Max Verstappen ignored Christian Horner during dominant Japanese GP qualifying

Max Verstappen sent offer to quit Red Bull and join F1 rival keen to be his team-mate

Max Verstappen was lured into a bet in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying which Christian Horner wasn’t particularly keen to be a part of. The F1 star managed to eke some extra time out of his Red Bull at the end of Q3, leaving the Red Bull team principal stressed about his car making it through to Sunday’s race unscathed.

Verstappen was completely dominant in qualifying at Suzuka, comfortably finishing ahead of the two McLarens and bettering team-mate Sergio Perez by almost eight-tenths.

After the sessions, Horner revealed to Sky Sports that Verstappen’s race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, had goaded the driver into posting a lap time which the Red Bull boss felt was unnecessary.

“[Lambiase] started winding [Verstappen] up for the last run to say let’s see a 1:28.00,” Horner explained. “I said I’d prefer to see all four wheels on the car at the end of it.

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“That first run looked good enough to get the job done but he went quicker again. All his laps were stunning today. It was a mind-blowing performance. Singapore was a bit of an anomaly for us but the car has always been strong at this type of circuit all year.”

Verstappen was virtually untouchable in the first sector, with even his nearest challengers around four-tenths down before the halfway stage in the lap. The Dutchman is therefore a hot favourite to clinch his 13th race win of the season when action gets underway on Sunday.

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Some wondered whether Red Bull had lost their touch when Verstappen took P5 in Singapore last time out, with Perez down in eighth. But the team responded in emphatic fashion, and they will mathematically clinch the Constructors’ Championship this weekend if they score more points than Mercedes and make sure Ferrari don’t outscore them by 24.

Perez is more than 150 points down on Verstappen in the individual standings, and the gap between the Mexican and his high-flying team-mate over one lap at Suzuka was eye-opening.

“He’s slightly under the [car’s top performance] compared to Max in those high speed turns,” Horner continued. “He’s closed the gap but Max keeps moving it. P5 for Checo, he’ll have strong race pace so I think he’ll be ok in the race.”

Verstappen will share the front row with McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri on Sunday, with Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc lining up behind. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took seventh and eighth, while there was a strong showing for Yuki Tsunoda on home turf, delighting fans by clinching P9.

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