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Formula 1

Verstappen on Japanese GP pole after rare intra-Red Bull fight

by Josh Suttill
3 min read

Max Verstappen took pole position for the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix but faced close pressure from his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Perez hadn't qualified on the front row since he took pole position for the Miami GP last May but looked to be on Verstappen's pace right from FP1 on Friday where he'd already got it into a "really nice window".

He kept Verstappen within touching distance through Q1 and Q2 but after the first runs of Q3, he was over three tenths off Verstappen and was behind McLaren's Lando Norris.

Around half of that time loss stemmed from the final chicane with Perez struggling with rear instability in Suzuka's few slower corners.

Perez found some time on his final run and only ended up 0.023s short of Verstappen's initial banker.

"We've been really close all weekend. When you're in that little margin, anything can make a difference. I didn't have a great exit opening up the last [corner]," Perez explained after qualifying.

Verstappen also found time on his final run, extending the gap over Perez to 0.066s, meaning he had two laps good enough for pole position. He described both as "not perfect" but "good enough".

But it's still the closest Perez has got to Verstappen over one lap since taking pole in Miami last year.

Verstappen described after qualifying that he didn't feel as comfortable with the RB20 around here as other tracks.

Norris best of the rest

Norris claimed third on the grid ahead of Australian Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz.

Sainz was the lead Ferrari as Charles Leclerc struggled throughout qualifying. He needed an extra set of soft tyres to get through Q1 and that left him with only one new set for Q3.

Ferrari opted to run Leclerc in the gap before other drivers completed their final runs.

He initially set the seventh fastest time, eventually falling to eighth.

"That's the best that I can do, honestly. I don't get it," a confused Leclerc said after his lap.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso was fifth ahead of the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri who earned his maiden F1 podium here last year.

Lewis Hamilton was seventh for Mercedes, outqualifying George Russell for the first time this season.

Tsunoda wins RB battle again

Yuki Tsunoda continued his 2024 qualifying white-wash of RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as he edged him for a place in Q3 by just 0.055s.

Home hero Tsunoda made it three Q3 appearances out of four this season and ended up 10th in Q3. Ricciardo had to settle for 11th, although that's still his best qualifying of 2024.

Behind Ricciardo came the highest-placed Haas of Nico Hulkenberg in 12th.

Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas was in the top 10 in Q1 but couldn't replicate that in Q2 and ended up 13th place ahead of Alex Albon in the Williams.

Stroll out in Q1, Ocon through

While team-mate Alonso was second quickest in Q1, Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll was over seven tenths adrift.

That doomed Stroll to his 100% Q1 exit record at Suzuka and left him 16th on the grid.

While there was heartbreak for Stroll, there was jubilation for Alpine and Esteban Ocon who made it back-to-back Q2 appearances. Once he got there Ocon couldn't qualify any higher than last in Q2 and 15th on the grid.

Team-mate Pierre Gasly couldn't join him and ended up 17th ahead of Kevin Magnussen's Haas, Logan Sargeant's Williams and the Sauber of Zhou Guanyu, who complained of oversteer throughout Q1.

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