Qualifying Key to Success for Oracle Red Bull Racing at Japanese Grand Prix
Only once in the past 12 years has the winner of the Japanese Grand Prix come from below the front row, and that was Valtteri Bottas in 2019.
For Christian Horner’s team this stat will undoubtedly form a central part of their overall strategy this weekend. But speaking ahead of the race action, current championship leader Max Verstappen sees returning to the Suzaka circuit as a chance to go back to a very happy hunting ground for him.
“I have very fond memories from the track there, from winning my second Drivers’ Championship, scoring a great Team result finishing 1-2 and even looking back to 2014 where I drove during FP1 for the first time,” he explained.
“I’m looking forward to racing in Suzuka, it’s always super fun to drive as it has a lot of high-speed corners,” the reigning world champion added. “We need to get everything right this weekend and of course, the target is to win.”
Teammate Sergio Perez has a similar attachment to the Suzuka Circuit and feels lessons have already been learned from Singapore last time out.
“Japan is a circuit we all love and I think the car will be back to its best, the problems we had in Singapore should hopefully not continue to affect us.”
The Mexican driver continued: “Last year I had a fun drive in Japan in hard conditions, fighting with Charles all the way to the final lap and those are the races you love. The first sector is one of the best to drive all season, it’s tricky but great. We need to get back to the victory this weekend, that can be the only target for us, I am confident and I look forward to it.”
Oracle Red Bull Racing and Japan – Facts
- Oracle Red Bull Racing have more than twice as many points as the second-placed team in the Constructors’ Championship and can win the title this weekend, if the Team outscore Mercedes by at least one point.
- Max won the 2022 Drivers’ Championship at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. It followed a dominant victory and winning margin with Charles Leclerc incurring a five-second penalty for cutting the chicane on the final lap, dropping him to third and granting Max an unassailable points lead in the Championship.
- Max and Checo’s 1-2 finish at Suzuka last year was the Team’s first 1-2 at the track since Seb Vettel and Mark Webber finished on the top steps of the podium in 2013.
- Last year, Max became only the 13th driver in history to win the Drivers’ Championship in consecutive seasons. Should Max win the 2023 title, he will only be the fifth driver to win a hat-trick of titles in consecutive years.
- Max made his first race weekend appearance at the age of 17 years, three days when he drove for Toro Rosso in free practice at the 2014 Japanese GP, finishing the session 12th fastest. He then became the youngest ever driver to compete in Formula One in the following year.
- A front row start could be critical at Suzuka, with the winner only coming from below the front row once in the past 12 races held there (Valtteri Bottas from third in 2019).