The reigning world champion turned in a pair of stunning laps - both of which would have been enough for pole - to top qualifying for the ninth time this season as he finished 0.581s clear of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. 

The result was never in doubt and underlined Verstappen’s dominance so far this weekend as Red Bull resumed normal service in Japan following their surprise defeat last time out in Singapore. 

Meanwhile, Piastri claimed his best qualifying result of the season as he outpaced McLaren teammate Lando Norris, who took third ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. 

In the other Red Bull, Sergio Perez could only manage fifth as he ended up a huge 0.773s behind Verstappen, with Carlos Sainz sixth in the second Ferrari. 

Lewis Hamilton ended a run of qualifying defeats to Mercedes teammate George Russell as the British duo locked out the fourth row of the grid in seventh and eighth. 

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda secured ninth place for his home race at Suzuka, while Fernando Alonso rounded out the top-10 in his Aston Martin and Liam Lawson narrowly missed out on a second straight Q3 appearance. 

After crashing out of qualifying on his first lap, the under-pressure Logan Sargeant, who is battling to save his Williams seat for next season, will start Sunday’s race from 20th and last.