Max Verstappen may have topped qualifying by a country mile at Suzuka, but that’s no guarantee of the world champion leading the field into Turn 1 come the Grand Prix – at least not if the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris have anything to do with it.
With rookie Piastri getting his first front-row start and team mate Norris riding shotgun, they could make life difficult for the Red Bull star if they are quicker off the line, and don’t discount Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in P4 on the grid.
But the biggest cheers when the lights go out are certain to be for local hero Yuki Tsunoda, newly confirmed at AlphaTauri for 2024, who starts from P9 in front of his home crowd – and with rookie team mate Liam Lawson just two places back after another excellent qualifying from the Daniel Ricciardo stand-in.
And at the rear of the pack, there is more bad news for Logan Sargeant. After crashing heavily in qualifying without setting a time, the damage to his Williams was such that the team have had to build up what the stewards consider a new car for him. With teams only allowed to use two cars at one event, it means the American rookie not only has to start from the pit lane, but also receives a 10-second time penalty.
The 2023 Japanese Grand Prix starts at 1400 local time. Be sure to join our live coverage from 1300 here.