Brendon Hartley may yet hold onto his Toro Rosso race seat for next season after qualifying a career-best P6 at Suzuka.
In mixed weather conditions that tripped up several drivers, Hartley came to the fore for Toro Rosso at engine partner Honda’s home race.
He progressed to Q3 before qualifying a career-best sixth for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
As such he also out-qualified the Red Bull-bound Pierre Gasly.
Following up his qualifying performance with a points-scoring result would go a long way towards securing Hartley’s Formula 1 future.
Asked whether the New Zealander could partner Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso next season, team boss Franz Tost told Autosport: “If he’s doing a good job, and if he continues like this, there’s no reason to change him.
“Brendon is in the team, and he is improving his performance.
“Where we end up is a decision from Red Bull, and this we will see at the end of the season.
“The team management takes the best opportunity. If a driver has a good performance, there’s no reason to get rid of him.”