Japanese Grand Prix – Max Verstappen took pole for F1’s return to Japan beating Charles Leclerc to the position despite a messy final run.
Unlike FP3 earlier there was no mad rush out of the pitlane as the qualifying session went green. Nicholas Latifi and the AlphaTauri’s were the first out and had the track to themselves for the first few minutes before Pierre Gasly opened the times with a 1:32.049.
Qualifying Results – 2022 Japanese Grand Prix
With ten minutes still to run in Q1 it was Max Verstappen at the top of the times with a 1:30.224 and the Ferrari then slotted in between the reigning champion and his teammate Sergio Perez.
The top five, including Fernando Alonso who had pipped Perez, all remained in the pits at the end of the session, confident of their earlier times, while with a couple of minutes to go Zhou Guanyu, Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel, Nicholas Latifi and Alex Albon were in the danger zone while the AlphaTauri drivers – home hero Yuki Tsunoda and newly announced Alpine racer Pierre Gasly, were struggling with brake issues and not shy of expressing their feeling about it on the radio.
While Vettel and Zhou were able to pull themselves out of the bottom five, the others were not so lucky and will be joined by Gasly and Lance Stroll in watching the rest of the session from the garages.
The Ferraris were the first to take to the track in the second part of qualifying, Carlos Sainz in front on track and setting a 1:30.444, a time which only Verstappen was able to beat when the rest of the drivers emerged and set their opening times.
Daniel Ricciardo found his pace in the session setting a 1:30.659 to go P5 while his teammate Lando Norris was three tenth further back and sitting in the elimination zone with only a handful of minutes left to go. The McLaren driver had Vettel, Zhou, Mick Schumacher and Tsunoda all in the got-to-get-a-move-on group with him.
Verstappen and the Ferraris once again stuck it out in the pits and it was not as comfortable a wait as Q1 was with the times improving all around and Verstappen and the Ferraris all being pushed back and Charles Leclerc ending the session in P9.
It ended with Perez in P1 with the first sub-90 second lap of the weekend, a 1:29.925 with Alonso four tenths behind him in P2. After looking so strong in the earlier minutes of the session, Ricciardo won’t be continuing in qualifying, after missing out on Q3 by 0.003 seconds. The Australian had Valtteri Bottas, Tsunoda, Zhou and Schumacher behind him.
The Red Bulls headed out first for the pole shootout while Vettel remained in the pits for a few more minutes. It was Ocon who set the opening time, a 1:31.106, but once the others crossed the line it was once again Verstappen ahead of the Ferraris with a 1:29.304 but this time it was Leclerc in P2 rather than Sainz.
There was a very close moment between Verstappen and Norris, the Red Bull driver almost taking out the McLaren as Norris went to overtake and had to take to the grass as the reigning champion got his car well out of shape as he tried to warm the tyres on his outlap. The stewards will be looking at the incident after the session.
Vettel set his only time of the session, a 1:30.554, in the lull between the other cars’ fast runs and took the time to thank his team and enjoy his final qualifying on the Japanese circuit.
In the end it was a messy final lap for Verstappen, who even lost a bit of bodywork when he got out of shape on a kerb, but he didn’t need to improve as Leclerc could only manage to get to within 0.010 of the Red Bull driver’s time.
Sainz took P3, to see a very close top three with all within 0.057 seconds of each other. Perez took P4, four tenths off his teammate’s time while Ocon was the better of the Alpines in P5. Hamilton will start P6 for Mercedes while Alonso and Russell will share the fourth row. The top ten was rounded out by Vettel and Norris.