Max Verstappen was asked a few days ago if he had concerns going into the Japanese Grand Prix. His rear brakes caught fire just two weeks ago at the Australian GP, forcing him out on the fourth lap. True to his word. No worries. The Dutchman claimed the pole for Red Bull in Saturday qualifying, poised to return to his unprecedented dominance in Formula 1 after the blip in Australia. Verstappen clocked 1 minute, 28.197 seconds, just 0.066 ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez. Lando Norris of McClaren and Carlos Sainz of Ferrari — the winner in Australia — will make up the second row. F1 2024: Carlos Sainz Wins Australian Grand Prix After Max Verstappen Retires Early With Engine Fire.

“It was quite close at the end,” “I think overall this track is very sensitive with the tyres. When you really want to go to the limit it doesn't always work out." Verstappen said of his teammate Perez.

Verstappen did not sound totally pleased with his day, suggesting the car's flat-out speed was not what he expected.

“No, no,” Verstappen replied. “The point is to be on pole. Of course, you want every lap to be perfect but around a track like this, that's not always the case. But overall, a very good day — a good starting position for tomorrow. And of course, tomorrow is what counts.”

He also relished starting alongside Perez.

“It's great as a team of course to be one and two, and hopefully, we can keep that going for tomorrow.”

Verstappen is the three-time defending champion, holds almost every F1 record, and has won 21 of the last 25 races entering Sunday's race in Japan.

He's won every pole this season – four – and this was the 36th of his career and he chases his 57th win on Sunday. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who dominated the sport before Verstappen, is without a win in 48 races – the last in 2021. He will start from seventh on the grid. F1 2024: Alex Albon Takes Over Williams Teammate Logan Sargeant’s Car for Remainder of Australian Grand Prix.

Saturday was a sunny, dry day and race day should be the same with no rain in the forecast. Rain often plagued the race when it was traditionally held in the fall. This season it's been moved to the spring and dovetails with Japan's cherry blossom season. Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin was fifth, with McLaren's Oscar Piastri qualifying in sixth place ahead of Hamilton.

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)