Max Verstappen dominated qualifying at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. He topped all three session and easily took pole position. The McLaren duo were strong as expected with Australian rookie Piastri taking second and Norris third on tomorrow's starting grid.
Qualifying kicked off with Lance Stroll awaiting at the end of the pitlane to get going. The Aston Martin driver returns after of course missing last week's Singapore Grand Prix due to a qualifying crash. When the Canadian eventually got out and set a flying lap it was less than impressive, leaving him 6 tenths slower than what Lawson did, the other driver out early.
The rest of the pack awaited a few minutes before getting into the action but when they did virtually everybody chose to venture out and have a go at the same time.
The timing sheet quickly filled up with Verstappen taking the lead. Norris and Piatri followed up in second and third place and then Perez and the two Mercedes behind them, exactly the same as at the end of final practice.
A few minutes later the session was halted as usual suspect Logan Sargeant was a bit too eager on the throttle out of the final chicane and went into the barriers on the left hand side of the pit straight. As the car had both its left suspensions broken race control had no choice but to bring out the red flag with 9 minutes and 5 seconds left on the clock.
Both Ferrari were quick to return to the track when the session was restarted but most waited until the last few minutes, including Bottas, Hulkenberg, Albon and Gasly who did not yet have a time on the board and put all their hopes a late single flying lap.
Gasly easily made it through as one of the first to complete his flying lap. Hamilton also recorded a much needed improvement, just like Alonso as they both saved themselves. Magnussen was the last one to go through while Bottas was out, along with Stroll once again, then Hulkenberg, Zhou who went too wide at Degner 2 and of course Logan Sargeant.
Qualifying two was started by Verstappen who wasn't willing to get bothered by traffic. He went out alone and did another stunning lap, this time just a tiny bit slower than what he managed in Q1. When Verstappen calmly returned to the pits to watch the rest of the session on television, "the rest" came out to battle for the remaining positions.
There were few surprises however with Red Bull and McLaren all easily through along with the two Ferraris and Mercedes. Alonso managed to get through after only just making it into Q2 just like Tsunoda at the very end of the session.
The final part of qualifying started in similar fashion. Verstappen went out early and completed a lap in 1:29.012, another 8 tenths faster than his best from Q1. Piastri and Norris were up next and ended up both at 0.4 of the leading Red Bull driver.
After the first laps, which Ferrari skipped in order to save a set of tyres, Russell was the closest competitor to this top three but found himself at 1.207 seconds. Perez was even behind that with 1.4s behind his teammate.
In the final minutes Verstappen did another effort and improved another tenth. The Ferraris joined him and were reasonably competitive with Leclerc stranding at 0.665s off of Verstapen. Perez maintained 5th but reduced his deficit to Verstappen to 0.773s. Carlos Sainz was 6th fastest.
|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|
|5||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt||1:30.652||1:29.965||1:29.650||18|
|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|