Max Verstappen will attempt to win a second consecutive Formula One world title as Daniel Ricciardo aims for another strong result at the Japanese Grand Prix with his future in the sport in doubt.
Dutchman Verstappen took the lead in the time tables in the qualification with a time of 1 minute 29.304 seconds, just 0.010 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, his nearest championship rival. Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari was third.
Verstappen then faced a nervous wait after stewards said they would investigate a terrible incident on the track involving the Dutchman and McLaren’s Land Norris. Verstappen was reprimanded but will remain on pole.
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Verstappen won the pole in Japan | 00:55
He can clinch the title on Sunday (race start 4pm AEDT) if he wins the race with the fastest lap, regardless of what his rivals do.
He will also retain his crown if he wins and Leclerc finishes third or lower.
“I don’t think about it too much, I just take it day by day,” said the 25-year-old, who is bidding to become only the eighth driver in F1 history to successfully defend his first championship title.
Verstappen, who has won 11 of 17 races this season.
“I think the more important thing was that we had a competitive car, and clearly we had today in qualifying.
“I hope it will be the same tomorrow in the race because we need a perfect race to win it tomorrow.”
Ricciardo, meanwhile, was disappointed after narrowly missing out on a top-10 finish.
australian who has confirmed he will not be racing in Formula 1 next yearwas fast in the early stages of the second session but was beaten in the dying moments and pushed out of the final leg by Sebastian Vettel.
Ricciardo is looking to build on his encouraging fifth place finish at last week’s Singapore Grand Prix.
“We will have a good race tomorrow. We have a good racing pace,” his team said on the radio.
“Hell, I don’t know where it went,” Ricardo said.
Much attention will also be focused on the performance of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who announced earlier in the day that he will replace two-time world champion Alonso at Alpine next season – a position Ricciardo is said to be in the mix for .
The Frenchman failed to make it through Q1 after a brake problem left him furious.
“I feel we could have handled the situation better,” Gasly told TV reporters.
Grid for the Japanese Grand Prix, the 18th round of the 22-race Formula 1 World Championship, after qualifying:
Front row Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)
2nd row Carlos Sainz (Spain/Ferrari) Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull)
3rd row Esteban Ocan (FRA/Alpine) Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)
Row 4 Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine) George Russell (GBR/Mercedes)
5th row Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin) Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren)
Row 6 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia/McLaren) Valtteri Bottas (Finland/Alfa Romeo)
7th Row Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri) Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo)
8th row Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas) Alexander Albon (THA/Williams)
9th row Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri) Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas)
Row 10 Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin) Nicolas Latifi (CAN/Williams)afp
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