Max Verstappen bites back as Mercedes crisis continues – F1 news roundup

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen faces the media after setting pole position for the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen faces the media after setting pole position for the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.

Qualifying day at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka brought yet another fast-paced day of F1 news and views.

Max Verstappen claimed his latest inevitable pole position and then had a message for the people who assumed Red Bull had been found out by the Singapore GP technical directive, while Mercedes were once again plunged into crisis with Lewis Hamilton airing his frustrations.

Just another standard F1 2023 day, then. Here’s today’s roundup…

Max Verstappen’s ‘to whom it may concern’ moment

As bite backs go, Verstappen’s message to his doubters wasn’t quite on the level of Valtteri Bottas’s famous Australia 2019 radio call, but it was a juicy one nonetheless.

There were more than a few who wanted to believe Red Bull had finally been found out in Singapore last weekend, but pole position by sixth tenths at Suzuka was an emphatic response.

So what exactly was Max’s message to those people?

“Go suck on an egg.”

He went on to explain how the reaction to Red Bull’s poor Singapore GP performance had left him “very fired up” to put things right this weekend, as well as revealing the secrets behind the team’s return to form…

Read more: Max Verstappen tells Singapore doubters to ‘go suck on an egg’ with Japan pole

GP Lambiase spurring Max Verstappen on to greater heights

With no serious opposition at the front, dominant racing drivers have to find other ways to entertain themselves.

See that lap you’ve just done? Fast, huh? Now go even faster. Just because you can.

That was the test issued to Verstappen by his own race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, who after Max’s first Q1 challenged him to dip into the 1:28s.

Verstappen delivered – finishing with a time of 1:28.877s – with the World Champion and Christian Horner touching on Lambiase’s mischievousness.

It’s lonely at the top. Unless you have a race engineer in your ear, constantly egging you on…

Read more: How race engineer dare ‘wound up’ Max Verstappen for ‘stunning’ pole lap

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in crisis again

A second. That’s how far Mercedes were from Verstappen’s pole position time on Saturday. Call that progress?

It was the kind of deficit to make a Formula 1 team take a long, hard look in the mirror – and Hamilton was the man encouraging that course of action at the end of qualifying.

The worst thing of all? By his own admission, Hamilton was “really happy” with his laps and how qualifying went. “It just wasn’t that quick compared to others,” he said.

Troubled times…

Read more: Lewis Hamilton urges Mercedes to fix ‘100% concept’ issue after Japan qualy struggles

Oscar Piastri’s mum to make last-gasp trip to Suzuka?

If you’ve followed Oscar Piastri’s rookie season to any great extent, you’ll be familiar by now with his mum, who’s entertained fans with a running Twitter commentary about her boy.

The 22-year-old’s first-ever front row start (apparently the Spa sprint race doesn’t count) has sent Nicole Piastri in a desperate search for a cheap flight to Japan.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown has been all too happy to offer a helping hand, claiming he will fund the flight himself.

So will Mrs Piastri be there in the McLaren garage on Sunday cheering Oscar on?

It’s the single-biggest question hanging over race day right now. More as we get it.

Read more: Zak Brown vows to help fly in Oscar Piastri’s mum as McLaren driver secures front-row start

No place for Liam Lawson in 2024 AlphaTauri lineup

Was AlphaTauri’s driver lineup for the F1 2024 season decided long before Daniel Ricciardo broke his hand at Zandvoort?

It’s a question worth posing after there was no place for Liam Lawson at the Red Bull junior team for next year, with Ricciardo confirmed alongside Yuki Tsunoda on qualifying morning at Suzuka.

Only one seat remains left open for next season, with Logan Sargeant’s place at Williams coming under ever-increasingly scrutiny after another costly crash in Q1.

If there is any justice in this sport, Lawson will be rewarded for his performances standing in for Ricciardo with a full-time drive as Alex Albon’s team-mate for next season.

It just makes sense.

Read more: Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 future decided as AlphaTauri 2024 line-up is confirmed