Christian Horner expresses Japanese Grand Prix concerns as two key race factors come to light

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull boss Christian Horner in the paddock in Melbourne.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

Red Bull secured a front-row lockout at Suzuka, leaving team boss Christian Horner very happy as he does not expect the race to be so one-sided.

Max Verstappen bounced back from his nightmare Australian GP DNF in commanding fashion by topping every qualifying session on his way to Japanese Grand Prix pole, with team-mate Sergio Perez ensuring an all-Red Bull front row having fallen just 0.066s short of Verstappen’s 1:28.197 pole time.

Cooler conditions and tyres concerning Red Bull boss

Taking Verstappen’s Melbourne DNF out of the equation, the Red Bull RB20 has grown stronger on race day this season, which will give rivals reason to worry considering the closest challenger to Verstappen over a lap at Suzuka was McLaren’s Lando Norris three-tenths adrift.

However, Horner is not anticipating a cruise to victory for Red Bull, highlighting the drop in temperatures expected for Sunday, and what that will mean for the tyres on this abrasive Suzuka surface as a “challenging” variable, especially considering the “more varied” race pace which the data has flagged up to Red Bull ahead of Grand Prix Sunday.

“It is Checo [Perez’s] best-ever qualifying here, so we’re really pleased to have both cars on the front row,” Horner told Viaplay.

“It was another stunning lap by Max but I think the race could be a little closer tomorrow, but it is a great start to the weekend.

“I think we’ve understood the issues, but I think we saw that the race pace is more varied [heading into the race], and in these cooler conditions, how the tyres behave is going to be a challenging factor.

“But I am sure it is going to be an interesting race, and I am glad to be starting on the front row.”

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Verstappen also highlighted the Suzuka surface as a major factor as he looks to make it a hat-trick of Japanese Grand Prix victories on Sunday.

“This track is very sensitive with the tyres, with the tarmac being really aggressive and when you really want to go to the limit, it doesn’t always work out,” he said.

“But nevertheless, most important is to be on pole. Of course, you want every lap to be perfect around a track like this, that’s not always the case, but overall, very good day, good starting position for tomorrow and of course tomorrow is what counts.”

And tomorrow from the front row, Red Bull will hope to score a third 1-2 finish of the F1 2024 campaign.

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