Max Verstappen sent offer to quit Red Bull and join F1 rival keen to be his team-mate
Max Verstappen’s air of dominance at Suzuka shone through in his radio message after taking pole in qualifying. The Red Bull star obliterated the rest of the field by more than half a second, with team-mate Sergio Perez among those left trailing in his wake.
The Dutchman was the superior driver out on track from the beginning of Q1 to the end of Q3 on Saturday. Setting out an unattainable benchmark through the high-speed corners of the first sector, nobody could lay a glove on Verstappen as he breezed to pole position ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix.
The result came as no surprise to the reigning double world champion, with barely a flicker of excitement coming through after he crossed the line. Instead, he simply told trackside engineer Gianpiero Lambiase: “There you go, 28.”
Verstappen was referencing a bet he had made with ‘GP’ prior to the third session about setting a time below 1:29.00, which he managed by just over a tenth of a second.
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“Duly taken,” responded Lambiase, while team boss Christian Horner chimed in to call Verstappen’s effort ‘outstanding’. In amongst the messages of congratulations, the 25-year-old did not even need to be told that he had taken the top spot, with the driver left in no doubt that his blistering time was good enough to dispense with the rest of the field.
After watching a replay of Verstappen’s one-lap flier, former F1 star Karun Chandhok waxed lyrical about what he deemed a ‘historic’ effort. “Honestly, I’m still breathless watching that lap,” he told Sky Sports.
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“I think that was one of the great qualifying laps we’ve seen in F1 history. There’s not much left on the table. The detail with which he drove, pinching little bits on the entry to Spoon Curve and 130R.
“He thought about every metre, and to me that’s a driver who’s ahead of the car. Christian called it one of the special laps, and he’s right. If he didn’t have Max in the car, Red Bull would be on the second row of the grid and [McLaren boss] Zak Brown would have two cars on the front row.”
Verstappen was confident enough in his natural ability and car control that he risked angering Horner by pushing for his final lap time, which the team principal correctly believed would not be needed.
“GP started winding him up for the last run to say let’s see a 28,” he told Sky Sports. “I said I’d like to see all four wheels on the car at the end of it. It was a mind-blowing performance.”
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