SUZUKA, Japan—As everyone expected following the previous race, Max Verstappen returned to his successful ways this weekend, taking the Friday free practices, the Saturday practice three and in the afternoon, easily winning pole for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix with an amazing time of 1:28:877 fastest lap ahead of the McLaren duo of, Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
Verstappen afterwards thanked the crowd who attended and was very pleased about what he accomplished.
"First, thank you to all the fans and everyone being so passionate about Formula 1.” He elaborated. “From our side, an incredible weekend so far, especially qualifying, where you can push it to the limit. It felt really, really nice.”
Verstappen, who was the only driver to have a lap under one minute 29 seconds, began his domination by taking the opening session, only to be beaten by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the second. But the Dutchman held his own in the final session, taking the quickest lap right at the beginning and improving it even more right at the end with a time that no other driver could catch. The lap was just under a full second ahead of the second-place driver.
There was only one delay in the entire Saturday qualifying session, and this came at the expense of Williams driver Logan Sargant, who lost control coming out of the 130R straight and went into the barriers just before the final chicane. The American’s accident caused a red flag in the opening session for 20 minutes before action resumed, where Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Haas F1’s Nico Hulkenberg, and the Alfa Romeo duo of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas joined Sargant being out of qualifying.
Alpha Tauri’s Liam Lawson, Williams Alex Albon, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, and Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen joined this group, out of the second session.
Leclerc ended up in the top ten in fourth, while his Ferrari teammate and the last race winner, Carlos Sainz, placed sixth. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez split them in fifth, with Mercedes George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in seventh and tenth, respectively. Yuki Tsunoda and his Alpha Tauri gave his home fans something to cheer about, finishing in eighth. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was disappointing, ending up in ninth.
Although he had a bad weekend recently, Verstappen knew that he would be good at this circuit.
"We had a bad weekend in Singapore but from the preparation we have had, I already felt this would be a good track.” He said. “You never really know how good it's going to be but from lap one it's been really nice. To be on pole here is fantastic."
That that is a fact.
By Mark Gero