Max Verstappen secures fourth pole position in a row this season as Red Bull lock out the front row for the Japanese GP… but it’s a disappointing qualifying session for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes

After the disappointment of an early retirement in Australia last time out, it’s fair to say Max Verstappen has got the bit back between his teeth again.

The Red Bull driver looked back to his imperious best in Suzuka, qualifying on pole for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez in second and Lando Norris in third.

Both Verstappen and Perez had complained about their cars during Saturday’s third practice but were still able to produce times that put them well clear of the rest of the field when it counted.

Even after securing a fourth consecutive pole of the season, Verstappen was left underwhelmed by his own performance. ‘Not bad… not bad. We need a better lap, but it doesn’t matter,’ said the Dutchman.

He may not have been at his best but it still looks as though it will take something extraordinary for anyone other than a Red Bull driver to claim victory tomorrow.

Max Verstappen secured pole position in Japan ahead of Sergio Perez and Lando Norris


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Max Verstappen secured pole position in Japan ahead of Sergio Perez and Lando Norris

Mercedes had a difficult qualifying session, with Lewis Hamilton finishing seventh and George Russell in ninth
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Mercedes had a difficult qualifying session, with Lewis Hamilton finishing seventh and George Russell in ninth

Lando Norris did well to steer his McLaren to third place, sharing the second row with Carlos Sainz
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Lando Norris did well to steer his McLaren to third place, sharing the second row with Carlos Sainz

Verstappen, in particular, looks to be in a class of his own in the third and final sector of this demanding track.

Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s closest title rival, was warring with his own team over their strategy in third practice and was left feeling equally frustrated by the end of qualifying.

The Ferrari driver was only eighth-fastest and his reaction afterwards suggested he had nothing more to give. ‘That’s the best I can do. Honestly, I don’t get it,’ said a baffled Leclerc.

It was a happy return to Suzuka for McLaren’s Norris, who finished second around this historic track last season and will start on the second row as he goes in search of a maiden Grand Prix victory.

Fellow Brits Lewis Hamilton and George Russell lagged behind, qualifying seventh and ninth respectively for Mercedes.

Yuki Tsunoda managed to secure P10 as he targets a high finish at his home race
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Yuki Tsunoda managed to secure P10 as he targets a high finish at his home race

Fans were out in full force to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars as F1 graced Suzuka once again
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Fans were out in full force to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars as F1 graced Suzuka once again

Charles Leclerc only qualified in eighth but Frederic Vasseur insisted he was not worried
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Charles Leclerc only qualified in eighth but Frederic Vasseur insisted he was not worried

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