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Verstappen on pole for Japanese GP but under investigation after Norris near-miss
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Verstappen on pole for Japanese GP but under investigation after Norris near-miss

Verstappen on pole for Japanese GP but under investigation after Norris near-miss

Verstappen on pole for Japanese GP but under investigation after Norris near-miss

Verstappen on pole for Japanese GP but under investigation after Norris near-miss

Max Verstappen secured a crucial pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix but now faces an anxious wait to see if he will retain top spot on the grid at Suzuka.

Verstappen, who can become a two-time champion by winning the race and claiming the point for the fastest lap, is under investigation following a hair-raising incident in Q3.

At one stage during the first runs of the session, McLaren's Lando Norris had to take to the grass out of the high-speed 130R to avoid Verstappen weaving in his Red Bull and travelling slowly in the middle of the circuit.

Verstappen's first lap in the top-10 shoot-out was good enough to clinch his fifth pole position of the season, finishing just 0.010secs ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, and his team's first at this track since 2013.

Verstappen set an initial stunning lap of one minute 29.304s, and although Leclerc was quickest in the second sector, it was not enough from the Monégasque to claim pole.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz starts third, with the Spaniard 0.057s down such was the fight between the top three, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez a third of a second off the pace as he lines up fourth.

Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso sandwich Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton who lines up sixth, with the seven-time champion almost a second behind Verstappen.

George Russell starts eighth in his Mercedes ahead of Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, who only just made it out Q1 and Q2, with Norris 10th, 1.7s off the leading time.

Daniel Ricciardo had been fifth quickest at the end of the first run in Q2 and appeared on course for reaching the top-10 shoot-out.

But unlike virtually every other driver around him, Ricciardo was unable to improve and found himself knocked out by three-thousandths of a second to Vettel as the four-time champion maintained his record of starting in the top 10 on each of his visits to Suzuka.

The Australian will line up alongside Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas, with home hero Yuki Tsunoda 13th. As he re-entered the pits, the young Japanese insisted he had done his best.

Zhou Guanyu starts 14th in his Alfa Romeo, with Haas driver Mick Schumacher 15th at the end of a session in which Perez was fastest and Verstappen third, but he was the only driver who sat in the garage while everyone else did a second run.

At the end of Q1, with Verstappen quickest on his only run with a time of 1:30.224s, Williams' Alex Albon was the last to cross the line and just missed out on a place in the second session by 0.055s to Vettel.

Albon will start 16th ahead of a fuming Pierre Gasly who complained vociferously throughout Q1 about the fact his AlphaTauri was unable to brake.

Kevin Magnussen was another to surprisingly exit, finishing two-tenths of a second behind team-mate Mick Schumacher, making his debut at this track and who missed all of FP2 after crashing at the end of the first practice session.

The back row is an all-Canadian affair, with Aston Martin's Lance Stroll ahead of Nicholas Latifi in his Williams by a tenth of a second.

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