He’s back: Verstappen takes pole for F1 Japanese GP

Max Verstappen and Red Bull seemed to have recovered from an off weekend in Singapore quite nicely.

The championship-leading driver was back on top in Suzuka, with a dominate performance to take his ninth pole position of the season almost six tenths of a second ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. Third place on the grid went to the Australian’s team-mate Lando Norris.

Verstappen was in control from the start of Q1, stopping the clock at 1:29.878 on his opening run to take top spot. The Dutchman’s teammate Sergio Pérez slotted into second place on 1:30.652 but the Red Bull drivers were then split by Norris who set a time of 1:30.063 and then by Piastri who took third place with a lap of 1:30.049.

There was little time for any more action, however, as after eight minutes the red flags were flown when Williams’ Logan Sargeant lost control of his car at the final corner and slid hard into the barriers.

The American driver was unhurt in the incident and after a 14-minute delay to clear his wrecked FW45, the session resumed. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were among the first out on track and they jumped to third and fifth respectively as the session edged towards its final few minutes.

In the final runs, all of the top five except Piastri stayed in the garage, but with only AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson making a major improvement, to fourth, in the closing moments, Piastri backed out of his final flyer. At the top of the order Verstappen eased through to Q2, putting in a single run to take P1, 0.185 ahead of Norris.

However, there was no place in the second session for Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas who was eliminated in P16 ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg, Zhou Guanyu in the second Alfa and last -placed Sargeant.

Verstappen was first on track at the start of Q2, and the championship leader set an initial target time of 1:29.964. Leclerc and Sainz grabbed P2 and P3 respectively, but Pérez then knocked them back with his first run, slotting into P2 with a lap of 1:30.334. His stay there was brief, however, as Piastri jumped to second with a lap of 1:30.122, a little under two tenths ahead of team-mate Norris, with Pérez shunted down to fourth.

In the final runs of Q2, Verstappen and the McLaren pair elected to stay in the pit lane and that allowed Leclerc to steal P1, with the Ferrari driver posting a lap of 1:29.940 to finish 0.026s ahead of Verstappen who went through to Q3 in P2. Pérez, meanwhile, went quickest of all in Sector 3 to move to third place with a lap of 1:29.965, just 0.001s off his team-mate.

Eliminated at the end of the second session were Lawson, in P11, followed by Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, Williams’ Alex Albon, Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine and Haas’ Keven Magnussen in 15th place.

In the first runs of the top-10 shootout, Verstappen laid down the gauntlet with a superb lap of 1:29.012, 0.952 quicker than his Q2 best. Piastri got closest to that time, 0.446 off the championship leader, with Norris third ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell and Pérez whose Q3 opener was half a second off his Q2 best.

But while Piastri had got to within half a second of P1 in the first laps, there was simply no touching Verstappen in the final runs of qualifying. The Dutchman crossed the line in a remarkable 1:28.877, almost six tenths of a second clear of second-placed Piastri with Norris third. Pérez recovered from his poor opening lap to post a final time of 1:29.650 but in the end it was only good enough for fifth place on the grid, behind Leclerc.

Sainz was sixth for Ferrari ahead of the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. Yuki Tsunoda grabbed a crowd-pleasing ninth place for his home race and the final top-10 place went to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

“It’s been an incredible weekend so far, especially in qualifying, where you can really push it to the limit, it felt really, really nice,” said Verstappen. “We had a bad weekend in Singapore. I already felt from the preparation we had that this was going to be a good track, but you never really know how good it’s going to be. From lap one it’s been really, really nice. Of course, you try to find little improvements here and there, and I think we did that. To be on pole here is fantastic.”


Pos No Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 1:29.878 1:29.964 1:28.877 12
2 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 1:30.439 1:30.122 1:29.458 14
3 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1:30.063 1:30.296 1:29.493 12
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.393 1:29.940 1:29.542 14
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 1:30.652 1:29.965 1:29.650 18
6 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:30.651 1:30.067 1:29.850 14
7 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.811 1:30.040 1:29.908 18
8 63 George Russell Mercedes 1:30.811 1:30.268 1:30.219 15
9 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT 1:30.733 1:30.204 1:30.303 18
10 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 1:30.971 1:30.465 1:30.560 15
11 40 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri Honda RBPT 1:30.425 1:30.508 16
12 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 1:30.843 1:30.509 12
13 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 1:30.941 1:30.537 12
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1:30.960 1:30.586 12
15 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:30.976 1:30.665 9
16 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1:31.049 5
17 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 1:31.181 7
18 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 1:31.299 6
19 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1:31.398 6
NC 2 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes DNF 2
Greg Engle