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Japanese Grand Prix: Max Verstappen Claims Pole in Suzuka With Eye on Championship

Associated Press

Last Updated: October 08, 2022, 13:44 IST

Suzuka, Japan

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands smiles after the qualifying session of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands smiles after the qualifying session of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Verstappen finished first in qualifying on Saturday with a winning lap time of 1 minute, 29.304 seconds at Suzuka. He was followed by Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez

Max Verstappen of Red Bull will be on the pole for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as he attempts to clinch his second straight Formula One drivers’ title.

It was Verstappen’s fifth pole of the season. However, that has not been crucial for Verstappen, who has won 11 times this season, often starting from a non-pole position.

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Verstappen finished first in qualifying on Saturday with a winning lap time of 1 minute, 29.304 seconds at Suzuka. He was followed by Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen is guaranteed of taking the season title if he wins the race on Sunday and also gets a bonus point for turning the fastest lap. He could also win the championship for a second straight year without a victory depending on the other results.

“I’m not thinking about it too much,” Verstappen said as he talked about Sunday. “I’m just taking it day by day. I think what was more important is that we have a competitive car — and clearly we had that today in qualifying. And of course it’s going to be the same tomorrow in the race.”

“It’s a good start,” he added.

Even if he fails, Verstappen is likely to take the title in two weeks in the United States GP in Austin, Texas. He has a massive 104-point lead over Leclerc with five races to go, including Sunday’s race.

He’s also 106 points ahead of teammate Perez, the only other driver who has a mathematical chance to overtake him for the season title.

Verstappen has had a dominating season. He’s already won 11 times, and if get two more he will match a season record for victories held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. They both won 13 in one season.

Saturday qualifying was run on a dry circuit. However, rain is predicted for Sunday. Those were also the conditions in Friday’s practice.

Race stewards are looking at an incident in the third practice session involving Verstappen and Lando Norris of McClaren. Norris was forced to swerve to avoid hitting Verstappen.

The ruling could affect the starting grid, although no decision was immediately forthcoming.

Sunday’s race result could be quickly overshadowed on Monday when the FIA — the governing body of Formula One — is expected to rule if any team violated spending-cap rules.

Unsourced reports say Red Bull is one of the teams under investigation.

The FIA could put financial sanctions on a team or, in theory, could also strip Verstappen of the title he won last season in the final race of the season. That seems unlikely and could be a public relations disaster.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)
first published:October 08, 2022, 13:42 IST
last updated:October 08, 2022, 13:44 IST
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