F1 qualifying LIVE: Lewis Hamilton targets pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix

F1 qualifying LIVE: Lewis Hamilton targets pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix

How Max Verstappen Can Win His Second F1 Title At The Japanese GP

Max Verstappen has another opportunity to claim his second world title this weekend as Formula 1 returns to Suzuka for the first time since 2019 for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Red Bull star – 104 points clear of Charles Leclerc in the standings – will be crowned champion in Japan if he wins and sets the fastest lap on Sunday.

Verstappen is looking to bounce back after a disappointing weekend in Singapore, finishing seventh, while his team-mate Sergio Perez claimed victory. Leclerc came home second, with Carlos Sainz in third.

Lewis Hamilton also endured a difficult Sunday in the rain of Singapore, finishing ninth after crashing into the barriers, while Mercedes team-mate George Russell came home in last place. Hamilton, still looking for his first win of the season, is a five-time winner in Japan. Fernando Alonso was quickest in the wet of FP1 on Friday with Russell leading a Mercedes one-two a few hours later in second practice.

Follow live with The Independent – qualifying starts at 7am (BST).

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: Daniel Ricciardo won’t be rushed into decision over next move in F1

Daniel Ricciardo insists he won’t be rushed into any decision regarding his F1 future with the 33-year-old still without a seat for next year.

The popular Australian is looking for his sixth team in Formula 1 after McLaren decided to end his contract a year early, with Oscar Piastri instead partnering Lando Norris in 2023.

It leaves Ricciardo currently without a drive next year, with options limited, and the ex-Red Bull driver previously hasn’t ruled out taking a year sabbatical away from the sport after eleven-and-a-half straight seasons.

There is currently a vacant seat at Alpine – though Ricciardo’s departure from Renault at the end of 2020 means a return is unlikely – while Haas could also be an option should Mick Schumacher’s contract at the team not be renewed. Williams are also looking for a replacement for Nicholas Latifi – and a spot could open up at AlphaTauri.

Yet Ricciardo insists he won’t rush his decision, as speculation mounts that he could take up a reserve role with Mercedes.

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc reflects on ‘very, very difficult’ start to Japanese Grand Prix weekend

Charles Leclerc described his start to the Japanese Grand Prix weekend as “very difficult” after a mixed day of practice at Suzuka. The Ferrari star, who comes into this weekend 104 points behind Max Verstappen with five races left, is looking to extend the title race to Austin, Texas in two weeks’ time.

The only way he can guarantee that is by winning on Sunday, while coming second would also extend the Championship battle should Verstappen not set the fastest lap if he wins.

Yet the Monegasque admitted Friday’s running – in damp conditions in Japan in contrast to expected dry weather for qualifying on Saturday – was far from ideal; he finished third in FP1 but was only 11th in second practice, 2.7 seconds off the pace set by Mercedes’ George Russell.

“FP1 was fun! FP2, no tires left, so less fun,” Leclerc said. “But overall it was quite a good day, the feeling with the car is good, we just need to put everything together tomorrow, but the feeling is good, so that’s positive. FP2 was very, very difficult because the tires were just completely done. But there’s plenty to learn from today for the race especially, so it’s a positive Friday.”

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: WEEKEND PREVIEW

While last weekend represented Max Verstappen’s first, albeit slim, opening to claim his second world title, Formula 1’s return to an old-school favorite track at Suzuka in rural Japan gives the Dutchman a genuine shot at wrapping up a dominating 2022 season.

The Red Bull star has a 104-point lead to Charles Leclerc with five races to go and, this time, it’s completely in his own hands: a race victory come Sunday with the fastest lap will secure the World Championship irrespective of where Leclerc or team -mate Sergio Perez finish.

Even finishing top of the podium – something Verstappen has done in five of the last six races – without the bonus point means Leclerc has to finish second to mathematically keep the race alive heading into Austin in two weeks’ time.

Of course, the reality is that it is a matter of when, not if. Red Bull’s relationship with Honda does though provide a perfect narrative should the title be claimed at the Japanese manufacturer’s home track. And despite a week where F1’s budget cap row was stretched to Monday – with Red Bull the predominant team in the firing line – Verstappen seemed ultra-relaxed at what could be a glorious few days.

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: FP3 DONE!

Normal service resumed – Max Verstappen posts the quickest time late on in the session, 0.294 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the timesheets!

Charles Leclerc, Sainz’s team-mate comes home third, with the Alpine of Fernando Alonso in fourth and Sergio Perez completing the top five.

6-10: Russell, Hamilton, Norris, Ocon, Stroll

Very impressive from the Championship leader – onto qualifying we now go in a few hours time!

(Getty Images)

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: 10 minutes left in FP3!

Bit of a change at the top as the whole field sets their best time on soft tires – carlos sainz is top of the timesheets, with Max Verstappen in seconds – 0.351 seconds behind.

Charles Leclerc is third – with the Mercedes duo of george russell and Lewis Hamilton fourth and fifth fastest, all within six-tenths of Sainz.

6-10: Perez, Bottas, Zhou, Albon, Alonso

Will we get any change in the final moments of third practice as the field pump in their simulated qualifying laps?!

(AFP via Getty Images)

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: 30 minutes gone in FP3!

At Honda’s home track, it’s the close relationship with Red Bull which is brewing right now – Max Verstappen on top with a 1:32:050, a huge 1.1 seconds ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez in third. george russell is the only man within a second of Verstappen in second place…

Lewis Hamilton is fourth-fastest goal is 1.2 seconds off Verstappen, with Valtteri Bottas fifth and Lando Norris sixth. Top six all on softs!

On a weekend where Verstappen needs a win and fastest lap to guarantee the World Championship, this is the ideal start to dry running for the Championship leader…

(AFP via Getty Images)

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: Nyck de Vries lands F1 seat at AlphaTauri as Pierre Gasly joins Alpine for 2023

Nyck de Vries will race in Formula One next season for AlphaTauri after he was announced as a replacement for Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly.

The 27-year-old Dutchman impressed on his F1 debut as he stepped in for Alex Albon to finish ninth at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this season.

A champion in both Formula 2 and Formula E, de Vries has an impressive CV and is pleased to have landed a seat in F1.

De Vries replaces Gasly, who raced for AlphaTauri – formerly Toro Rosso – for five and a half years, having also spent half a season with Red Bull.

Having come through the young driver program with Red Bull, the Frenchman now completes Alpine’s line-up alongside compatriot Esteban Ocon – with Fernando Alonso leaving for Aston Martin.

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: FP3 is underway!

Right – the track is dry and we’re underway with the final hour of practice running before qualifying later on…

All the cars are out on Suzuka circuit and all three tire compounds are in use straight away as teams trial different approaches in their first dry laps on their return to Japan.

Meanwhile, it’s been a big overnight period for the F1 driver market….

(Getty Images)

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton hoping to maintain pace after ‘dull’ Japanese Grand Prix practice

Lewis Hamilton is hoping to carry his Friday speed into the weekend after Mercedes clocked the two fastest times in a “dull” practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.

With rain hammering Suzuka for much of the day, there was less track action than normal but it was George Russell who topped the time sheets with Mercedes teammate Hamilton coming in second.

Russell was over 0.8 seconds faster than champion-elect Max Verstappen in third as the British pair timed their fast runs perfectly on a drying track. Hamilton recently enjoyed a run of five consecutive podium finishes in a season where Mercedes do not have the pace of the front-runners.

He then retired in Belgium before fourth and fifth-placed finishes in Holland and Italy, coming home ninth in Singapore last weekend. While there was little that could be taken from the performance of the cars in such inclement weather and changeable conditions, Hamilton is hopeful of retaining Friday’s speed.

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F1 qualifying – Japanese Grand Prix: WEEKEND PREVIEW

While last weekend represented Max Verstappen’s first, albeit slim, opening to claim his second world title, Formula 1’s return to an old-school favorite track at Suzuka in rural Japan gives the Dutchman a genuine shot at wrapping up a dominating 2022 season.

The Red Bull star has a 104-point lead to Charles Leclerc with five races to go and, this time, it’s completely in his own hands: a race victory come Sunday with the fastest lap will secure the World Championship irrespective of where Leclerc or team -mate Sergio Perez finish.

Even finishing top of the podium – something Verstappen has done in five of the last six races – without the bonus point means Leclerc has to finish second to mathematically keep the race alive heading into Austin in two weeks’ time.

Of course, the reality is that it is a matter of when, not if. Red Bull’s relationship with Honda does though provide a perfect narrative should the title be claimed at the Japanese manufacturer’s home track. And despite a week where F1’s budget cap row was stretched to Monday – with Red Bull the predominant team in the firing line – Verstappen seemed ultra-relaxed at what could be a glorious few days.