Max Verstappen hit out at 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 will retain his title if he wins and takes the fastest lap in Sunday’s race and he gave himself the best chance of doing so by going quickest in qualifying.
But it could have been a different story after Norris took evasive action having sped up to the back of a slower Verstappen as the pair prepared for their respective flying laps.
Max prevails in the closest qualifying of the season!
Just 0.010s was the margin @Max33Verstappen had over Leclerc in P2 🤯#JapaneseGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/pgVgRhT47H
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 8, 2022
“We were on our outlap and we were all lining up to create a gap to everyone and then somehow he still wanted to get me into the chicane,” explained Verstappen.
“But I was on the point of accelerating and I was on very cold tyres, so I had a little moment and that’s why he had to drive around me.
“But if he had just a bit more respect for me, because everyone is anyway lining up and I don’t think anyone is trying to pass into that last chicane, so by trying to pass me you create that kind of thing.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was also unhappy with the move made by Norris, with the two drivers under investigation for the incident.
“There is a gentleman’s agreement between the drivers that when you get to that part of the circuit that you hold position and you file through the last corner one by one,” he said.
“So, Lando decided that he wants to jump the queue as they head up to that final chicane. They were following each other around the lap until that point. I don’t think (Max) expected it. He was warming the tyres up to start the lap. They go one-by-one through the chicane.
“They are all doing different things on the out lap and I can only assume that Lando wanted to blitz it into 130R and the chicane.”
Verstappen ultimately set the fastest time, just 0.10 seconds faster than the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc with Carlos Sainz third.
Fernando Alonso’s Alpine was fourth ahead of the sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez and the Mercedes pair of George Russell – who had gone fastest in Friday’s wet session – and Lewis Hamilton.
Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren with Esteban Ocon ninth and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin rounding 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 remains fully focused on the track as the furore over the 2021 budget caps rumbles on.
Red Bull faced unproven allegations at the Singapore Grand Prix that they exceeded F1’s costs cap last term – bringing into the spotlight the legitimacy of Verstappen’s already controversial championship win over Hamilton.
With the FIA set to announce their findings on Monday, Verstappen will be keen to seal this year’s title in advance of any potential fall-out.