Helmut Marko scherza dopo la resurrezione di Perez: “Si vede che ce la può fare!”

Motorsport-Total.com – Hard to believe, but true: Red Bull has secured the front row in qualifying for the Formula 1 race in Japan 2024. This fact may not come as a surprise to the avid Formula 1 fan, but what is surprising is that it is the first Red Bull front row lockout since the season opener in 2023.

This is mainly due to Sergio Perez being remarkably close to his teammate Max Verstappen this time. The Dutchman is no stranger to the feeling of pole position, as this was his fifth consecutive pole, however, Perez was only 0.066 seconds slower and secured the front row for their team.

For Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko, Perez was “better than expected,” considering he still remembers last year’s horror weekend when the Mexican driver inexplicably retired twice. “He has improved incredibly,” Marko lauded on ORF.

“1-2, it’s been a while since we had that. Especially Perez in the front row, that’s a memory from a long time ago,” mentioned the Austrian.

Indeed, Perez’s presence in the front row was last seen in the Spielberg sprint last summer. The last clear view in a Grand Prix even dates back to Miami in May last year.

In his final Q3 lap in Suzuka, Perez managed to improve by nearly three and a half tenths of a second, while Verstappen only improved by 0.043 seconds compared to his previous run, which was already enough for pole position.

However, Verstappen lost pace in the second run, particularly in the final sector where he was slower than before. “I lost time from turn 13,” he explained. “The tires are very sensitive here. If you push too hard in Sector 1, you run out of tires by the end. That’s what happened to me in my last lap. That’s why I didn’t really improve.”

Despite that, his sector time of 17.570 seconds was still faster than his teammate Perez’s time of 17.654 seconds, who was even virtually ahead of Verstappen after two sectors.

Perez also agreed with his teammate, stating that everything was on the limit and it was easy to lose a tenth or two by pushing too hard. He noted that the amount of energy they put into the tires was very high, making it extremely difficult to achieve the perfect lap.

Nevertheless, he was satisfied with second place in the end. Perez nodded in agreement, indicating that he had ended a bad phase and set things right from last year.

Looking towards the future, Marko mentioned that Perez is still aiming for a contract for next year, which seems to be highly motivating for him.

One factor contributing to Perez’s resurgence is a different approach to setting up the car. Marko revealed that Perez is no longer trying to go down his own technical path, and both cars are almost identical in setup, which ultimately makes a difference.

Perez confirmed this, saying that he used to play around too much with the car in the past, but now he has a base setup that he is much happier with.

Red Bull brought a new upgrade package to Suzuka, with redesigned air intakes in the side pods and a new floor. Marko believed the upgrade worked very well and played a significant role in the successful qualifying session. Perez mentioned that the upgrade may not have had a huge impact in Suzuka, but rather on other tracks.

Looking ahead to Sunday, Red Bull has secured a strong position, even though they were not entirely satisfied with their long runs on Friday and saw Charles Leclerc as the favorite. However, with Leclerc starting from eighth, Marko is optimistic for the race.

Position at the start is crucial in Suzuka, with five of the last six races won from pole position.