Cyprus Mail
Formula 1Sport

Verstappen takes pole in Japan with a ‘mighty’ lap

japanese grand prix
Red Bull's Max Verstappen

Formula One leader Max Verstappen blew away all doubts about Red Bull’s enduring dominance on Saturday with a “mighty” pole lap in Japan ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

The 25-year-old Dutch driver had been fastest throughout all three practice sessions at Suzuka and saved the best for qualifying, lapping with a final effort of one minute, 28.877 seconds.

Australian rookie Piastri joined him on the front row but was a massive 0.581 off the Dutchman’s time.

Verstappen, whose record run of 10 wins in a row ended in Singapore last weekend when he finished fifth, was the only driver to lap in the 1:28s and said it had been an incredible weekend so far.

“We had of course a bad weekend in Singapore but I already felt from the preparation we had that this was going to be a good track,” he said.

“You never really know how good it’s going to be but from lap one it has been really, really nice, … to be on pole here is fantastic.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose team are set to secure the constructors’ title on Sunday for a second year in a row even if Verstappen will have to wait for his third drivers’ crown, marvelled at what he had seen.

“I think what we’ve witnessed today is something very special,” he told Sky Sports television.

“That first sector was absolutely mighty. That first run looked good enough to get the job done but then he just went quicker again. All his laps have been stunning today … it’s been an absolutely mind-blowing performance.”

 

UPGRADED MCLAREN

Piastri said he could have done a better job at the last chicane but it had been a good weekend with an upgraded McLaren.

“It’s the first time I’ve started on the front row for a while, it will be cool” said the 22-year-old, who sat out last season as Alpine reserve after winning the Formula Two title in 2021.

“There is only one car ahead to try and overtake so I’ll try and make that happen.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified fourth with Mexican Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s closest title rival and team mate but a massive 151 points adrift after 15 of 22 rounds, fifth and 0.773 off his team mate’s pace.

Carlos Sainz, the winner in Singapore, will line up sixth for Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Yuki Tsunoda delighted his home fans with ninth place on the grid for AlphaTauri and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 qualifiers.

Leclerc was fastest in the second phase, ahead of Verstappen who was on used soft tyres and decided only one flying lap was enough.

American rookie Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams in the first period, bringing out red flags with nine minutes remaining.

It was the second time in four races that the 22-year-old, yet to score a point and with his future uncertain, had crashed in qualifying.

Sargeant’s seat is now the only one on the starting grid still to be potentially available for 2024 after AlphaTauri confirmed on Saturday a lineup of Tsunoda and Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

New Zealander Liam Lawson, who is replacing the injured Ricciardo for a fourth race, qualified 11th.

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