Max Verstappen grabbed pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix by one hundredth of a second as Charles Leclerc had to settle for second.
The Dutchman, who will clinch the title if he wins in Japan and claims the fastest lap bonus point regardless of results elsewhere, posted 1:29.304 early in Q3 – a time that was almost, but not quite, eclipsed by Leclerc’s last lap.
Verstappen had been the quickest in FP3 and he continued his excellent form in the day's first session into the second as he claimed first place on the grid for Sunday's race.
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After qualifying, the current champion observed that his Red Bull was missing a part at the rear while in parc ferme, which may have to be replaced.
Verstappen was also issued with a reprimand by race stewards for a risky piece of driving earlier in Q3. However he will keep his pole for Sunday as no grid or time penalty was given.
On a slow lap he waggled his car on a straight to the left, which would not normally have posed a problem, but McLaren's Lando Norris was racing down the outside and had to take evasive action to avoid a high-speed collision.
"Regarding penalty, all previous breaches of this nature have resulted in a Reprimand hence a similar penalty is imposed in this case," read a statement from the race stewards.
Further down the grid, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was third and Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez was fourth quickest.
Lewis Hamilton was sixth quickest, while George Russell was eighth. Esteban Ocon for Alpine finished a surprisingly high fifth, with his stablemate Fernando Alonso seventh.
Rain is expected in Suzuka on Sunday.
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