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Verstappen and Perez lock-out Suzuka front row


Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 18 degrees C, while the track temperature is 28 degrees.

Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 earlier, ahead of Russell, Hamilton, Alonso, Norris, Sainz and Piastri.

In as much as the loss of pace of the Ferraris is a surprise, the form of the Mercedes pair is equally baffling, whilst it is thought that McLaren has yet to show its hand.

As we know from experience, traffic is always an issue, while the cooler temperatures and lack of running - and therefore data - from yesterday, only adds to the conundrum.

Like Red Bull, Aston Martin and Alpine have a number of upgrades, with Alonso only getting his hands on his this morning.

The lights go green and Magnussen leads the way, as the Dane begins his flying lap he has the track to himself.

The Dane, who was unhappy with his car earlier and consequently made some changes to its set-up, crosses the line at 31.203, at which point Sargeant heads out, followed by his Williams teammate, another driver who was unhappy earlier.

Next out are Perez and Verstappen, followed by the Ferraris and Mercedes.

"Very dangerous from Russell," complains Piastri as the Mercedes driver barges past him in the pitlane.

The incident will be investigated after the session.

Sargeant goes quickest with a 3.643, but Albon responds with a 30.369 and Perez a 29.303.

However, Verstappen has a 28.866 up his sleeve.

Sainz goes third, 0.647s off the pace, while Hamilton goes fourth, ahead of his teammate and Leclerc.

No sooner has Piastri gone third with a 29.425 than a 29.254 sees Alonso go second, thereby splitting the Red Bulls.

Ricciardo goes tenth, but is demoted when Tsunoda goes eighth, which puts him ahead of Leclerc and Stroll.

Norris goes sixth (29.536) and Bottas 12th (30.084).

Leclerc is told that he's losing out in the opening and final sectors.

Gasly, Hulkenberg, Sargeant, Magnussen and Zhou comprise the drop zone, with Albon, Ocon, Ricciardo and Bottas hovering.

With the softs only good for one flying lap, there is talk that some drivers might try three sets, though the clock is ticking so they'd better get a move on.

Albon heads out, followed by his teammate, with Gasly, Leclerc and Magnussen subsequently joining them.

"Tyres are gone," reports Albon as he pits having improved to 11th.

Leclerc goes quickest in S2, crossing the line at 29.338 to go fourth.

Sargeant pits having failed to improve as Gasly goes 15th and Magnussen fails to improve.

Hulkenberg goes eleventh, Stroll 13th and Ocon tenth.

Ricciardo goes ninth and Tsunoda tenth, while Bottas posts a 29.602 to go eighth.

Zhou fails to improve while Stroll can only manage 16th.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Alonso, Perez, Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz, Norris, Bottas, Hamilton and Ricciardo.

We lose Stroll, Gasly, Magnussen, Sargeant and Zhou.

Albon is to be investigated for failing to meet the maximum delta time.

No surprises from the Bull, however we didn't expect to see Alonso splitting them, far less the Mercedes pair down in 9th and 12th.

"Everyone was a bit surprised it was evolving as much in Q1," Mercedes Comms director, Bradley Lord tells Sky Sports. "It's all about getting the tyres in the right window, so they aren't sliding about. I don't think either driver got the most out of their run in Q1. No alarm bells ringing."

Perez is first out for Q2, followed by his Red Bull teammate. They are subsequently joined by Hulkenberg and Piastri.

Perez has the edge in S1, and again in S2. At the line the Mexican posts a 28.752, but, quickest in the final sector, Verstappen responds with a 28.740.

All bar Albon are on track as Piastri and Norris trade fastest sectors.

Hulkenberg goes third with a 30.658, but is demoted when Piastri posts a 29.148 to go third.

Alonso goes third (29.082) but he is leapfrogged by Norris (28.940), as Hamilton goes sixth and Russell seventh.

Leclerc goes sixth but he is demoted when his teammate crosses the line at 29.099 to go fifth.

Hulkenberg has his time deleted for exceeding the track limits at Turn 13.

Tsunoda goes 11th and Ricciardo 13th.

Incidentally, the leaders were all on fresh rubber, while the Mercedes pair, and all those behind them, were on used softs.

With 3:40 remaining the Mercedes pair are first out for the final assault, both on fresh softs, while Albon and Hulkenberg have yet to post times.

Currently seventh, Leclerc appears to think he's safe. A big gamble from Ferrari.

Hamilton is the quicker of the Silver Arrows in S1, maintaining the pace in the second sector.

At the line Hamilton posts a 28.887 to go third while Hamilton goes seventh (29.140), dropping Leclerc to ninth.

Ricciardo goes tenth, Hulkenberg 11th and Albon 13th.

At the death, Tsunoda goes tenth, thereby demoting his teammate into the drop zone.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Perez, Hamilton, Norris, Alonso, Sainz, Russell, Piastri, Leclerc and Tsunoda.

We lose Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Albon and Ocon.

"We've manged to save two fresh sets of tyres for Q3 which is the first time we've managed that this season, so it looks like we are a bit more competitive here," admits Bradley Lord.

Hamilton is first out for Q3, followed by Russell, Verstappen, Perez, Alonso and Sainz.

Soon all bar Leclerc are on track, all sporting fresh rubber except for Tsunoda.

Hamilton posts a 28.766 while Russell responds with a 29.008. However, Verstappen goes quickest with a 28.240, and his teammate second with a 28.605.

Sainz goes third (28.682) but is demoted by Norris (28.489), while Piastri goes fifth and Alonso seventh.

With 6:35 remaining, Leclerc finally heads out, the Ferrari driver looking to make the most of a clear track. On the other hand, he only has that one run.

"I don't know what I can do to make it go faster," says Alonso. "I thought it was a good lap."

As Perez leads Verstappen out for the final assault, Leclerc crosses the line at 28.786 to go seventh, despite being quickest in S2.

"That's the best that I can do, honestly," says Leclerc. "I don't get it."

Verstappen goes quickest in S1, while Perez has the edge in S2. Perez crosses the line at 28.263 but Verstappen consolidates his top spot with a 28.197.

Sainz remains fourth, while Alonso improves to fifth and Tsunoda remains tenth.

A poor S2 means Russell fails to improve, the Mercedes driver set to start from ninth.

Verstappen will start from pole for the fourth time this season, ahead of Perez, Norris, Sainz, Alonso, Piastri, Hamilton, Leclerc, Russell and Tsunoda.

Ricciardo will start eleventh, ahead of Hulkenberg, Bottas, Albon, Ocon, Stroll, Gasly, Magnussen, Sargeant and Zhou.

"We had a good car today," says Norris, "we could fight.

"We did some good laps in Q3 so a good one for us," he adds.

"We are trying to catch up to the Red Bulls but they are doing a good job so hats off to them."

"It was close today with Max, it was a good lap," says Perez.

"It was tricky out there, we've been close all weekend and in those little margins anything can make a difference," he adds. "I think we are in a good position for tomorrow."

"It was close in the end," says Verstappen. "To be on pole you want every lap to be perfect but at a track like this is isn't always the case.

"Great for the team to be P1 and P2, great fan support here!"

No surprises in terms of the Bulls - other than how clearly 'up for it' Perez appears to be, and while Mercedes ultimately disappointed, the McLarens were strong while Ferrari and Aston Martin had at least one driver in the mix.

Of course, with Verstappen starting from pole tomorrow, and Perez there to give his support, Norris and Co will have their work cut out.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Suzuka here.


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