Max Verstappen made a triumphant return to pole position at the Japanese qualifying session for tomorrows GP.
The driver was firing in all cylinders and proved to be untouchable throughout his Japanese qualifying performance. The two-time world champion ensured that there would be no repetition of his unexpected Q2 exit in Singapore and thundered to his ninth pole position of the season with a dazzling lap time of 1:28.877.
In the race lineup for Sunday, Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris will follow behind the Red Bull in second and third positions, but both McLaren cars were over half a second slower than Verstappen’s pole-setting pace.
Verstappen’s commanding lead of 0.581 seconds over Piastri represents the largest pole margin at Suzuka since Rubens Barrichello’s performance in 2003. Sky Sports F1 commentator Karun Chandhok described Verstappen’s lap as “one of the greatest in F1 qualifying history,” and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner echoed this sentiment, calling Verstappen’s laps “stunning” and “mind-blowing.”
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What Happened in Q1 and Q2?
During Q1 of the Japanese GP, there was an emotional moment as Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams at the final corner, eliciting a heartfelt response from the garage. Fortunately, Sargeant was able to walk away from the wrecked car.
In contrast to their recent pole positions, Ferrari found themselves settling for fourth with Charles Leclerc and sixth with Carlos Sainz. Sergio Perez managed to split the two Ferrari cars, but he was 0.773 seconds slower than his teammate Verstappen.
Lewis Hamilton managed to outqualify his Mercedes teammate George Russell, but the Silver Arrows will start the race from the seventh and eighth positions on the grid. Yuki Tsunoda delighted his home fans by securing ninth place for AlphaTauri, while Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso continued his impressive record of being the only driver to reach every Q3 session this season.
Logan Sargeant Crashed out in Q1
The first part of qualifying witnessed a heavy crash for Logan Sargeant at the final corner, leading to a red flag. Despite his crash, Sargeant’s fellow Williams driver, Alex Albon, maintained his perfect qualifying record over his teammate.
Logan Sargeant’s Q1 crash marked another difficult session for the American rookie, who spun out at the end of his first flying lap. Lance Stroll also failed to improve sufficiently in Q1 and suffered his second consecutive Q1 exit, this time in his Aston Martin, following his crash in Singapore.
Max Verstappen had dominated all three practice sessions, making him the clear favorite for pole position on Saturday. He showcased his intentions in qualifying by immediately setting times in the 1:29s during Q1, despite a challenging moment at Degner Two corner. Even on used soft tires in Q2, Verstappen managed to dip below the 1:30 mark.
What Happened in Q3?
Verstappen was the first driver to venture out in Q3, initially setting a provisional pole time of 1:29.012, which would have sufficed as he was four tenths ahead of the competition. However, on his final effort, Verstappen found even more performance, securing the 29th pole position of his career and tying with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio.
On Sunday, Red Bull could clinch their sixth Constructors’ Championship if they outscore Mercedes by a single point and do not get outscored by Ferrari by 24 points or more. Piastri and Norris will aim to challenge Verstappen from second and third on the grid, marking McLaren’s first top-six start at Suzuka since 2011.
Piastri secured his first front-row start in an F1 Grand Prix by narrowly beating his teammate Norris by 0.035 seconds in Q3. Despite their efforts, neither McLaren driver could improve upon their final qualifying runs after Verstappen had already lowered his provisional pole time.
Norris commented, “We will try and beat him off the line! We did it at Silverstone. But the Red Bull is six tenths quicker on a single run, and normally the race pace is even better.
You never know. At Suzuka, many things can happen, they have in the past. We have two cars to try and get him, but we also have a lot of quick cars behind us like Perez, who is in a much quicker car than us, and Leclerc is in a similarly competitive car.”
Lewis Hamilton is Starting in front of George Russel
In an interesting twist, Lewis Hamilton managed to outqualify George Russell for the first time since the Belgian Grand Prix in July. However, Mercedes never truly contended for the front three rows of the grid.
Saturday morning brough
t confirmation that Yuki Tsunoda would continue with AlphaTauri for the 2024 season, and he rewarded his home fans with a Q3 appearance. AlphaTauri, despite being at the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship, has shown improved competitiveness since introducing updates in Singapore. Tsunoda’s ninth-place start is his best position since the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
The Qualifying Results
|1||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT||01:29.9||01:30.0||01:28.9||12|
|2||Oscar Piastri||MCLAREN MERCEDES||01:30.4||01:30.1||01:29.5||14|
|3||Lando Norris||MCLAREN MERCEDES||01:30.1||01:30.3||01:29.5||12|
|5||Sergio Perez||RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT||01:30.7||01:30.0||01:29.7||18|
|9||Yuki Tsunoda||ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT||01:30.7||01:30.2||01:30.3||18|
|10||Fernando Alonso||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||01:31.0||01:30.5||01:30.6||15|
|11||Liam Lawson||ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT||01:30.4||01:30.5||16|
|12||Pierre Gasly||ALPINE RENAULT||01:30.8||01:30.5||12|
|13||Alexander Albon||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||01:30.9||01:30.5||12|
|14||Esteban Ocon||ALPINE RENAULT||01:31.0||01:30.6||12|
|15||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||01:31.0||01:30.7||9|
|16||Valtteri Bottas||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||01:31.0||5|
|17||Lance Stroll||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||01:31.2||7|
|18||Nico Hulkenberg||HAAS FERRARI||01:31.3||6|
|19||Zhou Guanyu||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||01:31.4||6|
|NC||Logan Sargeant||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||DNF||2|