Max Verstappen speaks about trying to fend of McLaren pair at F1 Japanese GP pair, as Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri add their push.
For once it seemed like McLaren may try an aggressive strategy of starting one car on the soft compound but they went for the conservative idea where both started the F1 Japanese GP on the medium compound like Red Bull’s Verstappen.
But even on the medium tyre, both Norris and Piastri had a good launch off the line. Verstappen tried to cover off the Australian by going slightly on the right which allowed the Brit to get a clear space and attack around the outside of the Dutchman.
He got the car placed well too but Verstappen soon covered it off and assumed the lead which he never left apart from the pit stop. In a grand prix where he finished 19s ahead of the second placed driver, the start was the only point of contention for the Dutchamn.
“I think it was a good race,” said Verstappen. “Of course, the start was a bit tight in the first two corners. I saw on the right mirror that of course Oscar had a little bit of a jump on me but at the same time I saw in my left mirror that Lando had a real jump on me and then I tried to, of course, close off Oscar but then, I mean, he was still there and 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! So I was, like, trying to get straight and yeah, luckily of course, nothing happened. It all got quite close but that’s racing. That’s how it goes at the start, and then, of course, we had a good battle also into Turn 1, into Turn 2.
“I was lucky, I think, that there was a bit more grip, I think, there was a bit more grip in Turn 2, just on the normal line, instead of trying to go around the outside. After that, yeah, the car was very nice to drive again. I could really look after the tyres well, the degradation was quite in control.
“Of course, 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, I think. The balance was still quite OK, traction and stuff for the whole stint. So, yeah, honestly, like no real issues throughout the race, and I think that just sums up the weekend as well. It’s been an incredible weekend to drive the car,” summed up Verstappen.
For Norris, he was content eventually as was Piastri where they at least got to try and hustle Verstappen a bit, even though they knew the end result. “Things went, maybe not always to plan, but the pace was extremely strong,” said the Brit. “Couldn’t challenge Max. Maybe for half a car I actually got into lead for maybe half a second so I’ll take that.
“But, yeah, in a way, it feels better, because the pace was stronger. I could push and we were where we deserve to be, so a good job by the whole team to execute a perfect race,” summed up Norris, as Piastri brought back the qualifying joke of maybe emulating the Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collision moment at Turn 1.
“Looking back on it now I was in the perfect position to emulate Senna and Prost, like, literally perfect,” Piastri joked. “It’s true. But no, I saw I got a good launch, got a bit too excited on the throttle pedal in the second part of the start and at that point I knew I wasn’t far enough alongside Max. I could see Lando was coming around the outside. So yeah, I think settling for third was definitely the safest… and just the safest option at that point.”
Here’s Sergio Perez collecting four penalty points
Here’s how F1 Japanese GP panned out