SUZUKA: Reigning Formula One champion, Red Bull's Max Verstappen took the pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix, enhancing his chances of wrapping up the 2022 world title this weekend, as he edged out the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in qualifying on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Dutchman led after the opening Q3 runs and his initial time of 1 minute 29.304 seconds was just quick enough to seal top spot. He finishing 0.010 seconds clear of Leclerc and 0.057 seconds up on Sainz, as team-mate Sergio Perez completed the top-four, according to formula1.com.
However, a potential setback awaits Verstappen as the stewards will be taking a look at an incident involving the Dutchman and Lando Norris in the early stages of Q3, after the reigning champion darted left at the exit of 130R on a slow lap, forcing Norris to take avoiding action as the McLaren built up speed.
Alpine converted their encouraging practice pace as Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso took fifth and seventh respectively, Alonso splitting Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Sebastian Vettel made it through to Q3 for the first time since June's Azerbaijan Grand Prix en route to P9, with Norris completing the top 10 positions on the grid after his close call with Verstappen.
Daniel Ricciardo was pushed down to 11th -- and a Q2 exit -- after Vettel's improvement, with the Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu surrounding home favourite Yuki Tsunoda in 12th and 14th respectively, according to the report.
Mick Schumacher bounced back from a difficult start to the weekend, which saw him miss the 90-minute Free Practice 2 session after crashing out of Free Practice 1, to take 15th place, usurping Kevin Magnussen as the leading Haas driver.
Alex Albon was the quickest Williams driver in 16th position, narrowly missing out on a spot in Q2, while Pierre Gasly suffered a disappointing Q1 exit in the other AlphaTauri after encountering brake issues throughout the opening phase, taking 17th.