Max Verstappen faced Lando Norris as the Formula One champion-elect narrowly avoided a collision with the McLaren on his way to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Dutchman retains his title if he wins Sunday’s race and sets the fastest lap, and he gave himself the best chance of doing so by being fastest in qualifying.
But it could have been a different story after Norris swerved after accelerating onto the back of a slower Verstappen as the pair prepared for their respective flying laps.
“We were on our outlap and were all queuing to create a gap to everyone and then he somehow tried to get me into the chicane,” explained Verstappen.
“But I was about to accelerate and was on very cold tyres, so I had a little moment and that’s why he had to go around me.
“But if he just had a little more respect for me because everyone’s queuing up anyway and I don’t think anyone’s trying to get that final chicane, so if you’re trying to pass me you can do something like that.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was also unhappy with Norris’ move as the two drivers were under investigation over the incident.
“There is a gentlemen’s agreement between the drivers that when you get to that part of the track, you hold your position and take the last corner one at a time,” he said.
“So Lando decided that when they head to that final chicane he wants to skip the line. Up to this point they followed each other around the lap. I don’t think (Max) expected it. He warmed up the tires to start the lap. They drive through the chicane one after the other.
“They all do different things on the out lap and I can only assume Lando wanted to blitz into 130R and the chicane.”
Verstappen ended up setting the best time, just 0.10s faster than Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari with Carlos Sainz third.
Fernando Alonso’s Alpine was fourth ahead of sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Mercedes duo George Russell – who had been fastest in Friday’s wet session – and Lewis Hamilton.
Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren, Esteban Ocon was ninth and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin rounded out the top 10.
F1 returned to Japan this year for the first time since 2019 and could see Verstappen secure another title.
The 25-year-old insists he is fully focused on the track as the excitement over 2021 budget caps continues.
Red Bull faced unproven allegations at the Singapore Grand Prix that they exceeded F1’s cost cap last season – putting the spotlight on the legitimacy of Verstappen’s already controversial championship win over Hamilton.
With the FIA set to announce their results on Monday, Verstappen will be keen to seal this year’s title before any potential clashes arise.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/max-verstappen-red-bull-japanese-fia-mclaren-b2198316.html Max Verstappen takes pole for the Japanese Grand Prix as he attempts to win the title