The Saturday in F1 Japanese GP qualifying saw a fight between Red Bull and Ferrari in dry conditions, as Mercedes were behind them pretty much.

The dry weather conditions on Saturday of F1 Japanese GP weekend at Suzuka saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen just edge out the Ferrari pair where the Top 3 were divided by just the 0.057s margin. But then the Dutchman didn’t get a final quick lap.

A moment on the kerb left him no chance to improve but his first lap was enough. He also had a hairy moment with Lando Norris for which he was reprimanded. His teammate Sergio Perez was fourth just behind the Ferrari duo in a close fight.

With the weather predicted to be wet, it remains to be seen how they go about. But for now, Red Bull and Ferrari seem to be ahead while Mercedes are just behind them and could face challenge from the Alpine pair where Esteban Ocon beat all of the three.

Verstappen: “It was, I think a pretty good lap at the time. Of course, you know, there’s normally always a bit of track evolution going on after every run. But at the time, I think it was a good lap. The balance of the car was quite good. So then, of course, it’s really enjoyable to be pushing here, especially through that first sector. I’m not thinking about title too much. Just taking it day-by-day. I think what was most important is that we would have a competitive car and clearly we had that today in Qualifying, and I hope of course it’s going to be the same tomorrow in the race – because we do need a perfect race to be able to win it tomorrow. But at least it’s a good start.

“Regarding the Norris incident, we were all on our out lap. And yeah, we were all lining up to try and create a gap to everyone. And somehow he still wanted to get me into the chicane. But I was at the point of accelerating but I was on very cold tyres, so I had like a little moment and that’s why you had to drive around me. But you know, if you’re just a bit more respectful than everyone is anyway already lining up. I don’t think anyone is trying to pass into that last chicane. So basically, by trying to pass me you create that kind of problem.”

Leclerc: “The car was good, I was struggling more with the tyres to put everything together, first and last sector especially. The more I was pushing in the first sector, the more I was going slow in the last sector, losing a little bit the tyres. So, it was a tricky one but overall the car felt good. Honestly, there was no big compromises done for tomorrow. Obviously the forecast is predicting a little bit of rain here and there.  We won’t know whether it will happen or not but it was very tricky though, to actually have the car ready and in the right spot for qualifying after only FP3 but I think we did a good job on that so it didn’t compromise us.”

Sainz: “It was a good lap. Clean all the way until the last chicane. There, probably I overcooked a bit a tyre, going into that last chicane and it cost me quite a bit of lap time. But another half-a-tenth that we could have got there but yeah, a bit fed-up of being half-a-tenth off pole. I think it’s been a few qualis now, consecutives in Zandvoort, also before the summer break where we are, all three, very tight with each other but somehow it tends to fall into Max or Charles’ hands instead of mine, which hopefully towards the end of the season I will end up getting one and get it out of the way.

“You know big compromises apart from obviously having quite a bit of a hectic FP3 to put the car in the right place for qualifying but once quality started, you think about the dry and how to make the car quicker in the dry. Tomorrow, the rain, we don’t know if it’s going to arrive at two, at three, at four but it looks like it will hit us but you don’t know if the rain is going to arrive in the last stint, in the first stint or after the race, which then it’s not worth taking any compromises. But yeah, the good thing is that we are both cars up there again, ready to put the pressure on Max and see what… when the rain comes and how we can get both of us ahead.”

Hamilton: “The car felt really good today, I was really happy with the balance and with the set-up we had, it was just slow on the straights. We’ve had a very draggy car all year. I’m pushing the pedal as hard as I can, but we can’t go any faster. We are losing at least six-tenths or something on the straights compared to the other guys but through the corners, through the lap, it was still a fun lap to drive. We didn’t look too bad in the wet conditions, so I think either way, we should be a little closer than we were today, and just hoping for a better race result. You’ve got to expect the Red Bulls and the Ferraris are going to dash off on their own, potentially have their own race. Hopefully we will be a little bit faster than we are today as we often are in the race. Just have fun, I hope.”

Russell: “The car was feeling okay in all honesty. Not perfect but not as far off as the lap time showed. It was a feeling within. We are losing a huge amount of lap time down the straights compared to our rivals. That’s kind of been the case all season but I think this is the first circuit that has long straight which you also have high downforce. Normally when you look at the circuits with the long straights – Spa, Monza, even Silverstone – where you’re running low downforce and the high downforce circuits – Monaco, Budapest, Zandvoort, Singapore – they have short straights. You don’t really see that deficit in the straight-line speed but here that weakness has truly been exposed.”

Ocon: “That’s going to be the aim, for sure. We were fighting with the Mercs earlier this year; if I remember tracks like Jeddah, they were quicker than us. We’ve updated the car a lot since then, but obviously the target is to keep them behind. It’s not going to be an easy thing to do, but a lot is going to happen. There is going to be some rain in the air also, so let’s bring some good points for the team tomorrow with both cars.”

The Top 10 also had Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in ninth, making his way into Q3 and getting slightly emotional after his final qualifying lap in F1 at Suzuka. The German made the most out of a car which isn’t the best in qualifying as he beat McLarens too.

Norris was 10th while Daniel Ricciardo missed out just in Q2 in 11th. The Brit reckoned it was the most tricky qualifying sessions he has been part in 2022, while the Australian lamented that extra time that he lost to make it in Q3.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was happy with his lap, while even Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was despite getting knocked out in Q1. The Dane reckoned the car felt good even though he was only 18th. Teammate Mick Schumacher, though, made it through to Q2.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was quite disappointed after suffering from brake issues as he was very vocal on the radio too. Teammate Yuki Tsunoda made it in Q2 despite facing similar issues, while Williams’ Alexander Albon was frustrated to miss out Q2 by just.

Vettel: “Laps like this make me – not regret [my retirement], because I look forward to what’s coming, but a bit sad about the fact that it’s the last time. Saturday here is different to Sunday, because Sunday you have more fuel in the car, it’s more managing, different discipline in a way. Saturday is when you’re flying. We are far away from P1 but the feeling in the car is something special when the fuel is light and the tyre is fresh. It’s the Saturday that here you’re most alive in the car because you’re faster. I will never go as fast tomorrow as I went today because you don’t have new tyres and hardly any fuel in the car. It will be different.

“It’s great around here in the race as well because you have so many laps and repeat, and finding the best balance between managing tyres and attacking, doing it for so many laps.” I think tomorrow will be crucial to look after tyres, but we might have rain as well so we’ll see. We also have quite a big rear wing on, so maybe it helps, but we’ll see what happens. We have nothing to sort of lose – obviously it’s tight in the constructors’ and we want to score some points. On paper this is probably not the best track for us but we had a good day today so why not do it again tomorrow?”

Ricciardo: “I’m disappointed with the overall result because the session was looking good. From the first lap, it was strong and I was comfortable. I think the 1m30.8 was a quick time on the first set of tyres. From there we were competitive, but it was hard to get much more out of it, and we were trying to push a bit more, but that hurt some other corners. I was hoping we would be able to keep gaining, especially with track evolution, but the gains at the end were very minimal, and it was really hard to make that next step. I think it was looking pretty good and then obviously to be out in Q2 was not really what we thought was going to happen. I think we were relatively competitive, but I think we were just ultimately missing that last little bit. 0.003s is painful, but we’ll try again tomorrow!”

Bottas: “It feels like we really got everything out of our lap and we didn’t leave anything out there: unfortunately, that was not enough for a spot in Q3, and we missed out by less than 0.1s. Both my Q2 laps were pretty good, but it shows how close the midfield is that a mere few hundredths of a second can make such a big difference: it’s disappointing, but we’re not far off and we know we will be battling for the points. Tomorrow is when it really matters and the forecast is still not clear yet. We looked good in the rain yesterday, so I wouldn’t mind some wet weather we can use to climb a few places.”

Gasly: “I’m disappointed with today. We replaced the front left brake disc ahead of Quali and then on the out lap we were behind a lot of cars, which meant we couldn’t get enough temperature into the brakes. Every time I touched them, I had front locking, which was really tricky, and meant our last attempt went to waste. Tomorrow will not be easy from where we start, but it might be raining. I hope it will be, because it would bring more excitement and more opportunities to make our way forward. Our car works well in the wet, so I think that these conditions would be best for us.”

Magnussen: “It was a pretty smooth qualifying, but I didn’t have any more in it. Mick and I have different set-ups but it was two tenths that I was behind. My lap was good, there were no mistakes and the car actually felt fine so it’s one of those where you’re P18 but it’s hard to understand why. There’s some chances of mixed weather tomorrow and in this position you hope for that.”

Albon: “It’s frustrating to miss out on Q2 by just half a tenth. I definitely feel like we had the car today to be in Q2. The very end of our outlap was slow because the cars in front of me were very slow through sector 3, so the tyres weren’t quite ready. I was sliding around very quickly early in the lap and that causes the tyres to overheat. More than any other circuit that is very detrimental to lap time. Our race pace was okay in the dry, so we’ll need to wait and see what happens tomorrow.”

Here’s how F1 Japanese GP qualifying panned out