Max will start the Japanese Grand Prix from the front of row two behind Mercedes Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas as a Ferrari tyre miscalculation saw Sebastian Vettel in ninth place. Daniel, meanwhile, hit trouble at Suzuka, a power loss early in Q2 leading to elimination at the end of the session.
In Q1, Ferrari’s Vettel established an early benchmark with a lap of 1:29.049, more than half a second clear of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen. Hamilton soon bypassed Vettel to take P1, however, with a quick lap of 1:28.702 that left him 0.347 ahead of the Ferrari man.
Max slotted into fourth place with his opening lap of 1:29.480, while Daniel took sixth place behind Mercedes Valtteri Bottas with a time of 1:29.806.
Vettel then had a spin at the hairpin, but there was worse to come for Marcus Ericsson who lost control of his Sauber in Turn 7. The Swede bounced across the gravel and hit the barriers with the right side of his car. The red flags were immediately shown.
The session resumed after a five-minute stoppage with Haas’ Romain Grosjean making good progress to displace Ricciardo and take P6 with a lap of 1:29.724.
In the final runs of Q1, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly made the biggest jump, climbing from P15 to P10 at the end of the session. It was a necessary improvement, as Williams’ Lance Stroll put in a good final flyer to jump to P15 with a time well clear of Gasly’s lap from earlier in the session.
Stroll’s escape from the drop zone meant that Nico Hulkenberg, who had crashed heavily late in FP3, was eliminated in P16 ahead of Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and the unfortunate Ericsson.
In Q2 it was Bottas who set the pace. Räikkönen was first across the line with a time of 1:28.595. Hamilton soon bypassed that with a time of 1:28.017 but he was also quickly beaten by his own team-mate, who went two hundredths of a second faster.
Max was equally comfortable in Q2, slotting into P5 with his sole run early in the session, with a time of 1:28.849. There was trouble for Daniel though. The Australian began his opening run but experienced a power loss and returned to the pits.
It looked like the team had managed to solve the issue with a few minutes remaining, but though the covers were on the car, light rain had begun to fall and as track conditions worsened and Charles Leclerc spun on track, Daniel’s chances of progress to the final phase of qualifying were extinguished. He was ruled out in P15 with no time on the board in Q2.
Also ruled out at the end of Q2 were 11th placed Leclerc, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Stroll.
In Q3 it was Ferrari’s turn to encounter problems. Rain was in the offing as the final session began, but it held off too long and the Italian squad miscalculated, sending Räikkönen and Vettel out on intermediate tyres. Both were forced to lap and pit for slick tyres, putting them out of sequence to the other front runners.
Hamilton immediately staked a claim to pole position with a time of 1:27.760, more than two tenths ahead of Bottas. Max, meanwhile, had been on the radio saying that rain would soon arrive and that he would push a bit more on his opener. The result was a good lap of 1:29.057 that put him third on the timesheet.
Räikkönen managed to sneak in a lap to take fourth place, but Vettel made a mistake at the Spoon curve and lost the lap. He was forced to wind up again and by the time he was ready for a last-ditch flyer rain was falling and his chance was gone. He ended the session in P9 between the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.
With the rain intensifying, the session was effectively over and Hamilton duly took his 80th career pole position ahead of Bottas, Verstappen and Räikkönen. Grosjean was fifth for Haas, while Brendon Hartley scored his best ever qualifying result with sixth place, just ahead of Toro Rosso team-mate Gasly.
Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying - Top 10:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Valtteri Bottas
- MAX VERSTAPPEN
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Romain Grosjean
- Brendon Hartley
- Pierre Gasly
- Esteban Ocon
- Sebastian Vettel
- Sergio Perez