Max Verstappen put any speculation about Red Bull after the Singapore GP to bed in dominant fashion as he secured an imperious pole position for the Japanese GP.
The Dutchman’s record breaking win streak came to an abrupt end last time out as the team struggled around the Marina Bay street circuit, but normal service was resumed as he took pole at Suzuka with a time of 1:28.877.
The McLaren drivers were the only team who looked even close to challenging Verstappen throughout the practice sessions, and that played out in qualifying as Oscar Piastri secured a front row start half a second back, ahead of teammate Lando Norris in third.
Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari, with Sergio Perez back in fifth for Red Bull, ahead of Singapore race winner Carlos Sainz.
Lewis Hamilton outqualified teammate George Russell for Mercedes, with the pair back in seventh and eighth, with home hero Yuki Tsunoda an impressive ninth for AlphaTauri, and Fernando Alonso rounding out the top 10 for Aston Martin.
Questions marks were raised about whether Red Bull could continue their dominance this season after their struggles in Singapore, with some pointing to a technical directive around the use of flexi wings which were speculated to have had an impact on the RB19.
But with Verstappen over seven tenths ahead of teammate Perez at Suzuka, there are few doubts that the team will secure the Constructors’ Championship this weekend, while the Dutchman will have to wait until the Qatar GP at the earliest to secure a hattrick of Drivers’ Championships.
Sargeant crashes again
Elsewhere on the grid it was another disappointing outing for Logan Sargeant, as the Williams driver brought out the red flags in Q1 after he crashed at the final corner, with the American unable to control a snap of oversteer and heading into the barriers.
While team principal James Vowles said that Sargeant was close to matching the delta of Alex Albon on the lap, a second heavy accident in two races will put further pressure on his future with Williams as they weigh up their options for next year.
Similarly Lance Stroll had another disappointing outing for Aston Martin, with the Canadian out in Q1 in 15th for the third consecutive race, while both Alfa Romeos failed to get into Q2 again, as Zhou Guanyu had his final time deleted for exceeding track limits.
Where can I watch the 2023 Japanese GP?
For viewers in the UK, every session of the 2023 Japanese GP will be shown live on Sky Sports F1, with highlights on Channel 4.
Meanwhile, if you are in the USA, every session will be shown across ESPN.
F1 fans in Australia will be able to catch all the action on Fox Sports, while those in Canada can watch on TSN.