It had felt like a foregone conclusion, and indeed Max Verstappen stormed his way to pole for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Oscar Piastri delivered a sublime performance on his first Suzuka visit to pip McLaren team-mate Lando Norris to P2, with Norris instead to share the second row with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Down a set of new soft tyres, Verstappen set what was expected to be his only flying lap of Q1, a 1:29.878 to comfortably go P1, until Norris confirmed McLaren’s pace with a time good enough for P2, 0.185s off Verstappen’s benchmark.
Soon after Logan Sargeant triggered the red flags as he once more found himself in the barriers, losing and wrecking the Williams FW45 at the final corner. The American rookie was thankfully unhurt as the red flags swiftly came out.
Verstappen would top Q1 with that time, while Sargeant, Zhou Guanyu, Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll and Valtteri Bottas suffered Q1 elimination.
Once more Verstappen was straight out onto the track for Q2, armed with used softs as he delivered a 1:29.9, almost matching his Q1 time on a compound which has been degrading even over one lap so far this weekend.
Charles Leclerc, Zhou and Bottas meanwhile were referred to the stewards post-qualifying over potentially failing to respect the maximum permitted lap time during Q1.
McLaren put their new softs to good to use to go P2 and P3 at that point, Piastri this time ahead of Norris on his first visit to Suzuka.
It was Leclerc who ultimately topped the session, while Kevin Magnussen, Esteban Ocon, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Liam Lawson were eliminated at the end of Q2.
With the new softs bolted on, a 1:29.0 from Verstappen set an unbeatable benchmark for the competition, finding another tenth for good measure, as he claimed pole at Suzuka. Piastri ensured his spot on the front row.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:28.877
2 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.581
3 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.616
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.665
5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.773
6 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.973
7 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.031
8 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.342
9 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.426
10 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.683
1 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:29.940
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.024
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.025
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.100
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.127
6 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.182
7 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.264
8 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.328
9 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.356
10 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.525
11 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +0.568
12 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.569
13 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.597
14 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.646
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.725
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:29.878
2 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.185
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.515
4 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +0.547
5 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.561
6 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.773
7 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.774
8 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.855
9 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.933
10 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.933
11 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.965
12 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.063
13 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.082
14 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.093
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.098
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.171
17 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.303
18 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.421
19 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.520
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams