Max Verstappen takes pole yet again in Japan

Max Verstappen takes pole yet again in Japan as he looks to bounce back from Singapore disappointment – with Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris set to line up in second and third, while Lewis Hamilton qualifies in seventh

  • Max Verstappen took pole position in Japan after a superb qualifying display
  • McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris are set to line up in second and third
  • Mail Sport’s new WhatsApp Channel: Get the breaking news and exclusives here

Max Verstappen sent the clearest message yet that there will be very little chance of a repeat of last week’s upset in Singapore as the reigning champion swept aside his rivals to take pole position in Japan.

Verstappen, on a revenge mission after his shock fifth-place finish in Marina Bay, rung the neck of his RB19 around Suzuka’s figure-eight track, where the boldest driver accumulates the biggest reward.

And so it was for the Dutchman who was six-tenths clear of Oscar Piastri at the front row of the grid, in another big step towards world title No 3, should all go to plan here on Sunday.

Verstappen predicted that McLaren duo Piastri and Lando Norris would provide the biggest threat to his status as pole sitter in Japan. Indeed, the young duo went closest to the Dutchman’s time of 1:28.827 but offered no genuine challenge to dislodging him.

‘There you go, 28,’ Verstappen nonchalantly said over the team radio, pleased to lap at under 1:29.

Max Verstappen secured yet another pole position after a superb qualifying display in Japan

Verstappen was nearly six-tenths clear of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri at the front row of the grid

But, both Piastri and Lando Norris delighted in McLaren’s second and third place positions

‘Incredible weekend so far, especially in qualifying when you can push it to the limit,’ he said. ‘It felt really, really nice. We had a bad weekend in Singapore, but I felt from the preparation we had, this was going to be a good track.

‘From lap one it has been really, really nice. You try to find little improvements and we did that. To be on pole is fantastic.

‘My engineer told me “28 would be nice” and I said “don’t worry I’m going to send it”. I knew there was still a little bit left in a few places, and that’s where I tried to tidy up. It worked out quite well.’

When asked if he encountered the same issues he faced in Marina Bay, Verstappen shut down the question: ‘No, nothing. Singapore didn’t happen for us.

‘We had a bad weekend, of course people start talking about the technical directives. I think they can go and suck on an egg. I was very fired up to have a good weekend and make sure we were strong.’

For Australia’s Piastri, it is the second time he has joined Verstappen on the front row of the grid, after doing so at Silverstone earlier this year. The McLaren rookie continues to go from strength to strength in an impressive debut campaign, and is establishing himself as a future star, if not already.

‘The first lap was pretty solid, I was quite happy with it,’ he said. ‘On the second lap my first sector was good and next two sectors not to good. I’m happy to put it in P2, it’s been a really good week so far, we had some upgrades on the car.

‘We thought we might have a chance [for pole] but no. It’s the first time I’ve started on the front row in a while so that’s cool. There’s only one car for me to overtake [Verstappen] so I’ll try to make that happen.’

Norris, who battled brilliantly to hold off George Russell and Lewis Hamilton for second place last week in Singapore, had to settle for a place behind his younger teammate, but delighted in McLaren’s weekend thus far.

‘It’s been a very good day for us,’ the Briton said. ‘P2 and P3, great job by Oscar, and as usual by Max.

‘It’s not an easy circuit to put everything together. A small mistake can cost us a big amount of lap time, but we are in a good position for tomorrow.’

Meanwhile, Mercedes’ woes continued as Hamilton and Russell qualified in P7 and P8 respectively, in a huge comedown from their impressive performance last week.

Hamilton bemoaned his team’s poor start to the week on Friday, and they’ve been playing catch up ever since.

Earlier, the first qualifying session saw a brief pause after American Logan Sargeant crashed

Hamilton settled for seventh on the grid, after being more than a second behind Verstappen

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth, in front of Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez – the Mexican 0.773 seconds slower than the Dutchman.

Carlos Sainz, the winner in Singapore, was sixth, while Yuki Tsunoda and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10.

The first qualifying session saw a brief pause after American Logan Sargeant shunted his Williams into the barriers, a sentence all too familiar for the despondent rookie this season. He emerged unscathed, but left his team with a huge overnight job to prepare his car for Sunday’s race.

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