Triple world champion Max Verstappen said his performance “wasn’t ideal” but still good enough to grab pole position for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez. Verstappen, who failed to finish the race in Australia a fortnight ago, clocked a fastest lap of 1min 28.197sec in qualifying at Suzuka — just 0.066sec ahead of the Mexican for a Red Bull one-two. It was the fourth time the Dutchman has claimed pole in as many races this season.

Verstappen said he was “not very happy with myself” after almost letting Perez snatch top spot in the dying moments.

“It wasn’t ideal but it was still good enough,” said the Dutchman.

“Of course I always want it to be perfect but that’s not possible. Luckily it was still good enough today.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris was third, 0.292sec behind Verstappen.

Perez was in third place heading towards the end of a gripping qualifying session in dry conditions but he almost jumped into top spot with an inspired final effort.

The Mexican said it was “quite difficult to get the perfect lap nailed”.

“It was close today but I think the whole weekend has been good,” said Perez, who finished runner-up behind Verstappen in the first two grands prix of the season.

“We made some good progress and we managed to keep some consistency through qualifying.

“Let’s see what we are able to do tomorrow,” he added.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who won in Melbourne, was fourth.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was fifth ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished eighth ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda.


Verstappen won the first two grands prix of the season but retired in Melbourne with a brake issue, marking the first time he had failed to finish a race in two years.

He has looked back to his formidable best so far at Suzuka, topping the time sheets in the first and third practice sessions while sitting out the second because of bad weather.

But he said after qualifying that he was not happy with his pace over long distances so far in Japan.

The Dutchman said it was “a question mark” heading into the race and wondered aloud if Ferarri might be able to take advantage.

“Maybe they were not so quick over one lap today but they are definitely fast in the long run,” said Verstappen.

“So we’ll have to wait and see how that will evolve in the race.”

Norris emerged from a crowded qualifying pack to claim third behind the two Red Bulls.

The British driver went toe to toe with Verstappen at the first corner in last year’s race before ultimately finishing as runner-up.

He admitted there was “a lot to do” to close the gap but vowed to keep pushing.

“It’s tricky, they’re quick,” said Norris.

“They complained about their race pace but I don’t think they’ve had a bad race in the last four, five years.”

Mercedes failed to build on their promising practice sessions and the team were fined after an early incident where Russell was released into Piastri’s path in the pit lane.

Tsunoda made it to Q3 with a last-gasp charge, edging out RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as well as Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was eliminated in Q1 for the fourth time this season.

Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu also fell at the first hurdle.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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