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Formula 1 Japanese GP

How F1 red flag helped Verstappen nail his dominant Japanese GP win

Red Bull has revealed how the early red flag helped open up the opportunity that allowed Max Verstappen to dominate Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Verstappen had gone into the race in Japan with no guarantees about his long-run form, after not finding the perfect set-up for the high degradation characteristics that are a hallmark of racing at Suzuka during practice.

Changes made to his car after a troubled long-run in FP3 had helped improve things a lot, but he and the team were still not convinced that they had got everything sorted.

The situation was made even more complicated by the temperatures ramping up on race day, which helped put an extra premium on tyre management.

But the team says a breakthrough was made in the red flag period caused by Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon’s crash when Red Bull made some set-up changes to Verstappen’s car.

These helped address the team having perhaps gone too far with its reaction to its FP3 uncertainty, before Verstappen and his engineer fine-tuned things to perfection at their first stop in the race.

Speaking about the work done in the build-up to the restart, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: “I think actually the red flag helped them reset their front wings after they had probably over compensated. So that was interesting.

“Then the car just got better and better through the race. Maybe the temperature helped a little, plus the set-up changes were beneficial as well.

“The engineering team did a great job in tidying up the deficiency on Friday into an advantage on Sunday.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko explained that the weekend had been particularly challenging, with a new upgrade package needing to be understood alongside the difficulties of a truncated practice schedule.

“You have to understand that we had quite a big update package here,” he said. “We lost one session due to the rain and then we had a change in climatic conditions. [Sunday] was 14 degrees warmer in terms of track temperature.

“All of that didn’t make it easier, but we did the right changes with the front wing. And the race is different for Max anyway. In the race he just needs four wheels on the car to win.”

Asked about the significance of the set-up changes during the red flag, Marko said: “First of all, Max and his race-engineer, they are very experienced, also together with the data engineer. They know what to do and they know what Max likes.

“It was more or less the right decision. We just had to make a small adjustment after the first stint, so during the first stop.”

Additional reporting by Ronald Vording

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