Max Verstappen says the added speed of Suzuka in the 2017-spec Formula 1 cars has made it more difficult to Red Bull to be as strong as it was in Malaysia last weekend, doubting its chances of fighting Mercedes at the front of the pack.

Verstappen dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix en route to his second F1 victory, giving Red Bull hope it could be in contention at the front of the pack once again at Suzuka.

Verstappen struggled to P5 in qualifying in Japan on Saturday, lapping a second slower than pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and qualifying behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

The Dutchman explained after the session that the added speed of Suzuka in the 2017 cars has made more corners easy to take flat, taking away one of Red Bull's big strengths through corners.

"I think at this track it’s become a lot faster. So more corners have been flat out now compared to last year when it was still a corner," Verstappen said.

"We know that there’s a lot of uphill going on here and then the corners which are flat out are also power-related so we’re just losing more than we’ve expected on the straights so that’s of course not ideal.

"It’s just very difficult because you have sector one, but then actually you don’t have too many corners anymore where you can really gain a lot of lap time. Especially with the track temperatures and everything, there’s not much degradation, the heat is not a big factor here.

"We are just not as strong."

When asked if he was surprised by the gap to Hamilton, Verstappen said: "No, not really. We know that in qualifying day they turn it up and already in practice we were behind so really logical.

"I think still power is a big part on this track. Temperature are not in our favour, they’re more in favour of Mercedes. It’s cooler.

"We’ll find out tomorrow if we’re more competitive."

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