Max Verstappen takes pole position by over half a second at Japanese GP; Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris to line up directly behind Red Bull; Watch the Japanese GP on Sky Sports F1 from 4.30am Sunday with lights out at 6am
By Jonathan Green at Suzuka
Last Updated: 23/09/23 8:48am
Max Verstappen takes pole position at the Japanese by half a second ahead of the the McLarens.
Max Verstappen emphatically returned to pole position at the Japanese GP with a stunning qualifying performance.
The two-time world champion ensured there was be no repeat of his shock Q2 exit in Singapore and roared to his ninth pole position of the season with a brilliant 1:28.877.
Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris will line up behind the Red Bull on Sunday in second and third respectively with the two McLarens over half a second down on Verstappen’s pole time.
Verstappen’s 0.581s advantage over Piastri is the largest pole margin at Suzuka since Michael Schumacher in 2004.
Ferrari had taken pole at the last two Grands Prix but had to settle for fourth with Charles Leclerc and sixth with Carlos Sainz.
Logan Sargeant crashes his Williams during Q1 of the Japanese GP causing an emotional response in the garage.
Leclerc, though, faces a post-session stewards investigation, along with Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, for exceeding the maximum lap time of 1:54 during Q1.
Sergio Perez split the two Ferrari cars, but the Red Bull man was 0.773s down on team-mate Verstappen’s effort.
Lewis Hamilton managed to outqualify Mercedes team-mate George Russell but the Silver Arrows will line up seventh and eighth.
Yuki Tsunoda delighted his home fans by securing ninth place for AlphaTauri ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who extended his record of being the only driver to reach every Q3 session this season.
A big crash for Logan Sargeant at the final corner brought out a Q1 red flag. The American driver – who was able to walk away from his wrecked Williams – tried to push through a wobble and careered into the barriers having not set a lap time, allowing Alex Albon to maintain his 100 per cent qualifying record over his team-mate.
Japanese GP Qualifying result
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Oscar Piastri, McLaren
3) Lando Norris, McLaren
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
7) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
8) George Russell, Mercedes
9) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
10) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
How Verstappen blitzed field to take 29th pole of career
Verstappen had topped all three practice sessions to make himself comfortable favourite for pole position on Saturday.
And he set out his intentions in qualifying from the off as he was immediately into the 1:29s in Q1 despite a rough ride through the Degner Two corner.
Despite doing his Q2 lap on used soft tyres, Verstappen was again able to dip below the 1:30 mark and only Leclerc’s final lap stopped the Dutchman topping all three segments.
Verstappen was first driver to head out in Q3 again and his provisional pole time of 1:29.012 would have been enough having put himself four tenths clear of the field.
But on his final effort, Verstappen found even more performance to see off any threat of opposition and claim the 29th pole position of his career – drawing him level with five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio.
“If you don’t think you can improve on perfection, just look at that second lap for Max Verstappen,” commented Sky Sports F1’s Anthony Davidson.
Piastri and Norris will seek to make life more uncomfortable for Verstappen on Sunday when they line up from second and third on the grid – McLaren’s first top-six start at Suzuka since Jenson Button and Hamilton started there in 2011.
Piastri will be making his first front-row start in an F1 Grand Prix, having edged out team-mate Norris by 0.035s in Q3.
Neither McLaren was able to improve on their final qualifying efforts after Verstappen had lowered his provisional pole time.
Leclerc and Sainz only did one flying lap in Q3 but were unable to find enough performance to get ahead of the McLarens, or Perez in Sainz’s case, and Leclerc will be anxiously waiting on any steward decision.
Hamilton could take small comfort from outqualifying Russell for the first time since July’s Belgian GP, but Mercedes were never in contention for the front three rows of the grid.
Sargeant and Stroll fail again in Q1
The first part of qualifying saw Sargeant suffer another heavy qualifying crash.
The American rookie was coming to the end of his first flying lap when he suffered a snap of oversteer during the final corner. Sargeant tried to push through it but went off across the grass and gravel into the wall.
Once Q1 resumed following a red flag period, a big improvement from Lawson prompted a mad dash at the end with 15 drivers heading out.
And Lance Stroll was unable to improve sufficiently as he suffered a second successive Q1 exit at Suzuka in the Aston Martin, a week on from his own big Q1 crash in Singapore.
Former Japanese GP winner Bottas, Alfa Romeo team-mate Zhou and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg were the other drivers to exit at the earliest stage.
More to follow…
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