Japanese GP data: The scary numbers behind Red Bull’s front-row lockout

Pablo Hidalgo
A Ferrari and McLaren car in Suzuka

All the data after qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez dominated at Suzuka on Saturday but the data shows just how far ahead of the chasing pack they were.

While the two Red Bull drivers were split by just 0.066 seconds, there was a substantial gap between themselves and the other nine constructors in Japan. Here’s what a deep dive into the data tells us.

Red Bull streets ahead but it could have been even more

Additional reporting by Pablo Hidalgo 

By almost every metric, Red Bull are miles ahead of their competition. Verstappen finished 0.430 seconds ahead of P3 (Lando Norris) but data indicated Red Bull had another 0.154 seconds left out on the table.

Red Bull set the fastest time in every sector but this did not actually come during either of the driver’s flying laps. Verstappen was quickest in sector one and three while Perez was best in sector two.

The gap between the Red Bull drivers was the second lowest on the grid, beaten only by the 0.059 seconds separating Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo.

The ideal lap time in Japan

Sergio Perez’s late braking gives Max Verstappen the edge

As to how Verstappen pipped Perez, a theme throughout their flying laps was the latter’s tendency to brake later than his team-mate.

This also explains how he managed to get better traction out of the last corner but overall, Verstappen’s style put him ahead.

In terms of other comparisons, Verstappen had better traction and acceleration against Lando Norris in sector two and was able to go up some gears in the slowest corners of the track except for the last chicane.

Verstappen and Perez Japan quali comparison

McLaren shine in sector one

In terms of the other constructors, McLaren look set to shine in sector one come race day and have been strong there all weekend. Lando Norris’ time of 30.8 seconds was just 0.023 behind the best set by Verstappen.

Oscar Piastri meanwhile went through that portion of the track with a time of 30.837, putting him ahead of Perez and third in the rankings.

Driver sector rimes in Japan quali Team sector rimes in Japan quali

Aston Martin the huge gainers from 2023 and 2024

Given Suzuka has moved up the calendar, comparing times between this year and last year can be a little misleading but one stat that is comparable is the lap differences from the teams.

In that regard, Aston Martin were the big winners having shaved off an astonishing 1.779 seconds from their 2023 time with Fernando Alonso feeling comfortable with the new upgrades.

There is also the encouraging sign that Red Bull reduced their 2023 time by the smallest margin, taking 0.680 seconds off, suggesting the grid is closing the gap somewhat.

Stake were another big improver while both Haas and Mercedes shaved off over a second.

Fernando Alonso well clear of Lance Stroll while Haas battles proves to be most level on the grid

In terms of how the drivers stack up against their team-mates, Ricciardo found himself just 0.059 seconds behind Tsunoda but also crucially a Q3 spot.

That was the smallest gap of the field, but it should be no surprise which is the largest as Alonso was 1.338 seconds ahead of Lance Stroll, giving him a 3-1 lead over the season.

One of those with a 4-0 lead is Esteban Ocon who has managed to find some performance in the Alpine car while Valtteri Bottas, Tsunoda and Albon have also yet to be beaten by their team-mate.

The Haas duo are the only two who are level on two apiece.

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Nico Hulkenberg was (briefly) the fastest man on track

In terms of top speeds, it was the Haas drivers who drove the quickest at any one time with Nico Hulkenberg reaching 238kph while Kevin Magnussen hit 326, the same as Alex Albon.

Pole sitter Max Verstappen reached 324kph but the lowest on the grid was the 319kph set by Oscar Piastri, Norris, Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton.

As for the speed traps, Hulkenberg topped them in traps one and three while Logan Sargeant was the surprise name at the top of the second speed trap times.

Driver times in Japan's speed trap
Driver times in Japan's speed trap

The close field behind Red Bull

Away from leaders Red Bull, the pack is incredibly tight with the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes fighting for time.

Ferrari struggled too much on the last sector, especially the last corner, braking earlier than anybody and a look at the best sectors shows they are really losing time there.

Hamilton was always braking later and with one gear up in respect the others. Prioritising corner entry and subsequently needing more traction at the exit. Mercedes lacked a bit of high-speed corner performance compared to Ferrari and especially, McLaren.

Comparison between McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin

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