take Red Bull's 16th win of the season and to seal its sixth Constructors' Championship, but admitted he was "close" to losing the lead.

Verstappen: I was back in control

"I saw on the left-side Lando coming with a lot more speed. He then moved a bit to the right and I was like: 'I can’t go more to the right!'," Verstappen told media including RacingNews365.

"So I was trying to get straight and luckily nothing happened. It all got quite close but that’s racing. Then we had a good battle also into Turn 1, into Turn 2.

"I was lucky that there was a bit more grip in Turn 2 just on the normal line, instead of trying to go around the outside.

Red Bull's shocking outing at Singapore, which brought an end to its run of 15 consecutive wins, left many to wonder whether its car advantage has been nullified.

Verstappen responded in Suzuka by topping every session during the weekend apart from Q2, and went on to produce a devastating lap in qualifying which was over half a second clear of the field.

The Dutchman was satisfied the team was back to their usual form, after managing to finish ahead of Norris by 19 seconds on the road.

"After that, the car was very nice to drive again. I could really look after the tyres well, the degradation was quite in control," said Verstappen.

"I knew that our strategy was going to be a little bit different with the Medium tyres, compared to two times Hard for some others but it was still OK.

"The balance was still quite OK, traction and stuff for the whole stint.

"Honestly, no real issues throughout the race. I think that just sums up the weekend as well. It’s been an incredible weekend to drive the car."

F1 2023 Japanese Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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