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World Champion Max Verstappen Grabs Pole for Japanese Grand Prix

Yuki Tsunoda, who placed a solid 10th in qualifying, will be bidding for points in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix when he starts from the fifth row.

World champion Max Verstappen grabbed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, April 6 while Japan's Yuki Tsunoda had a good qualifying session and will start from the fifth row on the grid.

Verstappen clocked the fastest lap of 1 minute, 28.197 seconds on his final effort to claim his fourth pole of the year, and will be joined on the front row by Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, who was 0.666 seconds behind at the Suzuka Circuit.

"I think the most important [thing] is to be on pole," Verstappen said. "Of course, you want every lap to be perfect, but around a track like this that's not always the case."

Added Verstappen, "Overall, a very good day, a good starting position for tomorrow, and of course tomorrow is what counts."

Japanese Grand Prix
Red Bull's Sergio Perez places second in qualifying. (Androniki Christodoulou/REUTERS)

McLaren driver Lando Norris was third followed by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was fourth.

Verstappen won the first two races of the year but stumbled at the March 24 race in Australia after a technical issue with his car.  The Dutchman will be looking to get back to his winning ways in Sunday's race in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture.

As he did in 2023, Tsunoda qualified for the third qualifying session, and then finished 10th out of the final 10 drivers, 1.216 seconds off Verstappen's pace. 

Tsunoda's RB teammate Daniel Ricciardo will start 11th.

Japanese Grand Prix
Yuki Tsunoda (KYODO)

Tsunoda Pleased with Qualifying

"I'm very happy but at the same time it wasn't an easy qualifying," Tsunoda told reporters after the session. "I struggled a little bit with balance, particularly in slow speed corners."

Tsunoda is coming off his best performance of the year in Melbourne, where he finished seventh and received six points, his first of the season.

"I felt a little pressure coming into this weekend after our strong performance in Australia, but I'd say it's good pressure and I'm very happy I was able to get into Q3 in front of my family, friends and [the] home crowd," Tsunoda said. "The qualifying itself wasn't as easy as we expected. But overall, as a team we did a fantastic job.

"I'm continuing to learn how to maximize the car and its setup to extract the best out of it, and without everyone, the engineers and mechanics, on track and at the factory, supporting me, I wouldn't have achieved this result and I'm very appreciative of them all."

Japanese Grand Prix
RB driver Yuki Tsunoda participates in qualifying at the Suzuka Circuit. (KYODO)

In 2023 at Suzuka, he also started 10th but wasn't able to convert that to points and finished 12th. He says he's feeling more confident this year.

While a light rain fell during Friday's practice session, conditions were ideal for Saturday's qualifying.

Japanese Grand Prix
Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso in action during qualifying. (Androniki Christodoulou/REUTERS)

Alonso, Piastri and Hamilton Also Among Top 10

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso was fifth followed by McLaren's Oscar Piastri and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Mercedes driver George Russell were eighth and ninth, respectively. 

The Japanese Grand Prix is the fourth race of the 2024 F1 season following races in Bahrain on March 2, Saudi Arabia on March 9 and Australia two weeks ago.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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