Max Verstappen celebrates after taking pole position. Pic/AFP
A "fired up" Max Verstappen took pole position on Saturday for the Japanese Grand Prix, as he looks to take a giant stride towards a third-straight world title this weekend.
The Red Bull driver bounced back from a fifth-place finish at last week's Singapore Grand Prix to top the timesheets ahead of McLaren pair Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.
Verstappen said: "Singapore didn't happen" after he roared round the Suzuka circuit in a fastest time of 1min 28.877sec - 0.581sec quicker than Piastri. The runaway championship leader warned there was more to come in Sunday's race, saying he was "very fired up to have a good weekend here." "As soon as we put the car on the track it's been very enjoyable to drive, very predictable, which I think is the most important," said Verstappen. "Lap after lap in qualifying was getting better."
Verstappen, who leads teammate and nearest rival Sergio Perez by 151 points in the championship standings, cannot clinch the title on Sunday but a favourable result can set him up to seal the deal at the Qatar Grand Prix next month.
He has won 12 of 15 races so far this season, including a record streak of 10 in a row that ended in Singapore. He and Perez can help Red Bull clinch the constructors' championship in Japan. "That was the aim, especially coming from Singapore, I wanted to have a really strong weekend," said Verstappen, who finished fastest in all three Suzuka practices.
"Of course, we know that this is the first proper opportunity to win it." Verstappen said he was enjoying cutting loose on the sweeping high-speed curves of Suzuka after the tight street circuit of Singapore.
"These high-speed corners are really well-balanced and you can push it to the limit," he said. "It's just really enjoyable to do."
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