Revealed: The only way rivals ‘have a chance’ of stopping Max Verstappen in Japan

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen heads down the pit lane.

Red Bull driver and reigning World Champion Max Verstappen heads down the pit lane.

Dutch racer Tom Coronel believes only another technical breakdown will prevent Max Verstappen from victory at Suzuka this weekend.

The three-time World Champion showed one of his most dominant performances of the year at the Japanese Grand Prix last year, qualifying a huge 0.581s faster than anybody else before cruising to victory.

Max Verstappen hot favourite to get back to winning ways in Suzuka

Verstappen suffered his first retirement for two calendar years when a problem with his Red Bull RB20’s rear right saw him exit the Australian Grand Prix prematurely last time out, having started the 2024 season with another two wins to his name.

Coronel, two-time winner of the World Touring Car Championship’s Independents Trophy, explained that having someone like Verstappen at a circuit like Suzuka can be a defining feature, given how difficult a track it is to master.

Alongside the added motivation he will have to get back onto the top step of the podium after his Australia retirement, he will be a tough driver to beat on Sunday.

“100%,” Coronel told the RacingNews365 Formula 1 podcast when asked if Verstappen will be a factor behind the wheel at Suzuka this weekend.

“It is a real driver’s circuit. At Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka, drivers can make the difference. recommends

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“That will always be the case and is never going to change. There’s a certain style and a certain swing to it and that also has to do with the faster turns.

“That’s where you really have to have the feel and confidence with the car. Max is not going to let this run.

“Something has to break down technically for anyone else to stand a chance.”

In addition, talking about a scenario where Lewis Hamilton would already be at Ferrari, Verstappen would be put inside a McLaren for the weekend, Fernando Alonso would move to Mercedes and Carlos Sainz at Red Bull, last year’s TCR Europe Touring Car Series champion argued that would be something of a leveller compared to the current situation on the grid.

“Then you’re basically putting it all on the same level,” Coronel added.

“You put Max, the strongest driver, in the least car and put Lewis in a faster car next to Charles Leclerc. Then you do have a serious battle.”

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