Red Bull also agreed on the arithmetic, celebrating a Constructors’ world title announced last March in Suzuka. The celebration, which began with the presence of Christian Horner on the podium, arrived at the end of a weekend in which the team set the record straight after the ‘bad’ weekend in Singapore. An answer was expected in Suzuka, and it arrived in an irrefutable way, thanks to a dominant performance by Max Verstappen announced in qualifying and confirmed in the 53 laps of the race.
The world championship leader only had to look at the mirrors for a few seconds, the time that separated the turning off of the traffic lights from the entrance to Turn 1. “Immediately after the start I tried to close Oscar – he explained – but when I looked at my left I saw Lando arriving very quickly. I couldn’t help but hold my line, but luckily between Turn 1 and Turn 2 the grip on the inside line was good and I managed to maintain first position.”
Having repelled the attack of the two McLarens, Verstappen took off to compete in a separate race. After the second pit stop (lap 37) Max set out to try for the fastest lap, clocking 1″064 faster than his closest rival (Norris), 1″428 on Hamilton, 2″004 on Sainz. The margin at the finish line, 19 seconds over Norris, seemed even smaller than what we saw on the track.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, vittorioso a Suzuka
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
After the race Horner revealed some background: “We left Singapore a little frustrated, but on Wednesday I met up with Max to play paddle and he was really excited! He intrigued me, and he told me that he wanted to win the race with 20 seconds of advantage, in the end he missed the target by seven tenths of a second! From the first lap of the first free practice, when he was 1.8 seconds faster than the rest of the field, it was clear that he was totally focused on this weekend, and an exceptional performance arrived, his last lap in qualifying yesterday will remain as one of the best laps of all time.”
Horner, as is customary these days, then paid homage to all 22 departments that operate in the Milton Keynes headquarters, praising the work of the key figures, Adrian Newey, Pierre Waché, Ben Waterhouse, Craig Skinner and Enrico Balbo.
Max Verstappen brawling with Lando Norris at the start of the Japanese GP
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Then came the turn of Verstappen’s celebration: “Max is absolutely at the top – explained Christian Horner – he is the best driver in Formula 1 at the moment, but everything must be there, car, driver and a team in total harmony. Max has incredible hunger, as well as great determination and enormous talent, and he manages to bring these qualities together without getting distracted by some of the aspects of Formula 1.”
“At the start of the season we were confident – continued Horner – but this Constructors’ title, as it arrived, went beyond our most optimistic dreams”.
The only bad note on a triumphant day for Red Bull was Sergio Perez. The team’s celebration overshadowed the Mexican’s disastrous Sunday, but in the briefings over the next few days the topic, even within the team, will be addressed.
Perez explained the chain of errors that saw him as the protagonist with the damage sustained by his car at the start. “I had a horrible start – explained Checo – and I found myself with Sainz on my right and Lewis on the left. At the first corner I lost the endplate of the front wing and from that moment on I no longer felt the front end. We changed the front wing but the behavior of the car didn’t change so I think there were a lot more things damaged on the car. In the accident with Magnussen it was my fault, but I was also suffering a lot when braking with the front.”
Perez has his explanations, as he should, but it’s not what you expect from a driver driving the best Red Bull ever. There can also be unfortunate circumstances, of course, but in many of these episodes Perez found himself in positions that shouldn’t have been his, scenarios that shouldn’t be frequented by a rider whose minimum objective is to aim for the podium.
If for Red Bull and Verstappen the seasonal objectives have been largely achieved, for Perez the last six races of 2023 are anything but an opportunity to touch up some historical records. Helmut Marko is not known as being a very patient manager, and he not infrequently changes his mind. The anesthetic effect guaranteed by the world title won in Suzuka will not last long, and for Perez it will be crucial to be in a better position when the celebrations are over.