F1 Japanese GP | Qualifying | Verstappen pips Perez by just 0.06s to take pole position in exciting Suzuka Q3

Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool
Spread the love

Max Verstappen secured a fourth consecutive pole position of the season at the 2024 Japanese GP, beating his team-mate Sergio Perez by the slender margin of just six hundreths of a second, in what proved to be an excting final part of qualifying at Suzuka.


Q1 began in cloudy conditions at the Suzuka circuit. It was a relatively qujet start to the qualifying hour, as Kevin Magnussen was the only driver to take to the circuit in the first five minutes.

The Dane would go on to set a time of a 1:31.203, as the two Williams cars – fresh from another crash-strewn practice – went out on track, before a flurry of activity in the pit lane saw most cars go out at much the same time, with a close encounter between Oscar Piastri and George Russell potentially causing an unsafe release, as all the drivers tried to slow down and create a gap in the pits. This will be investigated after the session.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen soon smashed Sergio Perez’s first flying lap with a time of a 1:28.866 putting him over 0.43s clear of the Mexican in P2 as the first laps unfolded.

Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri put in impressive first laps on the board, with the Spaniard taking P2, just under four tenths back from Verstappen, and Piastri grabbing P4, 0.55s behind the championship leader.

One surprising absence from the top few positions in the first laps was Charles Leclerc – who notably struggled in FP3 and seemed irritated with Ferrari’s run plan – who found himself down in 10th place and a whopping 1 second off Verstappen’s benchmark.

Home favourite Yuki Tsunoda had a strong initial run, as he got his RB up to ninth place and eight tenths back from the fastest time, just behind the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Russell, respectively.

The drop zone consisted of some familiar Q1 knockout names ahead of the final and decisive runs, with Gasly, Hulkenberg, Sargeant, Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu bringing up the rear of the field before the crucial final run unfolded.

Leclerc got himself clear of any risk with a late lap to go fourth-fastest.

Sargeant briefly moved up to 15th with his final run, but he was soon demoted by Pierre Gasly improving his time in the Alpine. Magnussen couldn’t make it out and ended up in 17th, as his team-mate Hulkenberg knocked him out. Valtteri

Bottas put in a mega effort in the final few seconds to get up to eighth place, whilst his team-mate struggled and finished down in 20th and complained of his car “sliding all over the place”. Another notable team-mate discrepancy was down at Alpine, as Esteban Ocon comprehensively beat Pierre Gasly to join Q2 for the second time in as many races.

Lance Stroll was perhaps the biggest surprise of the opening session, knocked out by just 0.061s from Alex Albon’s Williams.

KNOCKED OUT IN Q1: Stroll 16th, Gasly 17th, Magnussen 18th, Sargeant 19th and Zhou 20th.


The two Red Bulls were the first cars to join the track in Q2, as Perez set his first time with a strong 1:28.752, with Verstappen then pipping him by the surprisingly slender margin of just 12 milliseconds.

Alonso continued to show strong pace in his Aston Martin, crossing the line just three tenths back from Verstappen, but was soon pipped by Norris’s McLaren, who went a tenth quicker than the Aston Martin with a 1:28.940.

Strongest car last time out in Australia, the Ferraris looked a handful in the opening runs in Q2, with Sainz and Leclerc only managing fifth and seventh respectively in their first laps, at least four-and-a-half tenths back from the pace-setting Red Bulls.

Nico Hulkenberg had his first time of a 1:30.658 deleted for track limits at turn 13 (Spoon).

Winner last time out, Sainz reported his throttle pedal started going “soft” as he went flat out, reporting a potential issue over the radio to his Ferrari team, that ensured the necessary checks were made ahead of the final runs.

The bottom five consisted of Tsunoda, Ocon, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Albon as the final runs started – with the latter two yet to set a time in the session.

After getting knocked out in Q2 in Australia, Lewis Hamilton managed to safely get through this time in third place, just 0.15s back from Verstappen. Yuki Tsunoda was the big sensation of the session, the Japanese driver getting to Q3 in his home race, for the delight of the crowd, at the expense of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who could only manage 11th – although a mere 55 milliseconds back.

Valtteri Bottas couldn’t repeat his Q1 heroics and ended up in 13th, just behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas. Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon rounded out the bottom five in Q2.

KNOCKED OUT IN Q2: Ricciardo 11th, Hulkenberg 12th, Bottas 13th, Albon 14th and Ocon 15th.


All drivers went out as the session started, except Yuki Tsunoda and Charles Leclerc, both of which had only one new set of the soft tyres left for this session.

Lewis Hamilton set the early benchmark with a 1.28.766, but that was soon demolished by Max Verstappen, who went over half-a-second quicker than the seven-time world champion, and over three-and-a-half tenths clear of his team-mate Perez.

Carlos Sainz then slotted his Ferrari ahead of the Mercedes of Hamilton in third place, but was soon demoted to fourth as a rapid Lando Norris put his McLaren on provisional front row, with a time just a quarter of a second slower than the Dutchman.

After the first runs in Q3, the classified order of the top 10 was: Verstappen, Norris, Perez, Sainz, Piastri, Hamilton, Alonso, Russell and Tsunoda, with Leclerc still to run.

Lewis Hamilton was baffled on the radio as his engineer told him there was still half a second to find in order to beat Verstappen to pole. As was Fernando Alonso, who said he did a “good lap” to be P7 after the first runs, despite just 0.15s separating him from a spot in the second row.

The Monegasque went out of sync compared to the others, as he ran in the gap between the usual two runs, but his only lap of the session was only enough for a lowly P7, 0.546s behind Verstappen and comprehensively behind his team-mate Sainz as well, in an unusual qualifying blip – for the second time in as many races – for the Ferrari driver. He reported over the radio it was “the best [lap]” he could do, showing clear confusion as to why he couldn’t match his closest rivals.

Sergio Perez put in a barnstorming final lap – especially around Spoon curve – but could only manage second, just six hundredths of a second behind his team-mate, in a much improved qualifying performance from the Mexican.

Behind them, the order didn’t change apart from a string final lap from Fernando Alonso, who got himself up to 5th place in his Aston Martin.

Max Verstappen said his performance was “not bad” but admitted it “could’ve been a better lap” over the radio.

The final classified order of the session was: Verstappen, Perez, Norris, Sainz, Alonso, Piastri, Hamilton, Leclerc, Russell and Tsunoda rounding out the top 10.