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Verstappen retains first starting position in Japan

Max Verstappen Photo Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen retains first starting position in Japan. The Red Bull driver won qualifying at the Suzuka circuit, but was investigated for an incident with Lando Norris. The two competitors were summoned and heard by the commissioners after the final of the session.

Verstappen set the fastest lap in Q3 in 1:29.304 min before he was nearly hit by Norris. The Dutchman lost control of his car and almost spun. This maneuver blocked the McLaren driver, who was starting his fast lap. Norris was forced to go through the grass to avoid contact with the world champion.

According to the stewards, Verstappen did not violate Article 33.4 of the Sporting Regulations and did not drive slowly, incorrectly or dangerously. The Red Bull driver received only a reprimand, the first of the season. Thus, he remains in pole position for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Norris remains in tenth place.

The stewards found that the lack of temperature in the tires of Verstappen’s car caused him to “temporarily lose control, which caused the car to ‘break’ and move in a counter-clockwise direction.” In the end, it turns out that the Dutchman accelerated at the same time Norris started to overtake.

“The pilot of car #4 [Норис] said it was just an accident. It must not be forgotten that the driver has a responsibility to be in control of his vehicle at all times,” the commissioners’ decision said.

Having regard to similar previous breaches of Article 33.4, the stewards considered that a reprimand was an appropriate punishment for the Red Bull driver.

The world champion was not happy with Norris’ actions in Q3.

“It’s kind of a gentleman’s agreement: before the last corner you’re not going to overtake anyone,” Verstappen said. “Of course, everyone has their own tire temperature to monitor. Mine was pretty low so my tires were really cold.”

“At one point I suddenly saw this McLaren in my mirror. I wanted to hit the gas to try to stay in front of him, but then the car “broke” because of the cold tires. You end up creating these problems yourself by screwing someone else over. I just don’t think that’s right. On the second attempts, there was a similar case again.”

Norris also commented on the incident in Q3 at Suzuka.

“I mean, it was quite clear that he tried to do it. There is no rule about what you can do, but what he did was wrong. People always overtake on the last turn, no matter how much they agree not to, so it doesn’t matter. He probably would have done the same in my situation, but if I were him I wouldn’t budge,” Norris stated.

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