F1 title in sight as Verstappen claims Suzuka pole, pending investigation

By Sports Desk October 08, 2022

Max Verstappen was delighted as he boosted his chances of sealing the Formula One World Championship this weekend after taking pole at the Japanese Grand Prix, although he will await the result of a stewards' investigation. 

The Red Bull driver claimed his fifth pole of the season after edging out Charles Leclerc by just 0.010 seconds, while the latter's Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz completed the top three.

Stewards will be investigating an incident involving Verstappen and Lando Norris during the early stages of Q3, with the McLaren driver forced onto the grass to avoid contact on the slow lap after the reigning world champion darted left under acceleration at the exit of 130R.

The Dutchman's time of 1:29.304s eventually proved enough as he increased his chances of wrapping up a second successive title this weekend in Suzuka, where F1 returns for the first time since 2019.

Leclerc and Sainz fell narrowly short in their quests to surpass Verstappen, who revealed his excitement at being back in Japan.

"It was pretty incredible to drive here again, especially in qualifying when you are on low fuel – these cars really come alive through the first sector," Verstappen said.

"Of course, [I'm] very happy to be on pole, but also in general just super happy to be back here.

"It will be interesting first of all to see [what happens with] the weather [on race day]. Some say it will be dry, some say it will be raining at some point during the race. I'm quite confident we have a good car, so [I'm] excited for tomorrow."

Leclerc added: "It's a very tricky lap round here. If you are fast in the first sector, you miss out in the final sector. It's so close with everyone, so we'll try to have a good race from there."

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:29.304
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.010s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.057s
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.405s
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +0.861s
6. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.957s
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.018s
8. George Russell (Mercedes) +1.085s
9. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.250s
10. Lando Norris (McLaren Mercedes) +1.699s

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    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

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    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

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    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

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