Japanese Grand Prix: Max Verstappen puts Singapore out of his mind by dominating Friday and Saturday in Japan and securing pole position by a tenth of a second.
As qualifying began in Suzuka, Lance Stroll and Liam Lawson were the first to hit the circuit. The AlphaTauri driver’s first lap time was a half second faster than the Canadian’s 1:32.246.
Results of qualifying at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix
The last to come, the Ferraris, headed out just after the first five minutes had passed as the other cars began to emerge as the first lap times came in and the early two runners returned to the pits just as that time had passed.
After ten minutes, Max Verstappen had clocked a 1:29.878, placing him in P1 as usual. Lando Norris was still the Dutch driver’s closest challenger, trailing him by just 0.185 seconds. Prior to Logan Sargeant’s left-side Williams being slammed into the barriers at the penultimate corner after understeering into the gravel, Oscar Piastri joined his colleague in the top three.
Only thirteen drivers had recorded times when the session was Red Flagged with nine minutes remaining, while the Ferraris, Williams, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg, and Pierre Gasly remained unclassified.
Charles Leclerc qualified in third place, 0.62 seconds behind Verstappen, Carlos Sainz took fifth, and Lawson moved up to seventh. The Ferraris and Lawson were the only three drivers to line up at the end of the pitlane when the session resumed. The three drivers had the track to themselves for the following five minutes.
All of the vehicles in the drop zone had not yet completed a lap at that point, when the Ferraris had set times. For the final few moments, Verstappen, Norris, and the Ferraris sat outside in the pits.
The fastest lap of the race came from Lawson, who will not be driving for AlphaTauri in the upcoming season due to the retention of Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda. The Kiwi finished in P4 with a time of 1:30.425.
Fernando Alonso was on the bubble at the end but was able to escape and finish P14, which meant that the Alfa Romeos, Stroll, and Hulkenberg, joined Sargeant in the bottom five spots. The Mercedes duo set the identical lap time, a 1:30.811, to put them P9 and P10.
Verstappen and Alex Albon were the first to leave as the top ten shootout began, with the current champion setting the pace with a 1:29.964; when everyone had set their times, Piastri had come the closest, clocking in at P3 with Norris in P2.
Leclerc qualified in position six, but the two Alfa Romeos and he will need to meet with the stewards after the session since the three of them failed to record timings in Q1 that were inside the maximum permitted lap time. In Monza, both Ferraris were examined for that, but no further action was taken because the stewards agreed that they had slowed down to prevent holding up other vehicles.
Albon was the only car on the course with five minutes remaining when he was able to pass the other cars and move up into P7 with a time of 1:30.537. Verstappen and the McLarens decided against making one last lap; Piastri was already leaving the pit lane when the team changed its mind, forced him to stop, and moved him back to preserve a set of tires.
Verstappen was overtaken by Leclerc with a 1:29.940, although the McLarens did advance to positions P6 and P9. Other drivers also made improvements. Alonso, who was joined in the drop zone by Gasly, Albon, Esteban Ocon, and Kevin Magnussen, once again managed to eke by, taking P10 by 0.043 seconds over Lawson.
Verstappen led his teammate onto the circuit as the first one out once more, producing a quick time of 1:29.012. The Ferraris, Russell, and Alonso didn’t set out with the others, so after the first six times were recorded, Piastri once more edged over his teammate to take second place with a time of 1:29.458.
In the last three minutes, all cars were moving, but Russell and Alonso believed their P4 and P6 times were sufficient and snuck into the pits for the last few seconds.Verstappen was the only member of the top three to finish with a time under 89 seconds (1:28.877), about six tenths faster than the McLarens.
Despite the Australian’s dissatisfaction with his final run, Piastri had a superb session. He beat Norris by 0.035 seconds to secure his maiden front row, which is even more impressive given that it was his first time at the track. Leclerc, who is currently under investigation by the stewards, finished in P3 ahead of Norris, and Perez finished in P5 between the two Ferraris.
P7 and P8 were taken by the Mercedes drivers, with Hamilton finishing ahead of his teammate and finishing just 0.082 seconds slower than Verstappen. At his home race, Tsunoda finished in ninth place, and Alonso completed the top 10 for Aston Martin.