Max and Alex powered to identical times in the final runs of Q3 at Suzuka to lock out the third row of the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.
In a qualifying session delayed due to yesterday’s arrival of Typhoon Hagibis, Max posted a time of 1:27.851 on his second run in Q3, a fluffed final sector slowing the Dutchman slightly. Moments later Alex crossed the line in exactly the same time, though for him it was a small mistake in the first sector that cost him. Having crossed the line first, Max therefore claimed P5 ahead of his team-mate.
Further ahead Ferrari locked out the front row, with Sebastian Vettel on pole ahead of Charles Leclerc, while Mercedes will start on row with Valtteri Bottas ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
The first segment of qualifying began in disjointed fashion with two red flags in quick succession. First Williams’ Robert Kubica went onto the grass at turn 18 and slid off into the barriers and then, after an eight-minute halt, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen did almost the same. The Dane got out of shape on the exit of the final chicane and then simply spun out in turn 18 before slapping the barriers with both end of his car. Magnussen managed to keep his Haas going, however, and limped to the pits, though he was not seen for the rest of the session.
When the green lights went on again the segment was straightforward for both Max and Alex. The Dutchman eased through to Q2 in third place with a time of 1:28.754, just under four tenths of a second off pacesetter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and 0.019s behind second-placed Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Alex, meanwhile, booked his Q2 slot with a lap of 1:29.351 that was good enough for P8.
However, eliminated at the end of the session were Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in 16th place, followed by Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, Williams’ George Russell and the unfortunate Magnussen and Kubica.
The second session saw Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the early pace with a lap of 1:28.174, though that was soon beaten by Hamilton who set a time of 1:27.826.
This kept the title leader on top until the end of the session when Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes jumped ahead of his team-mate with an improved lap of 1:27.688. Alex also improved on his second run, gaining almost seven tenths of a second over his first attempt to steal P3 with a lap of 1:28.156.
Ferrari elected to skip the final runs and Q2 ended with Vettel fourth ahead of Leclerc while Max cruised through his final run without improvement to make it into Q3 on his first-run time of 1:28.499. Behind Max, McLaren’s Lando Norris made it into Q3 ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and the Haas of Romain Grosjean.
Eliminated at the end of Q2 were 11th-placed Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, followed by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, the second Alfa of Kimi Räikkönen, the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
As has been the case for the past few races it was Ferrari that rose to the top of the timesheet and at circuit on which he scored four wins with us in the past, it was Sebastian Vettel who landed pole position.
The German set a blistering pace to set an outright track record of 1:27.064, almost two tenths of a second quicker than teammate Charles Leclerc. Behind the Ferrari front row lockout Mercedes seized row two with Bottas ahead of Hamilton.
The Bulls, meanwhile, locked out row three, though aside from the timing of their runs there was nothing to separate Max and Alex. Both drivers posted identical times of 1:27.851, with Max only securing P5 by virtue of setting the time first. It was impressive performance from Alex on his first single-seater weekend at Suzuka.
Behind the Bulls, McLaren took row four with Carlos Sainz ahead of Lando Norris, while Pierre Gasly was ninth for Toro Rosso ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying Top 10:
- Sebastian Vettel
- Charles Leclerc
- Valtteri Bottas
- Lewis Hamilton
- MAX VERSTAPPEN
- ALEX ALBON
- Carlos Sainz
- Lando Norris
- Pierre Gasly
- Romain Grosjean