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P3 on grid in Malaysia a ‘good birthday present’ for Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen has called third place on the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix a “pretty good birthday present” after turning 20 on Saturday in Sepang.

Verstappen made his F1 debut at the tender age of 17 and became the sport’s youngest ever winner at 18, but can no longer be called a “teen sensation”.

Nevertheless, Verstappen once again displayed his undeniable talent by taking third on the grid in Malaysia despite Red Bull’s fears it would lag behind both Mercedes and Ferrari in the dry.

Verstappen finished just half a second back from pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, giving him encouragement for the race on Sunday.

“Third in qualifying is a pretty good birthday present today. The whole weekend I was not fully happy with the car and in the last practice session I didn’t have the perfect balance, but in qualifying we managed to pull it together and the car was pretty good,” Verstappen said.

“To be four or five tenths off pole position on this track and knowing they can turn up their engines in qualifying means we are doing a good job. I think on the long runs we are a bit more competitive so I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow.”

Having retired from six races so far this season, Verstappen’s main aim is getting to the finish line in Singapore and picking up some much-needed points, given he currently sits level with Force India’s Sergio Perez in the constructors’ championship.

“So far on Saturdays I’ve been a happy guy and on Sundays that has changed. Let’s hope it is different tomorrow and I’m sure we can have a good race,” Verstappen said.

“I’m also hoping for no sandwiches!”

Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth, having slipped half a tenth of a second back from Verstappen in Q3.

“I did all I could today and I think we both got the most out of the car,” Ricciardo said. “We’re half a second from Lewis around here so I think we can be pretty happy with that. It gives us a chance in the race tomorrow even if it’s dry.

“I would have loved to be on third today, but that half a tenth was actually Max’s birthday gift from me and I wanted to start on fourth really, because that’s where I started last year and I won.

“This is obviously all planned in my mind. I did a bit of a lift of the throttle just before the finish line, so yeah, it’s of course all calculated…”

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool