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Verstappen maintains perfect qualifying run to land Red Bull 99th F1 pole

Another imperious qualifying performance from Max Verstappen who continues his perfect start to the season, landing Red Bull its 99th pole position in F1.

Verstappen Japan
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To news overview © XPBimages

Max Verstappen continued his perfect qualifying start to the new season by clinching his fourth consecutive pole position, and Red Bull's 99th in its F1 history.

The three-time F1 champion will lead away the field for the third consecutive Japanese Grand Prix after beating team-mate Sergio Perez to top spot on the grid at Suzuka by just 0.066s as the Mexican pushed his team-mate all the way, scoring Red Bull's 27th front-row lock-out. Verstappen finished with a 1:28.197s.

McLaren's Lando Norris will start third after a superb first run, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz joining him on the second row, followed by Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.

Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were the first to post times, with the seven-time F1 champion setting the pace with a 1:28.766s, only for Verstappen to crush his rival by half-a-second.

Hamilton and Russell will start seventh and ninth either side of a frustrated Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who only had one run on the softs after using an additional set to escape Q1. Leclerc said: "That's the best I could do. Honestly, I don't get it."

Home hero Yuki Tsunoda starts 10th for RB, the Japanese driver's third consecutive top-10 start for the first time since 2021.

Ricciardo pipped by Tsunoda

Verstappen and Perez were the first drivers on track in Q2, with the Mexican posting a superb 1:28.752s, which was only beaten by 0.012s by his team-mate, at that stage suggesting a more robust challenge was on the cards.

Behind them, Norris set the quickest first-sector time but lost out in the second and third to finish exactly two-tenths down on Verstappen, with Alonso and Sainz in close attendance behind the McLaren. Piastri and Leclerc were sixth and seventh.

Hamilton and Russell were off the pace in eighth and ninth, but running with a used set of softs for the initial run, placing them under pressure to deliver on their second.

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg had his time deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 13, albeit on used soft tyres. Williams' Alex Albon was also without a time, but the Thai-British driver opting not to head out for the first run.

The Mercedes duo at least responded, with Hamilton elevating himself up to third, 0.137s behind Verstappen, with Russell doing enough to rise to seventh. None of the top seven drivers from the first run went out for a second.

Tsunoda clinched the final top-10 spot, ousting team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.055s, representing a reasonable return from the Australian following a miserable start to the season.

Ricciardo will start 11th ahead of Hulkenberg, with Valtteri Bottas 13th in his Stake, followed by Albon and Alpine's Esteban Ocon.

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

Russell pushes his way in

In Q1, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen had the track to himself in the opening minutes, so was the first driver to post a competitive time of 1:31.203s.

Around five minutes into the session, as the rest of the field opted to leave their garages, causing a queue in the pit lane, Piastri cited Russell for pushing in front of him, causing the Australian to take avoiding action and leading to a stewards' investigation.

It was then not long before further times were clocked, with Verstappen unsurprisingly going fastest with a 1:28.866s after the initial runs, just under four-tenths quicker than nearest rival Alonso at that stage.

The Spaniard was followed by Perez and Piastri, with Sainz fifth best ahead of a trio of Britons in Norris, Hamilton and Russell. Leclerc was only 10th quickest, a full second behind Verstappen.

That forced Leclerc onto the track for a second attempt, resulting in the Monégasque improving by half a second to leap up to fourth behind Verstappen, Alonso and Perez who were all comfortable with their first and only runs in the session.

Remarkably, despite Alonso setting the second fastest lap, team-mate Lance Stroll was knocked out and will start 16th, with the Canadian eight-tenths down on the two-time champion.

Alpine's Pierre Gasly will line up 17th ahead of Magnussen, Williams' Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu in his Stake, the Chinese driver starting at the back for the third consecutive race.

Zhou had complained of understeer throughout the 18-minute session, with his poor performance underlined by the fact Bottas posted the eighth-fastest lap, with a half-a-second between the duo.

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying