Max Verstappen secures superb pole position at Japanese GP

Red Bull driver dominates in Suzuka to start ahead of McLaren duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris on grid

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrates after securing pole position at the Japanese GP at the Suzuka Circuit, on September 23, 2023. AP
Powered by automated translation

Double world champion Max Verstappen produced a superb performance to secure pole position in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was back in dominant form after the fifth place in Singapore last time out, finishing 0.581 seconds clear of Oscar Piastri in second, with his McLaren teammate Lando Norris third.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fourth, ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez, who was 0.773 secs slower than teammate Verstappen.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was sixth, ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

It was Verstappen’s ninth pole of the season but first since the Dutch GP a month ago.

“Incredible weekend so far and especially in qualifying when you can really push it to the limit, the car felt really nice,” Verstappen said.

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

“You never know how good it is going to be but from lap one it has felt really nice and to be on pole is fantastic.”

The Dutchman saw his record streak of 10 consecutive wins end at Marina Bay – where Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz was victorious – but looks to be back in winning form at the Suzuka circuit where he clinched his second consecutive drivers' championship last year.

Australian rookie Piastri will start from the front row for the first time in his F1 career.

“It will be cool, there is only one car ahead to overtake so I will try to make it happen,” said the 22-year-old Piastri, who just signed a contract extension with McLaren until the end of the 2026.

Norris completed an impressive day for McLaren. “A great job by Oscar and Max today, but a good day for us in P2 and P3,” Norris said.

“It is tricky to put everything together around the lap and the smallest mistake can cost a lot of lap time. It is still a good day and I am happy.”

A front-row start is key at Suzuka. The winner has only come from behind the front row once in the past 12 races when Valtteri Bottas took the chequered from third in 2019.

Updated: September 23, 2023, 11:02 AM