Max Verstappen significantly towered above the rest at the Suzuka racetrack, seizing his 13th triumph of the season from pole position, overwhelming McLarens’s Lando Norris by a significant 19.3 seconds.
Securing this result etched Red Bull‘s name on the sixth constructors’ title honor at the home circuit of its power engine collaborator Honda. It also inched Verstappen closer to potentially bagging his third consecutive drivers’ championship.
This standout victory came on the heels of Red Bull‘s first setback in the 2023 season at the Singapore Grand Prix. Verstappen, underwhelming by his standards, had landed on a meager fifth place after not qualifying within the top ten.
In conjunction with the FIA technical directive initiated from Singapore, some speculated a dent in Red Bull‘s performance. However, Verstappen’s display in Suzuka was a resounding rebuttal. After clinching pole position, the Dutch driver cheekily suggested that naysayers could “go suck on an egg.”
Team principal Horner threw further light on Verstappen’s burning determination to straighten the record subsequent to his underperformance in Singapore. “I played padel tennis with Max on Wednesday, and he was all fired up, expressing his will to win the race by 20 seconds,” remarked Horner during a Sunday evening revelation.
Predictably, the fiery Verstappen came agonizingly close, missing his target by a slender 0.7 seconds. “Right from the initial lap in FP1, where on hard tires he clocked a time that exceeded his competitors on medium or soft tires by 1.8 seconds, it was clear that he was dead set on this event,” Horner added.
Horner complimented the performance as outstanding, singling out the final lap in the qualifying as potentially being one of the best of all time. “Albeit not starting off on the best footing, Verstappen managed to hold on to the lead and subsequently managed to build an impressive lead and control the race,” he further elucidated.
Responding to the inquiry whether it was the ruptured winning streak or the speculations around Red Bull‘s performance and technical directive that invigorated Verstappen’s tempo in Japan, Horner contended, “He is just a racer, and he doesn’t need a lot of motivation. But he said he came here very keen to re-establish the season that he’s been having.”
He further highlighted Verstappen’s competitive spirit, stating that it was on full display right from the first lap in FP1. “We all left Singapore knowing that the winning run would eventually end, but couldn’t help feeling a tad frustrated,” he confessed.