Motorsports: Verstappen looks for 'perfect weekend' in Japan to retain title

By Andrew MCKIRDY, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 06 2022 04:09 PM

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track in Monza, Italy, 11 September 2022. Matteo Bazzi, EPA-EFE
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands during Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track in Monza, Italy, 11 September 2022. Matteo Bazzi, EPA-EFE

Max Verstappen said Thursday that he needs "a perfect weekend" to clinch his second straight Formula One championship at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull's runaway championship leader can secure the title at Suzuka if he gains eight points on nearest rival Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and six on team-mate Sergio Perez.

That would happen if Verstappen wins the race and claims the fastest lap, or if he finishes first and Leclerc finishes lower than second place.

The flying Dutchman is trying not to think too hard about wrapping up the title, despite 12 previous Formula One world champions having been crowned at the Japanese Grand Prix.

"It would be very nice if it was here, but if it doesn't happen here I will be even more in favour the next race," said the 25-year-old, who missed the chance to clinch the championship at last week's Singapore Grand Prix after a seventh-place finish.

"It doesn't really change anything, you just want to have a good weekend and maximise everything you can.

"I need a perfect weekend to be able to clinch the title here but to be honest I'm not really thinking about it too much."

Verstappen would become only the third driver after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel to clinch the title with four races to spare if he gets the job done in Suzuka.

The Japanese Grand Prix returns after a three-year absence because of Covid and Verstappen is excited to be competing in front of the "crazy" Japanese fans again.

"They're very passionate -- crazy but in a good way, and they really dress up," said Verstappen, who has won 11 of 17 races so far this season.

"You could see quite a few people walking around with a DRS rear wing on their heads. It shows you how popular motor sport is in Japan."

- Special relationship -
Verstappen's Red Bull car will carry a Honda logo at this weekend's race as part of a "strengthened relationship" with the Japanese company.

Honda officially left Formula One at the end of last season but signed an agreement to continue providing technical assistance in engine development to Red Bull and sister team Alpha Tauri until the end of the 2025 season.

Verstappen said winning the title in Japan would be "extra special" because of his team's relationship with Honda.

"It's great to see the full name back on the car," he said.

"It makes it extra special that they are back on the car just before their home grand prix. We have been working well together and it's been enjoyable."

Verstappen will be looking to improve on last weekend's performance, after a fuelling blunder in qualifying left him with too much work to do on the tight Marina Bay street circuit.

Verstappen called the race "a prime example of how you don't want a weekend to go" but insisted there was "not really much to change" in Japan.

"They all know that it was a bad weekend but we have also shown this year that we have had a lot of good weekends so we know how to do it," he said.

amk/dh

© Agence France-Presse