Red Bull's Max Verstappen, the current championship leader, arrived at Suzuka for the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix with hopes of bouncing back from a lacklustre performance at the Singapore Grand Prix. However, before the race, Verstappen revealed a secret team that he believed could pose a challenge to Red Bull in Japan. Fans were stunned in Singapore to see both Verstappen and Perez eliminated in Q2. Nonetheless, Verstappen exhibited impressive performance, as he began from 11th on the grid and finished fifth, while Perez finished eighth after starting from 13th. Suzuka is often regarded as one of the best F1 tracks, and it rewards drivers and cars with minimal downforce who are committed to racing. If Red Bull leaves Suzuka with a lead of 309 points or more, they will be crowned as the 2023 constructor Champions.
F1 Japanese Grand Prix: What did Verstappen say?
McLaren is among those teams that have made the most progress with their car in 2023, and it has been evident in recent races on high-speed tracks. McLaren scored 122 points over the course of seven Grand Prix weekends since the Austrian Grand Prix when the team initially unveiled its major improvements. At the beginning of the 2023 season, Aston Martin was widely regarded as the second-best team on the grid, behind only Red Bull. However, the team has since slumped after the Austrian GP, with only one podium finish and 63 points.
When asked if he thinks Red Bull can keep up their dominant race pace in Suzuka, Verstappen responded, ‘I mean, Singapore is so different from what we will experience here in terms of the way you set up the car, so I’m also not worried that a weekend like that will upset our weekend here. It was not our strongest weekend of course, but it’s important that now we just analyse everything and step by step, we’ll get there. But there’s also no real rush. Suzuka felt very nice on the simulator, and normally that’s a good indication when everything comes quite easy, so I hope, of course, that it’s going to be exactly the same in real life.’
When asked if Red Bull faces any challenges from McLaren at Suzuka, Verstappen replied, ‘Honestly, what they have done this year is quite impressive, from where they started to where they are now,’ said Verstappen. ‘So, I, for sure, expect them to be strong. But of course, I hope to be ahead!’
Norris Lauds Piastri After He Signs a New McLaren Contract
Oscar Piastri's remarkable start to his Formula 1 career with McLaren has led to the extension of his contract, and his teammate, Lando Norris, believes that the Australian has exceeded most people's expectations. McLaren officially announced Piastri's new contract ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, securing his place with the team until at least the conclusion of the 2026 season. This extension means that Piastri's contract surpasses Norris' existing one by a year.
Piastri's rookie season has been filled with notable achievements, including finishing in the points in six Grand Prix races and attaining a second-place finish in the sprint race in Belgium, where he trailed only Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
While commenting on Piastri's new contract, Norris said, ‘First off, congrats to him. I think any contract that allows you to [stay] longer in Formula 1 is a great thing.’
He further said, ‘We’ve had a fun first half of the season and a lot of progress. I think for him to be part of that progress and to hopefully continue that into next year, 2025 and 2026, for himself, it’s going to be something to really look forward to.’
Following Norris's second-place finish and Piastri's climb from 17th to seventh in Singapore, McLaren is riding high as it heads to the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.