Japanese GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen edges out Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez for Suzuka pole

Max Verstappen saw off a strong challenge from Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to take Japanese GP pole; McLaren’s Lando Norris third ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz; watch the Japanese GP on Sunday at 6am on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, with build-up from 5am

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Qualifying highlights of the Japanese Grand Prix from the Suzuka Circuit.

Max Verstappen edged out Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to claim pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen looked to be cruising towards pole having dominated the first two parts of the session, but an inspired final flying lap from Perez saw the Mexican finish just 0.066s back from his team-mate’s pole time of 1:28.197.

McLaren’s Lando Norris produced a superb lap to take third ahead of Australian Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz for Ferrari, with both clearly outpacing their team-mates as Oscar Piastri and Charles Leclerc finished sixth and eighth respectively.

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Fernando Alonso was fifth for Aston Martin, highlighting the poor performance of his team-mate Lance Stroll, who will start from P16 after making a shock Q1 exit.

Japanese GP Qualifying: Top 10

1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2. Sergio Perez, Red Bull

3. Lando Norris, McLaren

4. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

5. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

6. Oscar Piastri, McLaren

7. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

8. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

9. George Russell, Mercedes

10. Yuki Tsunoda, RB

Mercedes were once more unable to reproduce promising practice pace as Lewis Hamilton was seventh, with the only consolation for the seven-time world champion being that he outqualified team-mate George Russell for the first time this season.

Mercedes were fined €5,000 for unsafely releasing Russell into the path of Piastri in the pit lane during Q1.

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George Russell makes an unsafe release in front of Oscar Piastri in the pit lane during Q1.

Yuki Tsunoda thrilled his home crowd by edging out RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to reach the final part of qualifying, but was unable to make an impression in Q3 and will start from 10th.

Perez finds pace to push Verstappen

Having seen a nine-race winning streak end as a brake failure caused him to retire in Australia two weeks ago, Verstappen has appeared to be on a mission to restore his dominance at a track he has won at for each of the last two years.

The Dutchman, chasing a fourth successive world championship, had comfortably topped the first and third practice sessions either side of an unrepresentative wet Practice Two, and followed that up by cruising to the top of the timesheet in Q1 and Q2.

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Max Verstappen is on pole position for the 36th time after his teammate came up just 0.066s behind at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The dominance continued during the first runs of Q3, with Verstappen 0.249s clear of Norris, with Perez more than a tenth further back in third.

However, Perez produced one of his best qualifying laps for a long time to come up just short of his team-mate’s pole time on the second run, before Verstappen marginally improved himself to ensure he had two times good enough for top spot.

“It was quite close at the end,” Verstappen said. “Overall, this track is very sensitive with the tyres. The tarmac is really aggressive and when you want to go to the limit it doesn’t always work out.

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Max Verstappen was unsatisfied with his lap despite finishing on pole for the Japanese Grand Prix.

“Nevertheless, most important is to be on pole. Of course you want every lap to be perfect but around a track like this, it’s not always the case. Overall, a very good day and a good starting position for tomorrow and tomorrow is what counts.”

The fact that the front row lockout is Red Bull’s first since last year’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix highlights how rarely Perez has been able to maximise his car’s performance in qualifying, but boosts the Mexican’s hopes of earning an extension to a contract that expires at the end of the year.

As for Verstappen, a fifth straight pole, stretching back to the final race of last season in Abu Dhabi, matches his own career best streak, set between Monaco and Britain last year.

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Sergio Perez believes he and Max Verstappen have gotten closer and predicts a tight battle at the Japanese Grand Prix.

With the winner at Suzuka having come from below the front row just three times since 1991, Red Bull will be confident of extending a constructors’ standings advantage over Ferrari that was cut to just four points in Australia.

Verstappen goes into the race four points clear of Leclerc in the drivers’ standings with Perez, a point further back, well placed to reclaim second from the Ferrari driver – at the very least.

Leclerc pays for Q1 error, Mercedes drop back again

Ferrari have been the clear main challenger to Red Bull during the opening three races with one of their cars having joined Verstappen on the front row on each occasion, but the battle behind Verstappen appears far more open in Suzuka.

It was Norris who emerged from the pack to comfortably seal a second successive P3 start by almost two tenths from Sainz.

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McLaren’s Lando Norris is optimistic he can secure a podium at the Japanese Grand Prix after qualifying third at Suzuka.

The high-speed circuit suited McLaren at the last edition of the event little more than six months ago when Norris and team-mate Piastri sealed a double podium behind Verstappen, but it remains to be seen whether they have the pace to secure another trophy this weekend.

“It was exciting,” Norris said. “You don’t get many chances. We had a good car today. I could fight. I did some good laps, especially in Q3. I’m very happy with today.”

Despite their Saturday struggles, compounded by Leclerc having to burn an extra set of new tyres after a poor first run in Q1, Ferrari have shown positive signs on their long runs.

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Sky F1’s Damon Hill asks Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur whether Carlos Sainz’s recent impressive performances are causing a headache for the team, with the Spaniard set to leave at the end of this season.

Sainz, therefore, will be hopeful of applying pressure to Norris, as the Spaniard seeks to maintain a brilliant start to the season in which he is outperforming Leclerc having been let go by Ferrari to make room for Hamilton next season.

The seven-time world champion’s Mercedes team continued to underwhelm as the Silver Arrows dropped backwards having taken third and fourth behind the Red Bulls in final practice.

Hamilton had a clear edge over team-mate Russell as he finished more than two tenths faster and was positive about the result having finished less than a tenth back from Sainz in fourth.

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George Russell believes there will be many opportunities tomorrow to push up the grid and Lewis Hamilton added how optimistic he is with the car’s improvements this weekend.

“I think we’ve got the car into a much nicer working window and so it’s been really enjoyable driving, it’s just the guys are just a little bit faster,” Hamilton said.

“We were a second or just over a second off last year to the Red Bull and seven tenths is better. Maybe if we had done something a little bit different maybe we could have been another tenth faster, maybe, but other than that, that was everything.”

With overtaking challenging at Suzuka, both the start and strategy are likely to be crucial with the battle behind Red Bull set to be closely fought.

Japanese GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.197
2) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.066
3) Lando Norris McLaren +0.292
4) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.485
5) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.489
6) Oscar Piasti McLaren +0.563
7) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.569
8) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.589
9) George Russell Mercedes +0.811
10) Yuki Tsunoda RB +1.216
Knocked out in Q2
11) Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:29.472
12) Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:29.494
13) Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:29.593
14) Alex Albon Williams 1:29.714
15) Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.816
Knocked out in Q1
16) Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.024
17) Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:30.119
18) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.131
19) Logan Sargeant Williams 1:30.139
20) Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.143

Sky Sports F1’s live Japanese GP schedule

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Look back on some of the most exciting title deciders to take place at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Sunday April 7
5am: Grand Prix Sunday Japanese GP build-up*
8am: Chequered Flag: Japanese GP reaction*
9am: Ted’s Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese Grand Prix highlights*
10.30am: Japanese Grand Prix replay

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event with lights out at 6am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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