JAPAN: In what turned out to be an exciting qualifying session at Suzuka, Max Verstappen set a lap time of 1m 29.304s and took pole position by 0.010s ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and 0.057s ahead of Carlos Sainz, as team-mate Sergio Perez completed the top 4.
However, Max Verstappen will be investigated for an incident involving McLaren’s Lando Norris at the exit of the famous 130R.
Alpine showed great form as Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso took 5th and 7th respectively, with Alonso splitting the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who were unable to replicate their pace from free practise sessions.
Sebastian Vettel put up a brilliant display for the vast number of his fans in the Suzuka grandstands as he made it through to Q3 for the first time since the Azerbaijan GP as he finished 9th, just ahead of Lando Norris.
Daniel Ricciardo, whose chances of being in F1 grew bleaker after Alpine and Alpha Tauri signed Pierre Gasly and Nyck de Vries, missed out on making it to Q3 by a slim margin and will start 11th. He was followed by 2019 Japanese GP winner Valtteri Bottas in 12th, with his teammate Zhou Guanyu in 14th. Yuki Tsunoda was in the middle of the Alfa Romeo sandwich after a decent showing which put him in 13th.
Kevin Magnussen, a Haas teammate, finished 18th. Alex Albon narrowly missed out on a Q2 appearance as he set a lap good enough for 16th, while Pierre Gasly suffered from brake issues, which resulted in him finishing 17th.
Lance Stroll struggled in his Aston Martin as he came back in 19th, with Nicholas Latifi of Williams rounding up the bottom of the qualifying sheets. The latter will serve a 5-place grid penalty for causing a collision with Zhou Guanyu in Singapore, even though the penalty will not result in a change of the qualifying order.
Lando Norris, who was on a slow lap preparing for his flying lap was approaching the 130R while Max Verstappen was ahead him in the queue preparing for his flying lap as well. Max Verstappen veered sharply to his right as Lando closed in and had to go onto the grass to avoid a collision, which in turn compromised his lap time.
Later, after the investigations, the stewards let Max Verstappen go after giving him a reprimand.