Max Verstappen said yesterday 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 teammate 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.

Hero’s welcome
Four years ago Yuki Tsunoda was watching the Japanese Grand Prix from the stands – now giant pictures of his face welcome him to the Suzuka circuit as he prepares to drive in Sunday’s race.
Tsunoda is in his second season in Formula One with Alpha Tauri and will make his long-awaited Japanese Grand Prix debut when the race returns from a three-year absence because of the pandemic. The 22-year-old says he feels no pressure despite three huge pictures of his face adorning the grandstand.
Instead he is looking forward to the “extra energy” he says the home fans will bring him.
“It’s just hard to imagine I’m driving there because four years ago I was one of the spectators watching these guys here, and now I’m driving in front of the Japanese fans,” Tsunoda, who has already agreed to stay with Alpha Tauri next season, said yesterday.
“I didn’t expect the huge pictures at the grandstand. It feels really supportive and gives me extra energy.”
Tsunoda said he has been mobbed on his return to Japan, with fans welcoming him at the airport and waiting outside his hotel. He said he is looking forward to experiencing the Suzuka circuit in a more powerful car, having previously raced there in Formula Four.
“The last time I drove here at Suzuka I won, so it’s a good memory,” said Tsunoda, the first Japanese driver in Formula One since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.
“It’s a lot different driving Formula One so I need a good build-up. Still, I think it’s one of the best tracks in my experience.”
Tsunoda came fourth in last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for his best finish.
His best result this season was a seventh-place finish at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix but he has failed to complete a race four times. He crashed out on his 36th lap at last week’s Singapore Grand Prix and he said he still has “a lot to learn” before the end of the season.
“For sure, the kind of mistakes I did in Singapore have to be reduced and a lot of things like penalties, those things are unnecessary,” he said.
“Those things I definitely have to improve but at the same time the pace with one lap I’m quite happy with and I’ve had progress so far.”
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