Max Verstappen says the prospect of claiming a second Formula 1 World Championship at the Japanese Grand Prix would be "extra special" given the team's Honda links. Red Bull and Honda joined forces in 2019, and after the odd win, became championship challengers in '21 - edging out Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi season finale. The Japanese firm announced its intentions to withdraw from F1 at the end of that season, preferring to focus resources elsewhere, but could be tempted back to work with Red Bull for 2026 as well as continuing its quiet presence at Milton Keynes. Ahead of the first Japanese GP since 2019, Verstappen, who is only the third driver after Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to be a Honda powered F1 champion believes the idea of winning a second championship on Honda's home track is appealing.
Verstappen on winning second title
To claim the world title, Verstappen needs to leave Suzuka with a 112 point advantage in the championship - and currently enjoys a 104 point advantage over Charles Leclerc. He must out-score the Ferrari driver by eight points, teammate Sergio Perez by six points and George Russell, who is 138 behind by a single point. A win with the fastest lap would be enough to add a second championship to the Dutch driver's CV. "It would make it extra special because of our relationship with Honda," Verstappen explained to media when asked about winning the title. "I think it was already a shame that we couldn't be here last year already, so we are really looking forward to being back. "We'll see what happens. We need a perfect weekend, that's for sure." As a sign of Honda's renewed interest in F1, the RB18s of Verstappen and Perez will carry Honda branding once again - having been replaced by HRC (Honda Racing Company) decals following the withdrawal.
Verstappen returns to Suzuka
The 2022 Japanese Grand Prix also marks eight years since Verstappen made his on-track debut in an official F1 practice session. Days after his 17th birthday, he drove the Toro Rosso in place of Jean-Eric Vergne in first practice at Suzuka, although an engine problem ended his session early. Reflecting on that weekend, Verstappen says it is not something he often thinks about. "There wasn't much pressure then," he explained. "I just had to drive the car and get used to feeling how an F1 car drove. "I didn't have much experience in it overall, so for me it was just a first training on a difficult circuit. It went pretty quickly, I must say. "I don't look back at those images, I like what's going on now much more."
Heading back to where it all began 💫 #OnThisDay in 2014, @Max33Verstappen took part in his first F1 session at Suzuka! ⏪ #JapaneseGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/Mme5aP3FcW — Formula 1 (@F1) October 3, 2022