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Max Verstappen

Verstappen's scathing statement to silence doubters

Hopes that Max Verstappen would once again be stymied in Japan after the Singapore failure were quickly blown apart at Suzuka.

Verstappen Japan
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

It was quite a blow that Red Bull took in Singapore as its run of 15 straight wins came to an unceremonious end, with Max Verstappen's run of 10 wins on the trot ending with a fifth-place finish.

The team was sure that Singapore was, to all intents and purposes a fluke. The RB19's set-up was wrong, the strengths of the car became its weaknesses while the FIA's TD018 flexi-wing clampdown was just a coincidence.

Christian Horner was sure that Verstappen would dominate at Suzuka, and revealed that the Dutchman made a rather bold prediction on the Wednesday before the race.

"Sometimes the races you lose are the weekends you learn the most out of," the Red Bull team boss told media including RacingNews365.

"It was a big reminder for everybody that it's very easy to miss the target.

“I think we all left Singapore knowing that ultimately the winning run would come to an end, but we were a little frustrated.

"I was playing padel tennis with Max on Wednesday and he was properly fired up. He made it clear: 'I want to win the race by 20 seconds.'

"He managed to come within 0.7 seconds of doing that. From the very first lap in FP1, where on the Hard tyre he was 1.8 seconds faster than the rest of the field on Medium and Soft tyres.

"He was totally focused on this event."

From that first lap in practice, it was evident how the rest of the weekend would play out, with Verstappen going onto take pole on Saturday by a whopping 0.581s over Oscar Piastri, and a lap which earned him high praise from the top brass.

"It's a circuit that he loves and enjoys, it's one of the ultimate drivers' circuit," continued Horner.

"It was an outstanding performance, his laps in qualifying, particularly the final lap, stand out as one of the best F1 qualifying laps. It's got to be up there with one of the best laps of all time in qualifying."

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

Fake fans

There has been a lot of talk during the domination of 2023 that Verstappen's winning streak is boring for F1 and that new fans tuning in will just as quickly tune out if the title battle is not like the white-hot intensity of 2021.

Indeed, Verstappen even claimed that fans who couldn't appreciate his form were not 'real.'

"I don't think it was necessarily bad what was happening to Formula 1, because we were just better than everyone else," he said.

"If people can't appreciate that, then you are not a real fan.

"That's how it goes and that's why I was super relaxed about it, because we didn't perform [in Singapore] and other people did a better job than us and of course, they deserve to win.

"They shouldn't win because people say it's boring that we are winning."

Conspiracy thinkers

Once qualifying was done and dusted and Verstappen had one-and-a-half hands on the kiss-activated winner's trophy, he had a retort for all those who had fostered the idea that Red Bull's Singapore blip was to do with TD018.

"Honestly, yeah, we had a bad weekend; of course then people start talking about: 'Oh, it's all because of the technical directives'.

"I think they can go suck on an egg. But for my side, yeah, I was just very fired up to have a good weekend here and make sure that we were strong."

On race day, he disappeared on the horizon after the first two corners, convincingly re-establishing the pecking order.

Across the weekend, he topped FP1, FP2, FP3, Q1, Q3, led for 51 of 53 laps and posted the fastest lap on his way to the win.

He only failed to lead Q2 as Charles Leclerc pipped him by 0.024s - with the Ferrari setting that time on a new set of Softs compared to the used ones on the Red Bull, and failed to lead Laps 17 and 18 during the pit-stop cycle.

It was the closest any driver has come to sweeping the entire weekend since Daniel Ricciardo at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix where he was only denied by Verstappen snatching fastest lap.

In other words, it was a statement win to silence the doubters.

What it means for the opposition is sobering as they will simply have to make do with the breadcrumbs of the soon-to-be minted three-time World Champion.

F1 2023 Japanese Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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