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8th October 2022, 8:218th October 2022, 8:47 | Written by Will Wood
Max Verstappen narrowly beat the Ferrari drivers to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
But the Red Bull driver, who can win the world championship tomorrow, has been summoned by the stewards following an incident with Lando Norris. The McLaren driver ran onto the grass to prevent himself hitting the eventual pole-winner as the pair prepared to start their first flying laps in Q3.
In a tight qualifying session, Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc to pole by just one-hundredth of a second, with Carlos Sainz Jnr taking third.
It was a quiet start to the first phase of qualifying, with only a handful of cars taking to the circuit when the session began at the top of the hour. Appropriately enough, the first driver to set a lap time was the Japanese driver, Yuki Tsunoda. He posted a 1’31.631 to beat team mate Pierre Gasly by four tenths and earn a polite round of applause from the fans in the grandstands.
Lando Norris navigated through traffic in the middle sector to move ahead of the AlphaTauris at the top of the times by two tenths. Then the two Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell completed their first flying laps on the medium compound tyres – the only drivers eschewing softs for their run.
Max Verstappen opted for the softs and instantly went quickest with a 1’30.224, almost four tenths quicker than team mate Sergio Perez. Then the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc posted their first times of qualifying, with the pair splitting the two Red Bulls with Sainz second and Leclerc in third.
After their first laps on the medium tyres, both Hamilton and Russell were both in need of improvements to their times in order to avoid being in danger of elimination. With under five minutes to go, the pair headed out on soft tyres with the track virtually to themselves and promptly improved to both move inside the top ten.
That left Zhou Guanyu, Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel and the two Williams of Nicholas Latifi and Alexander Albon sitting in the drop zone as drivers prepared for their final laps of the session.
Latifi improved, but not by enough to progress into Q2. Vettel and Zhou both put in better laps to move safe, which knocked Magnussen and Lance Stroll into the drop zone and out. Pierre Gasly, who complained about “massive pulling” when he hit the brakes, made a mistake at the hairpin which also sealed his fate in the AlphaTauri. “It’s a joke,” he fumed further around his lap. Albon narrowly missed getting through to Q2 by five-hundredths of a second on his final effort, while Vettel squeaked through.
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The sun began breaking through the clouds hanging over the Suzuka circuit as the second segment of qualifying got underway. Ferrari chose to send both Sainz and Leclerc out on a used set of soft tyres as the session began – Sainz narrowly beating Leclerc by less than five hundredths of a second.
After the Ferraris’ laps were completed, Red Bull were next out on track – also on used softs. Verstappen’s first lap was good enough to see him go quickest of all, a tenth of a second ahead of Sainz at the top of the times.
Mercedes fitted fresh softs to both cars, but despite their new tyres, the pair could only manage sixth place for Hamilton and ninth for Russell, meaning both would have to head out again.
The track fell silent until less than four minutes remaining. Just half a second covered the top ten positions that would all be set to progress through to Q3, with the five drivers at risk of elimination being Lando Norris, Vettel, Zhou, Mick Schumacher and Tsunoda slowest in 15th.
Only Verstappen and the two Ferraris chose not to run again in the final minutes. Vettel, qualifying at his favourite circuit for the final time, produced a superb lap which bumped Valtteri Bottas into 11th. The Alfa Romeo driver could not find the seven-thousands of a second he needed to reach Q3 and was out.
Zhou improved on his final effort, but not by enough to do any better than 14th, while Tsunoda split the two Alfa Romeos but was also eliminated in 13th. Russell was the last car able to improve and jumped from 11th to seventh, which knocked Ricciardo out of qualifying by just three-thousandths of a second behind Vettel.
Mick Schumacher was the final driver cut from the second segment in 15th, almost half a second adrift of Zhou ahead of him.
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Having saved a set of soft tyres reaching Q3, Verstappen and the two Ferraris headed out on fresh softs for their first flying laps as the third and final phase of qualifying began.
Verstappen headed out ahead of Norris on track and slowed down on the exit of the 130R to warm up his tyres ahead of starting his flying lap. However, Norris was approaching behind at much faster speed and had to suddenly take avoiding action over the grass on the inside to prevent a collision with the Red Bull. The stewards announced that they would investigate the near-miss after qualifying.
Leclerc was the first of the pole position favourites to complete their first timed lap, breaking under the 1’30s for the first time. He was a tenth-and-a-half faster than team mate Leclerc, with Perez almost three tenths behind the Ferraris.
Verstappen took provisional pole with his first lap, posting a 1’29.304 to go a quarter of a second faster than Leclerc’s previous best time. On his way back into the pit lane, Verstappen passed Norris and offered a gesture of apology to the McLaren driver for their earlier near-miss.
Leclerc was again the first driver over the line to start his final lap, but while he improved by over two tenths, he was still just one-hundredth of a second away from Verstappen’s provisional pole time. Sainz also improved on his last effort, but he also failed to improve his position, going within a tenth of Verstappen.
With Verstappen already assured of pole, it was a question of whether he could lower his own pole time with his final effort. However, he ran wide on the exit of turn two and lost a small piece of bodywork over the kerbs. Verstappen completed the lap, but did not improve on his first time, however, pole position was still his.
Perez secured fourth behind Verstappen and the two Ferraris, with Esteban Ocon taking fifth on the grid with Lewis Hamilton alongside him. Fernando Alonso will start seventh on the grid, ahead of Russell in the second Mercedes. Vettel was thrilled to conclude his final qualifying at Suzuka with ninth on the grid, while Norris could only manage tenth, the slowest of the drivers in Q3
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- Hamilton doubts Mercedes’s higher downforce setup can overcome nine-tenths deficit
- Verstappen reveals role he played in helping De Vries get AlphaTauri drive
- Sainz “fed up” after narrowly missing pole position again
- Verstappen’s pole confirmed as stewards hand him reprimand for Norris near-miss
- Norris rejects Red Bull claim he broke ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in Q3 near-miss
Browse all 2022 Japanese Grand Prix articles
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8th October 2022, 8:29
Max will get away with no panalty knowing this corrupt fia. He almost took out another driver just wait and see nothing will happen. The fia is a joke they failed last week where Perez 3 time’s made a safety car infringement and only got 5 sec. Horner must be bending forwards for Muhammed
8th October 2022, 8:34
They probably won’t get a penalty – not because it’s Red Bull – but simply because they have never and will never properly clamp down on cars going unnecessarily slowly.
8th October 2022, 8:47
Actually, Crofty (and Button) read the rule live, and things seem pretty straightforward. But I trust that he will keep P1.
8th October 2022, 8:49
They didn’t read any rules – they described an unwritten, unenforceable and often neglected ‘gentlemen’s agreement.’
8th October 2022, 10:22
I see what you did there with the letters.
8th October 2022, 12:15
The Mercedes propaganda is certainly not wasted on some.
8th October 2022, 8:47
What would you even penalize? Norris was on an outlap too, saw Max disappear around a corner and lost sight of him (so we can easily understand Max also lost sight of Norris), then sped up a lot for bake warming, while Max was weaving for tire warming.
It was unfortunate. It was clearly a misunderstanding. Anyone that calls for a penalty here isn’t calling for one out of fairness or as a cal, for safety, and they know it,
8th October 2022, 8:49
@sjaakfoo I think the issue will be with Max slowing down the way he did, and while by itself it isn’t illegal, it was probably a mitigating factor in his mistake.
8th October 2022, 8:51
Eh, as I said, Norris sped up massively, and it was a blind corner for Max and Norris at that. I assume both drivers will acknowledge it’s a miscommunication.
8th October 2022, 8:53
It seem to be illegal. The rule Crofty read said it’s forbidden to drive unncessesarily slow and reckless. VER did both. He has mirrors too, and a team (to warn him) too.
8th October 2022, 9:02
@mg1982 Both were on outlaps, this wasn’t a case of one faster driver and a blue flag.
Expecting teams and drivers to expect a late lunge on an outlap in a (blind) corner at that speed doesn’t seem to me to be the application of that particular rule.
8th October 2022, 9:06
Expecting teams and drivers to expect a late lunge on an outlap in a (blind) corner at that speed…
That’s the exact reason that rule exists.
8th October 2022, 9:17
Your reasonable logical argument is falling on deaf ears here. As per usual S has his blinkers on and doesn’t understand the rules very well. There should be no penalty for that incident.
8th October 2022, 9:28
As per usual S has his blinkers on and doesn’t understand the rules very well. There should be no penalty for that incident.
On the contrary – I do understand the rules very well, and that’s exactly why I’m saying there should be a penalty. This incident (luckily without the potential consequences) is exactly why there is a rule telling drivers not to go so slow.
‘Deaf ears’ are ignoring the rule and the logic behind it simply because F1 has consistently chosen not to apply it in the past.
8th October 2022, 9:46
@sjaakfoo the regulation that has been cited in the summons for Verstappen is article 33.4 of the sporting regulations. That regulation states “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.”.
Your argument that “they were on outlaps” is therefore completely irrelevant, because the regulation states that it applies at all times that a driver is on the circuit. Whether the stewards believe that the other criteria apply is another matter, but the fact that they were on outlaps doesn’t mean that the rule no longer applies.
8th October 2022, 8:53
Anyone that calls for a penalty here isn’t calling for one out of fairness or as a cal, for safety, and they know it,
Those are exactly two of the three reasons I would call for a penalty – with the third being that it’s written in the sporting regs that competitors must never drive unnecessarily slowly. Applying the rules as written is desirable in F1, isn’t it?
Only sometimes, it seems.
8th October 2022, 8:58
Did no one listen to Max’s on board? He accelerated and the back end stepped.
8th October 2022, 9:04
If Abu Dhabi wants a Ferrari – Red Bull showdown for the championship then the FIA will need to be very creative with the rules to achieve that now
8th October 2022, 9:08
A dsq for 3-4 races ala schumacher 1994 seems the only way!
8th October 2022, 9:12
😀 And how pleased some “fans” would be.
8th October 2022, 9:20
It’s a slam dunk penalty.
Anyone who says otherwise is probably from the Orange army .
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
8th October 2022, 10:45
Hamilton didn’t get a penalty for this:
And both Sirotkin and Raikkonen were on hot laps. Norris was not and verstappen won’t have been told. Hamilton’s moves was a careless attempt to move out of the way which made things worse. Verstappen wasn’t aware Norris was there, and Norris had no need to be going that fast. The only error verstappen made was than him trying to warm his tyres up made him make a mistake. A reprimand was appropriate, but hamilton should have had a grid penalty for what he did.
8th October 2022, 11:27
Psychologists call this “projection”
8th October 2022, 9:30
The usual top, but Mercs, especially Russell, qualified surprisingly lowly.
8th October 2022, 12:16
@jerejj, gambling on a wet race perhaps?
8th October 2022, 10:24
Do people want to give penalties to Max just because he is winning or just because it was a penalty worthy mistake. I bet on the first one
8th October 2022, 10:30
You don’t think that driving so slowly on a green race track is at least a little bit irresponsible?
Never mind actually against the rules…?
8th October 2022, 10:29
Question. Will RBR be able to replace the bit that Max broke off?
As I see it, he should have to start the race with his car in the condition he finished qualifying, but teams seem to be allowed to fix things now.
Love to know what the answer actually is.
8th October 2022, 11:45
If this isn’t a penalty then we will see people like Alonso make full use of it to 1. hold people back, 2. destroy others laptimes by forcing them of the track. It’s a very clear definition of driving unnecessarily slow (article 27.4) and dangerously, plus forcing another driver of the track, which should result in a tripple penalty depending on his overall data for the timed outlap. They made that exact rule due to Mercedes powered cars driving extremely slow on their outlaps which held everyone back. So one for driving dangerously, one for forcing another driver of the track and one for article 27.4. And yet we all know he won’t get more than one at best.
God I hate people who hide behind the arguement that others want to enforce a penalty because it is Verstappen. No this applies to every single driver on the grid.
8th October 2022, 12:02
All the arguments from Abu Dhabi last year calling for the rules to be applied properly, and today we see calls for the rules to be ignored because nobody got hurt and this happens regularly without incident.
I mean, who would think that a car could be at racing speed on a green race track during qualifying? How unlikely…
F1 fans can be quite inconsistent at times.
8th October 2022, 12:06
Once upon a time there were nearly twice the amount of cars on track in qualifying and practice and there were no such penalties, never any incidents and everyone behaved.
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