Verstappen claims ominous Japanese GP pole position despite late Perez charge

Max Verstappen was pushed hard by Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez on the way to 2024 Japanese GP pole position

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Max Verstappen took pole position for the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix despite a strong push from Sergio Perez, as the pair put Red Bull in a different league in Suzuka ahead of Lando Norris.

Perez made a late improvement to get within a tenth of his teammate couldn’t quite dislodge his teammate and claim his first pole since the 2023 Miami GP.

He was still almost a quarter of a second quicker than the next non-Red Bull though as Adrian Newey‘s latest upgrades already look like they’ve pushed the RB20 another step ahead of the field.

Norris, Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso completed the top five and were all well ahead of their teammates in what was one of the more underwhelming qualifying sessions in recent memory.

The two Spaniards were still almost half a second behind Verstappen, and Norris was the only driver who ever looked like he might be able to challenge Red Bull. Oscar Piastri was sixth in the other McLaren and his Q1 complaints for George Russell‘s alleged Q1 queue-jumping earned the ninth-placed qualifier a post-session trip to the stewards.

Lewis Hamilton edged out Charles Leclerc with the Ferrari hamstrung by a dearth of fresh tyres in Q3 – though Hamilton at least passed through the earlier qualifying rounds with more ease than he’s previously managed this season. Yuki Tsunoda was tenth.

“How is it half a second man?”

Lewis Hamilton’s team radio after trailing Verstappen on the first run in Q3.

Tsunoda saved his best for last in Q2 though, advancing to the next session while knocking out his teammate Daniel Ricciardo while Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Alex Albon, and Esteban Ocon also missed the cut.

But Lance Stroll was the biggest-name elimination of the day, he qualified 16th and was joined by Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu in the bottom five.

Stroll struggles in tale of two Astons

Lance Stroll in 2024 Japanese GP practice | Aston Martin F1 Team
Lance Stroll in 2024 Japanese GP practice | Aston Martin F1 Team

Stroll looked visibly dejected after his Q1 elimination, as his final lap was a crushing eight-tenths behind Alonso. The Canadian had a storming weekend in Melbourne, qualifying ahead of his teammate and only falling behind in the race due to luck before Alonso‘s late penalty pushed Stroll back ahead in the finishing order.

But despite carrying Aston Martin upgrades this time around, a superb lap from Hulkenberg at the death pushed him into the drop zone and there’ll be more soul-searching given the way Alonso was able to gel with the new parts more quickly.

Alonso‘s first run of Q3 looked uncompetitive but the double-champion produced a major improvement with his final attempt to prove he’s back on form after the Autstralian blip.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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