Max Verstappen returned to his dominant form in the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session, securing his ninth pole position of the season. Verstappen, who suffered a disappointing weekend in Singapore, delivered a crushing performance in Suzuka, finishing almost six tenths of a second ahead of Oscar Piastri from McLaren. Lando Norris, Piastri’s teammate, secured third place on the grid. Verstappen was in control right from the start of Q1, setting a time of 1:29.878 to claim the top spot.
Following a brief interruption due to a red flag caused by Logan Sargeant‘s crash, the session resumed after a 14-minute delay. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz from Ferrari showcased their speed, with Leclerc taking third place and Sainz in fifth. In the final moments of Q1, Liam Lawson from AlphaTauri made a significant improvement to secure fourth place on the grid. Unfortunately, Valtteri Bottas from Alfa Romeo was eliminated in P16, along with Lance Stroll from Aston Martin, Nico Hülkenberg from Haas, Zhou Guanyu from Alfa Romeo, and Logan Sargeant in last place.
Moving on to Q2, Max Verstappen was the first on the track and set an initial target time of 1:29.964. Leclerc and Sainz briefly held P2 and P3, but Sergio Pérez from Red Bull pushed them down with a lap time of 1:30.334 to secure second place. However, Piastri managed to jump to second place with a lap time of 1:30.122, just ahead of Norris. In the final runs of Q2, Verstappen and the McLaren drivers decided to stay in the pit lane, allowing Leclerc to claim first place with a lap time of 1:29.940.
Unfortunately, several drivers were eliminated at the end of Q2, including Lawson, Pierre Gasly from Alpine, Alex Albon from Williams, Esteban Ocon from Alpine, and Kevin Magnussen from Haas. In the top-10 shootout, Verstappen set the pace with a superb lap time of 1:29.012, almost a second quicker than his Q2 time. Piastri came closest to Verstappen’s time, finishing 0.446 seconds behind the championship leader, followed by Norris in third.
During the final runs of qualifying, Verstappen continued to dominate, crossing the line with a remarkable time of 1:28.877, almost six tenths of a second ahead of Piastri. Norris secured third place, while Leclerc finished in fourth. Perez, who struggled in the first lap, managed to improve and secured fifth place on the grid.
The rest of the top-10 grid positions were filled by Sainz in sixth, followed by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell from Mercedes in seventh and eighth, respectively. Yuki Tsunoda delighted the crowd by securing ninth place for his home race, and Fernando Alonso from Aston Martin claimed the final top-10 spot.
Max Verstappen‘s dominant performance in qualifying sets him up as the favorite for the Japanese Grand Prix. However, with strong competition from the McLaren drivers and the Ferrari duo, the race promises to be an exciting battle for victory.