Max Verstappen has retained his pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix after being given a reprimand for his driving that forced Lando Norris to take evasive action during qualifying.
Norris accelerated to overtake Verstappen out of 130R ahead of their first flying laps in Q3, with both drivers trying to find a gap to start their runs. As Norris did so, Verstappen was warming his tires and veered left – where Norris was – forcing the McLaren driver to take to the grass to avoid contact, and the stewards deemed that the championship leader had lost control of his car.
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“The driver of car 1 (Verstappen) was aware of car 55 (Carlos Sainz) in front and car 4 (Norris) approaching from behind and decided to accelerate at precisely the same time as car 4 decided to overtake car 1,” the stewards noted. Unfortunately, due to lack of tire temperature on car 1, the driver temporarily lost control of the car causing it to ‘snap’ anti-clockwise.
“The driver of car 4 stated that this was simply an unfortunate incident. However, it is the driver’s responsibility to at all times maintain control of their car. Regarding penalty, all previous breaches of this nature have resulted in a reprimand hence a similar penalty is imposed in this case.”
The driving reprimand is Verstappen’s first of the season and the decision ensures he will start from pole position alongside Charles Leclerc on Sunday, with Leclerc needing to prevent the Red Bull driver from outscoring him by more than seven points in order to keep the title fight alive for another race.