23rd September 2023 – (Suzuka) Max Verstappen claimed pole position on Saturday at the Japanese Grand Prix, signalling his intent to secure a third-straight world title. Bouncing back from a fifth-place finish in the previous Singapore Grand Prix, the Red Bull driver outpaced McLaren duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
Verstappen, clearly motivated by his Singapore setback, dominated the Suzuka circuit with a blistering lap time of 1 minute 28.877 seconds, surpassing Piastri by 0.581 seconds. The championship frontrunner expressed his satisfaction with the performance, stating that qualifying had been a progressively improving experience.
Leading his teammate and closest rival Sergio Perez in the championship standings by 151 points, Verstappen cannot clinch the title at this weekend’s race. However, a favourable result in Japan could set him up for a potential championship victory at the Qatar Grand Prix next month.
Having already triumphed in 12 out of 15 races this season, including an unprecedented 10 consecutive wins, Verstappen, along with Perez, aims to secure the constructors’ championship for Red Bull in Japan. The Dutch driver emphasized his goal of a strong weekend following the Singapore disappointment and expressed his delight in navigating the sweeping high-speed curves of Suzuka after the tight street circuit.
Meanwhile, Piastri secured the second spot on the grid with a time of 1 minute 29.458 seconds. The Australian rookie displayed promise throughout the weekend, posting the third-fastest time in the final practice session. Piastri expressed contentment with his front-row position, although he hoped for a smaller gap to Verstappen.
Lando Norris, Verstappen’s teammate at McLaren, secured the third-fastest time, trailing Piastri by a mere 0.035 seconds. Norris expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance, highlighting their strength throughout the weekend but acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified in fourth place, followed by Perez and Carlos Sainz. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell claimed the seventh and eighth positions, respectively.
The qualifying sessions saw several drivers eliminated, including Yuki Tsunoda, who secured ninth place in his home Grand Prix, and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. Logan Sargeant’s crash in the first qualifying session resulted in a red flag, but he emerged unharmed.