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Max by far the fastest at Suzuka: 'Fantastic to be on pole here'

Published on 23 September 2023 by Misha van der Kroon

Max Verstappen showed his dominance again and took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix. The reigning World Champion was over half a second quicker than Oscar Piastri, who will start alongside him on the front row. McLaren did well in the qualifying in Japan, with Lando Norris on P3. Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez completed the top five. 

“It has been an incredible weekend so far,” Max says after the qualification. “Especially in qualifying, where you can push it to the limit, it felt really nice. The balance of the car was great, so I could really push. This is a beautiful circuit. And if the car is well balanced through the high speed corners, you can enjoy it even more.”

Last weekend in Singapore Oracle Red Bull Racing was less fortunate. From the first moment here at Suzuka, Max has had a good feeling about this weekend: “From the preparation that we had, I already felt that this was going to be a good track. You never really know how good it is going to be, but from lap one it has been really nice. Of course you try to find little improvements here and there, and we did that. And to be on pole here is fantastic.”

When asked if there was anything that could be improved today, Max shakes his head: “Everything went well.” The gap to Piastri was over half a second. “I think McLaren will be quick in the race,” Max says. “We just have to be quicker. We need to have a good start and hopefully we can then run our own race.” Max’s teammate Perez will start tomorrow from fifth place. When asked if he has an explanation for this big difference, the Dutchman answers: “The only thing I can say is that the cars are the same.”

A few minutes after the start of qualifying, the session is stopped when Logan Sargeant loses control of his FW45 and hits the barrier in the final corner. Fortunately the American driver gets out of his car quickly and is unharmed. At the moment the red flag was waved, Verstappen had the fastest time with a 1:29.878. The session resumes and it is busy on track in the last minutes of Q1. The top three at that moment -Verstappen, Norris and Leclerc- decide to stay in. Eliminated in Q1 are Sargeant, Zhou, Hülkenberg, Stroll and Bottas. 

On the soft tyre, Verstappen set a 1:29.964 as a first time on the clock in Q2. Piastri stops at the end of the pitlane and his team pushes him back to the garage. The reason: the Australian sits in a comfortable second place and the team decides that an extra timed lap is not necessary to go through to Q3. At the end of Q2, the time Verstappen had set was good enough for P2. Leclerc is slightly faster, and Perez is just behind his teammate in P3. Eliminados are Magnussen, Ocon, Albon, Gasly and Lawson. Local hero Yuki Tsunoda gave the Japanese crowd a reason to cheer as he made it to the final part of qualifying. 

In Q3, Verstappen improves his time: 1:29:012 is the first time he puts on the clock. Piastri is again in P2, but almost half a second behind Verstappen. Sergio Perez is in P4, over 1.4 seconds behind the Dutchman. The Ferraris go out on track late in the session, which means they only have time for a single run. With three purple sectors, Verstappen improves his own time again and puts a 1:28.877 on the clock, increasing the gap to Piastri to almost six tenths. The Ferraris clock the fourth and fifth time, Leclerc being the fastest of the two. With his second run, Perez split the Ferraris and takes P5, and bringing an end to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix of Japan.

Contest GP Japan: win a by Max Verstappen signed Racing cap!

Results qualifying Japan:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:29.8781:29.9641:28.877
2Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes1:30.4391:30.1221:29.458
3Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes1:30.0631:30.2961:29.493
4Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:30.3931:29.9401:29.542
5Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:30.6521:29.9651:29.650
6Carlos SainzSAIFerrari1:30.6511:30.0671:29.850
7Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:30.8111:30.0401:29.908
8George RussellRUSMercedes1:30.8111:30.2681:30.219
9Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:30.7331:30.2041:30.303
10Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes1:30.9711:30.4651:30.560
11Liam LawsonLAWAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:30.4251:30.508
12Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault1:30.8431:30.509
13Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes1:30.9411:30.537
14Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault1:30.9601:30.586
15Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:30.9761:30.665
16Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:31.049
17Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes1:31.181
18Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari1:31.299
19Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:31.398
0Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes---