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Japanese GP Qualifying: Verstappen on pole, Perez fights hard

Japanese GP Qualifying: Verstappen on pole, Perez fights hard

Japanese GP Qualifying: Verstappen on pole, Perez fights hard

Max Verstappen took pole for the 2024 Japanese GP, his 36th Formula 1 career pole position, as Red Bull locked out the front row with Sergio Perez a strong second.

Perez made Verstappen work hard for this one, as the Mexican was less than a tenth behind in second, while the gap was usually north of three tenths between the Red Bull pair.

Lando Norris put McLaren’s strength in the first high speed sector to good use and took the third spot on the grid for the race on Sunday.

Carlos Sainz was the better of the Ferrari drivers for the second race in a row, fourth fastest and ahead of Fernando Alonso.

Alonso started the qualifying in strong form, second fastest in Q1, but while others found more pace as the session progressed, the double F1 Champion faded away, but nevertheless did a decent job with his upgraded AMR24 beating one McLaren and the both Mercedes.

Oscar Piastri was sixth fastest ahead of Lewis Hamilton in seventh and Leclerc in eighth while George Russell was ninth ahead of Tsunoda in tenth.

Verstappen: Tomorrow is what counts

Speaking after taking his fourth pole in a row, Verstappen said: “It was quite close at the end. 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.

“Nevertheless, most importantly it’s 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,” he insisted. “It’s great as a team to be P1 and P2. Hopefully we can keep that going for tomorrow.”

“It was close today, really close with Max. It felt like a good lap,” Perez added, after delivering one of his best qualifying performances.

“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 and into the chicane, so we hooked it in all together. Unfortunately it was not quite enough.”

Asked whether pole was a possibility, he said: “We have been really close all weekend, qualifying as well, and when you are in that little margins anything can make a difference.

“I didn’t have a great exit opening up the lap so for me that could have been the difference, but we are in a good position for tomorrow.

“Our long-run pace wasn’t that strong this morning but we worked quite a bit and so hopefully tomorrow we will be able to be strong,” Perez concluded.

Norris was visibly happy with his third place, he commented: “It was exciting. 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.

“A good one for us as McLaren. We had a good race last year and a good race last weekend, so nice to be here.”

The Briton finished second behind Verstappen in the 2023 Japanese GP, but for this year’s expectations he said: “We had a good car all weekend.

“We made some good steps forward. We are trying to catch up with the Red Bulls. They did a good job and the whole team is doing a good job, so fair play to them.

“We are working hard and the hard work is paying off slowly. We will keep pushing. Today is a good start to the weekend. Tomorrow is the main job,” the McLaren driver concluded.

Q3: Perez pushes Verstappen hard

Hamilton was the first to line up at the pitlane exit with Russell behind him as the green light was given for Q3 around Suzuka.

Leclerc remained in the garage as all the other drivers set out to put their banker laps in Q3, and as soon as that was done. One all drivers set their first time, Leclerc hit the track.

With the first runs over, the order was: Verstappen – Norris – Perez – Sainz – Piastri – Hamilton – Leclerc – Alonso – Russell – Tsunoda.

In the end Verstappen just pipped Perez for pole, with a lap time of 1:28.197, the latter finding some handy pace to take second, just 0.066s behind.

Almost three tenths behind was Norris, third in the McLaren and 0.193s ahead of Sainz who was fourth in the #55 Ferrari.

Alonso was just 0.004s behind his compatriot in fifth place and 0.074s ahead of Piastri, sixth in the second McLaren.

Hamilton outqualified Russell for a change and was seventh fastest albeit over half a second off the pace, the seven-time Champion clearly mystified by the gap to pole.

When his race engineer informed him of the gap over the radio Hamilton responded: “Where’s that half a second man?”

Leclerc, who opted for one run n Q3 was a disappointing eighth admitting on his cool down lap that he could not deliver more. He was 0.589s off the pace.

“That’s the best I can do. Honestly, I don’t get it,” the Monegasque radioed in after his sole Q3 flying lap.

Russell and an excellent Tsunoda completed the top ten respectively.

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Q2: Tsunoda just beats Daniel Ricciardo into Q3

Verstappen and Perez were the first two drivers to get out on track once Q2 was given the green light as other soon followed.

The first run of laps delivered the following order: Verstappen – Perez – Norris – Alonso – Sainz – Piastri – Leclerc – Hamilton – Russell – Bottas.

Nico Hulkenberg’s time was deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 13, while Alex Albon did not even post a lap time opting for one run.

Once back in the garage, Sainz reported that his throttle pedal was feeling softer when he was going at full speed.

With three minutes remaining, Hamilton led the pack out for the final run in Q2 that will deliver the top ten fastest drivers that will take part in Q3.

However, the top seven drivers confidently remained in their pits.

With Q2 over, Verstappen kept his lead going in the top ten shootout with a lap time of 1:28.740, 0.012s ahead of teammate Perez in second, with Hamilton third fastest.

Daniel Ricciardo dropped out of Q2, missing out to teammate Tsunoda by a painful 0.055s, but it was nevertheless an improved performance by the Australian who will line up 11th on Sunday’s race grid.

Hulkenberg was 12th fastest in the Haas, 0.022s behind Ricciardo and 0.099s ahead of Valtteri Bottas, 13th fastest in the Sauber.

Alex Albon was only good for 14th in the Williams, 0.102s ahead of Esteban Ocon, 15th fastest in the Alpine.

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Q1: Alonso second fastest but Lance Stroll eliminated!

Temperature were slightly higher at the start of qualifying as compared to FP3, as clear conditions continued with track temperature at 28 degrees Celsius, ambient temperature at 18 degrees.

Kevin Magnussen was the first driver who drove out on track as soon as the lights went green, while others waited four more minutes before moving out.

With all teams sending their drivers out almost at the same time, Piastri and Russell almost collided while exiting their boxes, Piastri complaining to his team and noted by the stewards that the Mercedes got in the way. It will be investigated after the session.

The drivers started putting in the laps and Verstappen went to the top immediately from his first attempt, with Perez behind him, but not for long as Alonso went faster than the Mexican.

With the first run over, the order was: Verstappen – Alonso – Perez – Piastri – Sainz – Norris – Hamilton – Russell – Tsunoda – Leclerc.

With less than five minutes, the second runs starts and drivers rushed out to avoid the pain of being eliminated from the first part of qualifying.

The top ten remained in their garages except for Leclerc who had an awful first lap set out on track for another shot, as well as Tsunoda and Norris.

With Q1 done, Verstappen remained the fastest with a lap time of 1:28.866, already faster than his pole time in 2023 and 0.388s ahead of Alonso in second as Perez was third fastest.

With a stark contrast to Alonso, Lance Stroll was the first driver to lose out on Q1, beaten to Q2 by Albon by 0.061s. The Canadian will start the race from 16th.

Pierre Gasly was 17th fastest in the Alpine, 0.095s behind Stroll and 0.012s ahead of Magnussen, 18th fastest in the Haas.

Logan Sargeant was 19th fastest ahead of Zhou Guanyu in 20th.

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