RACE DEBRIEF

    The F1 circus finally returned to Suzuka for the first time since 2019, with Max Verstappen grabbing pole on a weekend where he can wrap up the title. He pipped his Ferrari rivals by an exceedingly narrow margin, with Charles Leclerc grabbing second and Carlos Sainz third. But those weren’t the only results that made for interesting reading from Saturday’s qualifying. Here are the best facts and stats from Japan…

    • 0.010s was the closest pole position margin of the season.

    • Max Verstappen takes Red Bull’s first pole at Suzuka since 2013, the team having taken every P1 between 2009 and 2013.

    • It’s only the second pole for the Dutchman in the last seven races, with the last one in Zandvoort resulting in victory.

    • Charles Leclerc shares the front row with Verstappen for the eighth time this season.

    READ MORE: Verstappen beats Leclerc and Sainz to pole position in ultra-close Japanese GP qualifying

    • If those two finish in their starting grid positions, Verstappen will require the bonus point to wrap up the title.

    • Carlos Sainz starts third for the seventh time this year.

    • Sergio Perez was fourth, meaning Ferrari and Red Bull fill the top four grid slots for the first time since Silverstone.

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    Verstappen didn't have much margin at the top of the leader board over rival Leclerc
    • It is the Mexican’s first career top-four start at Suzuka in his 10th visit.

    • Esteban Ocon was fifth, meaning Alpine has a top-five grid slot for the second straight race and the sixth time this season.

    • Lewis Hamilton’s P6 is his lowest Suzuka starting slot since qualifying P9 for McLaren in 2012.

    • Fernando Alonso’s seventh is his best start here since he was fifth for Ferrari in 2014.

    • George Russell was out-qualified by Hamilton for the fifth straight race.

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    • Sebastian Vettel made it to Q3 for the first time since Baku, 10 races ago – the longest run of anyone on the grid.

    • Vettel maintains his record of always starting in the top 10 at the Japanese Grand Prix.

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    Alonso has a best starting slot here since 2014
    • Daniel Ricciardo missed out on Q3 by just 0.003s.

    • Valtteri Bottas clinches the season head to head against Zhou Guanyu, having out-qualified him for the 12th time this year.

    • But 12th is the lowest start at Suzuka for Bottas since 2013 when he was 13th for Williams.

    • Zhou is 14th on the grid for the third time in the last four races.

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    • Pierre Gasly suffered his sixth Q1 elimination of the season.

    • Kevin Magnussen still hasn’t reached Q3 here since his rookie year in 2014.

    • Alex Albon missed out on Q2 by just 0.056s.