Max Verstappen third at qualifying Japanese GP: 'Unexpected'

Published on 06 October 2018 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen came in third fastest at the qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. During a session that was hampered by changing weather conditions, the first runs in Q3 proved to be very crucial. The Dutchman benefitted tremendously and will be starting tomorrow’s race from the second row. Mercedes was once again supreme and Lewis Hamilton (P1) together with team mate Valtteri Bottas will be taking up position on the front row. Sebastian Vettel is ninth due to a mistake.

“I am very happy to be starting third tomorrow”, says a satisfied Verstappen after qualifying. “I also didn’t expect it. Normally we should be close to Ferrari even though it is difficult to beat them. But you need to be there when others make mistakes and that is what we did today.”

Max explains the strategy during the third part of qualifying: “At the beginning of Q3, I wanted to wait for a moment. When a bit of rain has fallen on this track, the tarmac looks like it is wet, while it actually isn’t. When Ferrari went out, I immediately saw that it was too dry for intermediates, so we put on the slicks. We were delayed a bit, but eventually that was the best decision.”

How does the race tomorrow looks like? “We need a good start and strategy, because Ferrari is quick”, says Verstappen. “In any case we have a good starting position and a bigger chance to make it on to the podium.”

When the lights turn green at the end of the pit lane, it is immediately bustling with activity. Stoffel Vandoorne is the first one to get a timed lap even though this gets bettered rather quickly. After the first flying laps, Lewis Hamilton is topping the leaderboard with a 1:28.702. Sebastian Vettel (+0.347), Valtteri Bottas (+0.595), Max Verstappen (+0.778), Kimi Raikkonen (+0.929) and Daniel Ricciardo (+1.104) round up the top six.

With ten minutes to go, the red flag is triggered. Marcus Ericsson has gone off at the Dunlop-corner. The Swede gets out of his Sauber unharmed, but because of severe damages to his car won’t see any action again today.

After a couple of minutes, the session is resumed and the drivers are able to continue on. Max Verstappen sticks to just one lap and is fourth at the end of Q1. Nico Hulkenberg, Sergey Sirotkin, Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson fail to make the cut and are the first dropouts.

The start of the second part of qualifying is accompanied by some sunshine that slowly gets the upperhand on the overcast. Kimi Raikkonen is the first one to get things going with a 1:28.595. Both Mercedes blow that time out of the water. It’s striking that the Silver arrows have done their time on the soft compound. Max Verstappen does a 1:28.849 on the super-softs and is fifth.

Shortly afterwards, we see Daniel Ricciardo getting pushed in the pit lane. The Ozzie is having engine issues. When he gets back to his pit box, his team immediately gets to work to get the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver’s RB14 out on time. At first everything looks to be going the right way, but because of the sudden poor weather conditions it has become futile to venture back out. Max’ unfortunate team mate together with Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll are all left stranded in Q2.

When Q3 gets underway, both Ferrari’s are out on track on a set of the intermediates. Because the track is dry enough, they quickly swap these for the red striped tyre. There is however still a threat of rain.

After the first runs, Lewis Hamilton is at the top of the leaderboard with a 1:27.760. Valtteri Bottas (P2) keeps the gap to his team mate in check with a difference of just three tenths. Max Verstappen gets a 1:29.057 noted down, well enough for P3 at that moment. Both Ferrari’s by then have not gotten a time on the board yet. Verstappen’s third place proves to be safe: Kimi Raikkonen doesn’t improve and is fourth after his flying lap. Sebastian Vettel winds up ninth after a mistake in Spoon.

As the rain intensifies, the drivers don’t get a chance to better their times. Mercedes will be starting the race tomorrow from the front row, with Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen behind of them. Toro Rosso has done an excellent job as Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly came in sixth and seventh fastest. Sebastian Vettel has his work cut out for him starting from ninth.

Japanese GP contest: win a Red Bull Racing backpack and lifestyle cap!

Results qualifying Japan:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:28.7021:28.0171:27.760
2Valteri BottasBOTMercedes1:29.2971:27.9871:28.059
3Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:29.4801:28.8491:29.057
4Kimi RäikkönenRAIFerrari1:29.6311:28.5951:29.521
5Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:29.7241:29.6781:29.761
6Brendon HartleyHARScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:30.2481:29.8481:30.023
7Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:30.1371:29.8101:30.093
8Esteban OconOCOForce India Mercedes1:29.8991:29.5381:30.126
9Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:29.0491:28.2791:32.192
10Sergio PerezPERForce India Mercedes1:30.2471:29.5671:37.229
11Charles LeclercLECSauber Ferrari1:29.7061:29.864
12Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:30.2191:30.226
13Carlos SainzSAIRenault1:30.2361:30.490
14Lance StrollSTRWilliams Mercedes1:30.3171:30.714
15Daniel RicciardoRICRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:29.806
16Nico HulkenbergHULRenault1:30.361
17Sergey SirotkinSIRWilliams Mercedes1:30.372
18Fernando AlonsoALOMcLaren Renault1:30.573
19Stoffel VandoorneVANMcLaren Renault1:31.041
20Marcus EricssonERISauber Ferrari1:31.213