Max Verstappen Japanese Grand Prix

Max Verstappen took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as he looks to take a giant stride towards a third-straight world title. Photo: AFP

Japanese Grand Prix: Starting grid after ALL driver penalties

Max Verstappen took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as he looks to take a giant stride towards a third-straight world title.

Max Verstappen Japanese Grand Prix

Max Verstappen took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as he looks to take a giant stride towards a third-straight world title. Photo: AFP

A “fired up” Max Verstappen took pole position on Saturday for the Japanese Grand Prix, as he looks to take a giant stride towards a third-straight world title this weekend.

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The Red Bull driver bounced back from a fifth-place finish at last week’s Singapore Grand Prix to top the timesheets ahead of McLaren pair Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

Verstappen said “Singapore didn’t happen” after he roared round the Suzuka circuit in a fastest time of 1:28.877, a full 0.581 quicker than Piastri.

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The runaway championship leader warned there was more to come in Sunday’s race, saying he was “very fired up to have a good weekend here”.

“As soon as we put the car on the track it’s been very enjoyable to drive, very predictable, which I think is the most important,” said Verstappen.

“Lap after lap in qualifying was getting better.”

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Verstappen, who leads teammate and nearest rival Sergio Perez by 151 points in the championship standings, cannot clinch the title on Sunday but a favourable result can set him up to seal the deal at the Qatar Grand Prix next month.

He has won 12 of 15 races so far this season, including a record streak of 10 in a row that ended in Singapore.

He and Perez can help Red Bull clinch the constructors’ championship in Japan.

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“That was the aim, especially coming from Singapore, I wanted to have a really strong weekend,” said Verstappen, who finished fastest in all three Suzuka practices.

“Of course, we know that this is the first proper opportunity to win it.”

Verstappen said he was enjoying cutting loose on the sweeping high-speed curves of Suzuka after the tight street circuit of Singapore.

“These high-speed corners are really well-balanced and you can push it to the limit,” he said.

“It’s just really enjoyable to do.”

The race on Sunday is due to start at 07:00 (SA time).

Starting grid for Sunday’s Japan Grand Prix:

Front row

Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull)

Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren)

2nd row

Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren)

Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)

3rd row

Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull)

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari)

4th row

Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)

George Russell (GBR/Mercedes)

5th row

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri)

Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin)

6th row

Liam Lawson (NZL/AlphaTauri)

Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine)

7th row

Alexander Albon (THA/Williams)

Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine)

8th row

Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas)

Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo)

9th row

Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin)

Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Haas)

10th row

Guanyu Zhou (CHN/Alfa Romeo)

Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams)