Max Verstappen beats team-mate Checo Pérez to Japanese Grand Prix pole

Max Verstappen beats team-mate Checo Pérez to Japanese Grand Prix pole

Max Verstappen beat team-mate Checo Pérez by just under six hundredths of a second to take pole for the 2024 FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix as Red Bull Racing locked out the front row in Suzuka. Lando Norris qualified third for McLaren ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. 


“It was quite close at the end,” said Max afterwards. “This track is very sensitive with tyres, with the tarmac being really aggressive. And when you really want to go to the limit, it doesn't always work out. But nevertheless, the most important thing is to be on pole, so yeah, overall a very good day and a good starting position for tomorrow.”


Pérez agreed, adding: “It was close today, really close with Max. It felt like a good lap. It was quite tricky out there, actually. Especially closing out the laps it was quite easy to lose a couple of tenths into the last section, into the chicane, So we hooked it in all together, but unfortunately it was just not enough.”


At the start of Q1 Verstappen was quickly into the groove and the Dutchman took top spot with a lap of 1:28.866, more than four tenths clear of Pérez. The Mexican driver was then bounced down to third place by Alonso, while McLaren’s Oscar Piastri slotted into fourth place ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, the second McLaren of Lando Norris and the twin Mercedes cars of George Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. 


The top eight drivers elected to stay in their garages for the final runs and in the closing moments of the 18-minute session Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc vaulted from 10th to fourth, 0.035s behind Pérez who held onto third. Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas also improved to take P8 ahead of Hamilton as RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda climbed up to separate Hamilton from team-mate Russell, though the latter was placed under investigation for a potential unsafe release. 


There was no place in the second session for Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was ruled out in P16 ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, Magnussen, Williams’ Logan Sargeant and P20 man Zhou Guanyu of Kick Sauber. 


Verstappen again seized control early in Q2. The Dutchman posted a lap of 1:28.740 to take P1 ahead of Pérez, who put in a strong opener to sit just 0.012s behind his team-mate in P2. And as the remainder of the field completed their opening runs the Red Bull pair held on to the top two spots. Norris got closest, 0.200s off Verstappen, with the McLaren driver followed by Alonso, Sainz, Piastri and Leclerc. 


So strong were the leaders’ times that the top six chose to sit out the final runs and this time it was Mercedes who rose from the midfield to secure a spot in the following session. Hamilton jumped to third, 0.147s behind Pérez, while Russell went through in P7 behind Norris, Alonso and Sainz.


Tsunoda also put in a good lap to claim a Q3 berth for RB. The Japanese driver’s final lap of 1:29.417 was good enough for P10 behind Leclerc. It meant that Tsunoda’s RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo missed out on the top-10 shootout by just 0.055s and the Australian exited in P11 along with Haas’s Nico Hülkenberg, Kick Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas, Williams’ Alex Albon and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.


At the start of Q3, Hamilton was the first to post a time, a 1:18.887, but Verstappen breezed past that by six tenths of a second to stop the clock at 1:28.240 as Pérez took P2, 0.365s behind his team-mate. Norris then split the Red Bull drivers, taking second place a tenth clear of Pérez. Sainz ended the first runs in fourth ahead of Piastri and Hamilton. 


There was no stopping the Red Bull pair in the final laps. Pérez was first across the line and the Mexican improved by almost four tenths of a second to seal his first front-row start since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.


Verstappen also improved and though his final lap gain was smaller than his team-mate’s, the champion’s 1:28.197 was enough to seal his 36th career pole position and to extend a run of pole that now stretches back to last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 


Behind the top two, Lando Norris took P3 for McLaren, with Sainz set to start at the back of row two ahead of Alonso, Piastri, Hamilton and Leclerc. Russell qualified ninth, while Tsunodo will start from P10 for RB.


2024 FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – Qualifying 
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.197 - -
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1:28.263 0.066 
3 Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.489 0.292 
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.682 0.485 
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:28.686 0.489 
6 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:28.760 0.563 
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.766 0.569 
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.786 0.589 
9 George Russell Mercedes 1:29.008 0.811 
10 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:29.413 1.216 
11 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:29.472 1.275 
12 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 1:29.494 1.297 
13 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:29.593 1.396 
14 Alexander Albon Williams 1:29.714 1.517 
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.816 1.619 
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.024 1.827 
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:30.119 1.922 
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.131 1.934 
19 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:30.139 1.942 
20 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.143 1.946 


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