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What the teams said – Qualifying in Japan

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault on track

Red Bull

Verstappen had been pushed hard by team mate Perez throughout practice, so it was no surprise to see those two going head to head for pole in qualifying. They were incredibly close in Q1 and Q2 but Verstappen found an edge on the first runs in Q3. Would he canter away at the last moment as he's done so often in the past? Not this time, as Perez came agonisingly close to pegging him back, winding up just 0.066s back on a day where the Mexican appeared to put his recent qualifying woes behind him. It bodes well for a close fight between the duo tomorrow.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Perez to pole by 0.066s in Suzuka as Norris seals P3

Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:28.197

“Overall, in qualifying the laps have been very nice and it was a great result for the team. In the last lap I tried to push a bit more and I was gaining quite nicely in sector one, but ran out of tyres at the end so lost a bit of time which was a shame. We have to work on our long runs as we have not been fully happy with these and still feel like we can work to control the balance of the car a bit more. It wasn’t perfect, but to still be on pole on a lap that I felt like could have been better, is great. We made some good changes within the car and I really enjoyed Sector 1; around here it is really fun to drive and the car is improving every year, especially in the high speed. All in all, the team has a front row start, which is a perfect start to the race tomorrow, but I expect it to be very competitive. It is great to be here, the support is always amazing and hopefully we can give the fans a good race.”

Sergio Perez, 2nd, 1:28.263

“We have had a good weekend so far and made some really nice progress throughout qualifying today. Unfortunately, in the end we couldn’t get totally hooked in for the final lap, I didn’t get a nice exit into my lap and that was probably enough to miss pole today. I think generally we are a lot better placed with the car, if you remember last year here, we were seven tenths off Max and it was probably the hardest circuit in terms of balance, this season things are looking a lot different and the confidence is coming back. Having a nice balance around Suzuka doesn’t compare to anything else in the world, today was very enjoyable. Max and I have been on par all weekend, I think we will be close tomorrow and we have everything to fight for.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“A brilliant qualifying today from both drivers. That’s our 27th front row lock out and Checo’s finest performance in qualifying here, furthering his previous best of P4. Of course there are still things that we will look to improve on for tomorrow but it was another stunning lap from Max and we are really pleased to have both the cars on the front row. I think the race will be a little closer but today puts us in a great position to race well as we look to carry this pace into Sunday.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

McLaren

McLaren did well at Suzuka last year but had a mixed time of it in practice this time around. Come qualifying, their car burst into life. Both drivers made Q3 and once there it was Norris that pushed the Bulls the closest. Having made a mistake in Degner 2 in practice, he did play it a tiny bit safe on his final flying run – but third is still a very good starting spot. Piastri couldn’t match that on his birthday, as he ended up sixth on a day when the gap from P4 to P8 was just 0.1s.

READ MORE: Norris thrilled with run to P3 in Suzuka qualifying as he says ‘hard work is paying off’ for McLaren

Lando Norris, 3rd, 1:28.489

“I’m very happy with today, we had a competitive car, and I could fight in qualifying with good laps, especially in Q3. It’s always enjoyable to come here in front of the fans and I’m pleased to have secured P3 on the grid going into tomorrow’s race. We’ve had a good car all weekend and taken steps forward which is pleasing. We’re working hard and that hard work is gradually paying off. Today’s a good start to the weekend but tomorrow’s where we have the opportunity to score strong points as a team.”

Oscar Piastri, 6th, 1:28.760

“P6 in quali, I just didn’t quite have it from Q2 onwards, struggling to find the rhythm which is frustrating. I’ve got a couple of areas to focus on overnight with my engineers, but it seems very tight out there. Tomorrow’s a good opportunity for me to improve and secure points in the race.”

Andrea Stella, Team Principal

“It was a positive qualifying session for the team. P3 and P6 today puts us in position to score good points tomorrow. It’s also gratifying to see we are the second-best team behind Red Bull – albeit with the caveat that we know this track suits the characteristics of our car and it’s only qualifying conditions. Praise goes to both Lando and Oscar for putting together good laps in Q1 and Q2, enabling them to progress through those sessions on only one set of tyres each, keeping two new sets for Q3. The drivers and the whole team have done a good job so far. We now have to prepare well and capitalise on today with a strong race result tomorrow.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Third placed qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren looks on in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ferrari

After a strong Friday, Ferrari were off the pace in FP3. Many thought they were sandbagging, but as qualifying began it seemed their struggles were genuine. Leclerc had to use two sets of softs in Q1 - and that limited him to just the one run in Q3. He wound up a disappointing eighth on a day when the margins were very small, but team mate Sainz managed a more encouraging fourth despite being hampered with throttle issues throughout the one hour of qualifying.

READ MORE: Mixed feelings at Ferrari after Suzuka qualifying as Sainz hails ‘massive’ improvement while Leclerc mystified by struggles

Charles Leclerc, 8th, 1:28.786

“I’m not happy with our qualifying today. The feeling in the car was quite good, but the pace was just not there, so we will look at the data and assess what exactly this was down to. Our car is slightly stronger in race pace than qualifying pace this year, however, it is quite difficult to overtake on this track, so we will aim for a good start and take any opportunity to fight our way back to the front in the race.”

Carlos Sainz, 4th, 1:28.682

“I’m happy with my qualifying and with the lap in Q3, as I think we maximised our potential today. We knew since FP3 that this weekend we were lacking a bit over one lap, but starting P4 leaves us in a good position to fight tomorrow. We’ve made good steps in terms of race pace and I hope we will be able to exploit it during the race and fight for a podium position. Let’s go!”

Fred Vasseur, Team Principal

“Overall, the qualifying result was not so good. It went reasonably well for Carlos, but Charles paid the price for having to use two sets of softs to get through to Q2. But if we now focus on tomorrow, we know our race pace is okay with both our guys and I believe we can be in the running, make up some places and bring home a good result. Both Carlos and Charles will need to have a good first lap so that they can run in free air, without getting stuck in traffic, given that overtaking at Suzuka is really difficult, especially as there is only one DRS zone.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

There were contrasting results down at Aston Martin, who have brought upgrades to Suzuka. Stroll couldn’t hook up a lap late on in Q1 and found himself off for an early shower, seemingly confused as to quite what had happened. As for Alonso, he made Q3 with ease and managed to save a set of softs for the race too. Despite saying he didn't know how to extract more pace from his car after the first run, he did just that on his second flying lap in Q3 to jump up to an impressive fifth.

FACTS AND STATS: Ocon claims second straight Q2 appearance for struggling Alpine as Tsunoda makes top 10 at home

Fernando Alonso, 5th, 1:28.686

“I am very happy with fifth position today. It’s always a very special experience qualifying in Suzuka, with the low fuel loads and fresh tyres and everything felt good in the car today. Perhaps it’s a little unexpected to be as competitive as we were. Looking back at last year, we were over one-second from pole position in Suzuka and now we are only four tenths away, so it seems we are going in the right direction. It’s too soon to say whether our updates have made a significant difference, but we’ll look at all the data we have. We have usually been faster in qualifying compared to the race, so let’s see what happens on Sunday.”

Lance Stroll, 16th, 1:30.024

“I just didn’t have the pace I needed in qualifying today and we don’t yet understand why. I think I was pushing to the limit of what my car was capable of, but I was lacking the speed to get out of Q3. The update package seems to be working on Fernando’s AMR24, so we’ll take a look this evening to see if there’s anything else that could have been impacting my car. There’s a lot of work to do ahead of the Grand Prix; we’ll have to make the most of any opportunities that come our way tomorrow.”

Mike Krack, Team Principal

“A bittersweet qualifying in Suzuka. Our target is always to get both cars into Q3. We did not achieve that, and so we need to have a closer look at Lance’s AMR24 as the gap between both cars was substantial. As the sessions progressed, Fernando managed to get more and more out of the car. We can be pleased with P5. The entire team has done a great job to prepare this update package. We worked with discipline, ensuring we ran back-to-back comparison tests yesterday to aid our decisions. I want to thank the team in the garage who stayed late to add the updates to Fernando’s car. Suzuka rewards a strong car, so we will see what tomorrow brings. We want to finish with both cars in the points.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24 Mercedes on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mercedes

Mercedes have managed to get their tricky car into a really good working window at Suzuka and looked to be right in the mix come qualifying. However, neither driver could extract the best from the W15 in Q3. Hamilton finally managed to beat his team mate, coming home seventh as Russell struggled to P9 via a trip to the stewards to explain an unsafe release in the pit lane. With overtaking likely to be difficult, these two could have a tough race on their hands tomorrow.

RACE PREDICTOR: Who do you think will finish on the podium for the Japanese Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton, 7th, 1:28.766

“Qualifying was generally a really good session. I think we’ve made some good improvements to the car and its balance so far this weekend. I was overall much happier in the car than I have been this year, although there are clear areas of improvement. We have taken steps in the right direction though. When we raced here just six months ago, we were over one second adrift and we’ve closed that gap to the front a little, and to our nearest competitors. Of course I was hoping for more and we are never going to be happy with P7, but we know our car is a work in progress. Tomorrow’s race will be all about tyre degradation. Our long run pace looked similar to others on Friday, so we will see if that is the case on Sunday. I think it will be very close tomorrow so I hope we can maximise all the various factors and take home some good points.”

George Russell, 9th, 1:29.008

“It was so tight out there between ourselves, the McLarens, the Ferraris, and the Aston Martins. After FP3, we knew there would only be one tenth or two between all those cars and so it proved. If you didn’t do a great lap you would end up P9 and that is what happened with me today. I made a mistake on my final lap; it’s a little bit disappointing but that is how it goes sometimes. It isn’t the most difficult race to overtake at though, and with tyre degradation and different strategies, hopefully we can move forward tomorrow. A lot can certainly happen. We’ve started this season with several high-speed circuits. We know that is where our weakness is with this car, and we knew this weekend wouldn’t be our best. It is good that we are exposing these weaknesses as it gives us the understanding of the platform we are building on and adding performance to. It sets a clear direction for us to improve.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“The headline result of P7 and P9 is not great. The positive though is that we are not too far off the second row, just one tenth or so, at a track that was one of, if not the worst, last year. We seem to have taken a step in the right direction with the car this weekend. Everyone is pushing so hard to understand more about the W15 and how we can build on the platform we have. To see progress is therefore encouraging. It is difficult to predict what tomorrow’s race will look like. The pack behind Red Bull is very tight so we will see what we can do. The long run data from Friday, and today’s qualifying session, shows that it could be close. We will look to maximise everything we do and the package we have to score the best result possible.”

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

“We headed to Japan focused on trying to make the car more consistent and drivable over the weekend. Pleasingly, it looks like we've made some progress in that regard. We'd be a lot happier of course if we were a tenth quicker. That would have put us several positions higher up on the grid. The reality at the moment though is we are the wrong side of a tight bunch of cars and need to find some more performance. Despite that, we have halved our gap to pole position from last year and can also be encouraged by the fact that even small steps forward will move us up the grid. The red flag and rain yesterday have meant we're short of long run data, but this is a race where you can move forward if you have good pace. We will be looking to make the most of the car we have, execute our strategy well, and hopefully can finish higher up than where we are starting.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W15 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

RB

This was better from Ricciardo, who only missed out on Q3 by half a tenth of a second, his team mate Tsunoda the one to knock him out. Considering he missed FP1 (as Ayumu Iwasa ran in the car to fulfil one of the team's two young driver day obligations) and FP2 was a washout, that is an impressive result for the Australian, although he didn’t seem to think so based on his immediate response over the airwaves. Tsunoda made Q3 here for the second straight year and seems a driver transformed right now. The Japanese racer looks extremely confident and is certainly giving the crowd something to cheer. At a track where overtaking is tricky, he’ll be hoping for more points tomorrow.

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo, 11th, 1:29.472

“I have mixed emotions today. There’s a bit of frustration but it’s also encouraging to be so close to Q3 after a tricky start to the year. Considering that yesterday I had only a few laps, and they were in damp conditions, today’s qualifying was a good session as we were very close to making it inside the top 10. I drove some laps this morning in FP3 and then worked hard to find those few tenths for quali. I’m pleased for us to be pretty much there, but it’s not Q3. It’s just frustrating to be knocked out by just half a tenth as it would have been nice to give it to the guys today. After yesterday, we certainly see some positives that are encouraging. For tomorrow, the race pace has been alright, and I’ll start on the clean side of the grid. I really think points are possible, so I’ll aim to be in the top 10 in Lap 1 as well as in Lap 53.”

Yuki Tsunoda, 10th, 1:29.413

“I felt a little pressure coming into this weekend after our strong performance in Australia, but I’d say it’s good pressure and I’m very happy I was able to get into Q3 in front of my family, friends and home crowd. The qualifying itself wasn’t as easy as we expected, but overall, as a team we did a fantastic job. I’m continuing to learn how to maximise the car and its setup to extract the best out of it, and without everyone, the engineers and mechanics, on track and at the factory, supporting me, I wouldn’t have achieved this result and I’m very appreciative of them all. Daniel also did a great job which means there’s definitely potential to score points, maybe even more than one, so we’ll do our best. The first step is done, and the second one is top 10 in the race tomorrow, which I haven’t achieved here yet, but we’ll put it together and try to have a perfect race!”

Alan Permane, Racing Director

“We’re very happy of course, with Yuki in Q3 again. A fantastic effort by him, and with Daniel a few hundredths behind, I think we really maximised our package today. Well done to everyone, both in Italy and the UK, for bringing the first major upgrade this season. The new floor performed perfectly, and it has, no doubt, helped our performance. It’s a good result for the team and we need to continue this good form into tomorrow, and make sure we’re there to score as many points as possible.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB looks on in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Haas

Magnussen wasn’t happy with his car in FP3, the Dane making some late set-up changes and thus using the first part of Q1 as a quick practice run. Whatever he changed didn’t help much for qualifying at least, although he may have a set-up more suited to the race. As for Hulkenberg, he did make Q2 but lost his lap time in that segment to track limits which put a lot of pressure on his final run.

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Nico Hulkenberg, 12th, 1:29.494

“I’m really happy and very pleased with the performance, they were good, clean laps – I enjoyed qualifying. Last year, I had a messy session, so this time I was really keen to have a clean one and I think we really exploited the maximum out of our package, even if it’s really marginal that we missed Q3 as that really was as good as it is for us. Yesterday, things weren’t looking so great in FP1, as expected our package isn’t super happy around Suzuka, so I’ll take P12 happily.”

Kevin Magnussen, 18th, 1:30.131

“I think we improved the car for qualifying, but we started quite far from where we were with the set-up from yesterday. It’s not been the cleanest run-up to qualifying, we’ll run this set-up tomorrow, but we improved the car and the consistency – it’s still just lacking pace. We knew this track wasn’t going to be our track, but on top of that, on our side of the garage, we’ve maybe just missed the beat a little bit on the build up to the weekend. Anyway, we have a race tomorrow, and hopefully – like the first three races of the season, we can make some ground up in that. We’ll certainly be trying.”

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal

“Overall as a team it was a good qualifying session. We wanted to get into Q2, which we couldn’t quite manage with Kevin but even then, we made some set-up changes which he was very happy with. We gave ourselves the best chance by doing three runs but ultimately, he couldn’t get there. The changes were in a positive direction, so the race is looking better for Kevin. As for Nico, as usual, it was his Q1 run two and Q2 run two – he delivered excellent laps. We couldn’t ask for more than P12 today, and he also made some set-up changes too. All round, a good recovery from practice in difficult conditions with an exposing weakness at this track, but as a team I think we worked well.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari stops in the Pitlane during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Kick Sauber

Bottas put in a star lap at the end of Q1 to make it through, knocking out Stroll in the process. He didn’t continue that form, but P13 is an encouraging grid slot especially when you factor in that the team’s pit stop woes seem to be improving. But Zhou struggled by comparison to his team mate, the Chinese racer unable to nail his lap in Q1 and thus will prop up the field in Sunday's race.

F1 EXPLAINS: Bottas and Zhou on being team mates – and why that relationship is crucial to success in Formula 1

Valtteri Bottas, 13th, 1:29.593

“I was really happy with how our car felt today, both in the morning session and during qualifying. It’s good to be back in Q2 and to be knocking on the door for Q3 as well. Of course, it would have been even nicer to make it into the top 10, but this result is proof that we are heading in the right direction with the upgrades we brought in the last couple of events – and for this we must pay tribute to the team back home in Hinwil for their continued support. We have made some small steps forward throughout the weekend and, looking ahead to tomorrow, I am confident that if we get everything right, we will be able to put up a decent battle with the cars around us and bring home some points.”

Zhou Guanyu, 20th, 1:30.143

“Today has been a tough day for me. Unfortunately, due to a technical issue, I missed the end of FP3 and had to go from my long-run practice straight to qualifying. Given the lack of preparation, it was quite difficult for me to predict the car’s behaviour, and while I tried to maximise everything I could, I simply didn’t have enough grip on the rear in the last sector, where I lost out. I believe more time to prepare for my quali run would have put me in a more comfortable position. It's a very tight grid, and while fighting for the points might depend on how much overtaking will be possible, I’m confident that I should be able to make up places. Tomorrow is a new day, and as a team we’ll continue to give it our all.”

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative

“Today leaves us with mixed feelings. On Valtteri’s side, we have shown an improvement compared to previous races as he had the chance to make it into Q3 thanks to a good quali lap. He only missed out by a small margin, but his lap times in Q1 and Q2 were competitive with Yuki who made it into the final round. Unfortunately, Zhou’s qualifying session did not play out as expected as he missed the final part of FP3 due to a technical problem we are investigating. He couldn’t use the soft compound tyres in the quali sim, and with FP3 being a very important session – especially since the conditions during FP2 did not allow for lots of running – he lacked some crucial time to prepare for qualifying. Zhou showed a good improvement between the first and second stint, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to make the cut, with a lap time that doesn’t really reflect the full potential. Zhou’s practice sessions looked strong, and he has the possibility to recover some positions tomorrow. Overall, our upgrades – those we introduced in Melbourne and those that came here [in Suzuka] – have improved the performance of our car and we’re optimistic that we can fight for points during the race.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Sparks fly behind Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Williams

Sargeant seemed to struggle in FP3 when he returned to the track after missing FP2 following a big crash in first practice. The American appeared unable to quite push right to the limit and thus it was no surprise to see him exit in Q1, as team mate Albon made it through to Q2. But once there the Thai driver couldn’t make much of a dent on the leaderboard, as he complained about the feel in his Williams at a track that doesn’t seem to overly suit the FW46.

READ MORE: Vowles admits Sargeant’s mistake for FP1 crash was ‘frustrating’ but insists confidence not the issue in Japan

Alex Albon, 14th, 1:29.714

“We’ve been struggling a lot this weekend and I didn’t feel comfortable in the car, which is frustrating but it’s where we expected to be. The way we’ve gone with the car, we’ve made some corners better but also, it’s made some worse. Around this circuit, you can’t be sliding because the track is so aggressive and it tears up the tyres. Normally we can get away with this when the track is smooth, but when it’s rough like this, we pay quite a big price. I also suffered a lot of overheating and when you’re having to do tyre management through corners to save the tyres, it’s tricky to manage. Looking to tomorrow, the car felt okay in the few long runs we’ve done during FP3, however strategy is going to be important, so let’s see how we go.”

Logan Sargeant, 19th, 1:30.139

“After what happened yesterday and only getting a few laps in FP3 this morning, it was a pretty good turnaround. We put the car in a good place for qualifying considering the limited amount of running and made the right decisions. I don’t think there was a lot left on the table. A tenth and a half from Q2 just shows how tight it is. I’m pretty happy with the way I drove but we’re missing a little bit this weekend as a team in terms of pace. Tomorrow will be a bit of a degradation race and how we manage that in Sector 1 will be key. We’ll try have a good start, manage the race and hopefully that leaves us in a decent spot.”

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

“In contrast to the disruptions yesterday, today was productive with both drivers getting through their planned programmes in FP3 and completing several set-up tests. Based on the FP3 experiments we were able to adjust both cars ahead of qualifying and improve the setups as a result. In qualifying, both drivers did a good job and although Logan missed out on Q2, his pace was close to that of Alex, and he did well to recover from a lack of running yesterday. Alex did a good job throughout the session and although there was probably a small amount of lap time that he missed in Q2, 14th is a fair reflection of the current car pace. Both drivers found it tricky to manage the tyres even over a single qualifying lap and so tomorrow is going to be quite a challenge as they look to balance pace and degradation. The weather is likely to be dry and warmer tomorrow, which will also affect the degradation of the front axle relative to the rear, and this will simply add to the difficulty of racing.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Williams FW46 Mercedes on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Alpine

With upgrades here, there were higher hopes for Alpine on Saturday. Ocon got out of Q1 for the second straight race, which was an encouraging sign although he couldn’t make inroads up towards the top 10 in that Q2 segment. Gasly couldn’t follow suit, the Frenchman complaining he struggled with traction late on in Q1. He is set for a tough race as a result from so far back.

READ MORE: Gasly says Alpine updates for Japanese Grand Prix are ‘first step in the right direction’

Esteban Ocon, 15th, 1:29.811

“I was not completely happy with the balance of the car in final practice, so I’m pleased with how we reacted as a team to improve the set-up of the car in the short turnaround for qualifying. The final lap in Q1 felt good, however everyone else around us managed to move up a gear in Q2. I feel we extracted the maximum potential of the car today but unfortunately it was not enough to progress further than 15th place. Tomorrow, we will try to look forwards and make the most of any opportunities that come our way. We will look to keep ourselves in the fight and see where we end up at the chequered flag.”

Pierre Gasly, 17th, 1:30.119

“It’s definitely disappointing to be out in Q1 today. The car felt good in Sector 1 on my second push lap but, after that, we seemed to slide a lot and maybe overheated the rear tyres. I was struggling with traction out of corners, had a snappy rear end and it was just too messy for a completely clean lap. It’s an area we have to analyse and understand as it’s where we lack right now. We will fight in the race tomorrow as we always do. There will be chances and we have to maximise those tomorrow. We’ll play our cards on strategy and see if we can benefit from anything in front of us.”

Bruno Famin, Team Principal

“The upgrades have worked as expected for us but, clearly, there is still a lot of hard work ahead of us. We probably did not maximise the potential of both cars this afternoon, which we will analyse. There are things we must quickly understand, especially on tyre warm-up and management, as this is a big differentiator in such a tightly packed field. Tomorrow’s race will feature some interesting strategies. We will assess our options and look to progress our cars up the field and towards the all-important points positions.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Motorsport Director

“At what is one of the most demanding tracks for drivers and cars, we witnessed Verstappen and Red Bull dominate qualifying and for the first time in over a year, both the team’s drivers are on the front row. Therefore, there’s a clear favourite for tomorrow, but there are still plenty of unknown factors at play, starting with strategy. Despite it being considerably cooler than for last year’s race, degradation is still particularly significant and therefore, a two-stop is still the quickest choice.

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“It’s a different story when it comes to the permutations between the available compounds, especially as the soft, which was effectively a non-starter last year, could be a genuine option tomorrow, particularly in the first stint, for those looking to have a performance edge in the opening laps. Another consideration is that overtaking is anything but easy on this track and, as we have seen so far this season, the current generation of cars increasingly suffers from instability when closing on another car, making it even more complicated to pass, even with a big speed advantage. The undercut – stopping early to make the most of tyre performance in the first few laps – is very efficient here and will definitely be a factor.

“The quickest strategy is based on using the soft and the hard, but some teams, such as Ferrari, Red Bull and Aston Martin as well as Magnussen, who only have on set of the C1 available, will have to try something else. They could opt to discard the C3 in favour of the C2, which proved to be competitive in free practice, or they could use all three compounds. It all adds up to what should be an interesting race from start to finish.”

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