Max Verstappen’s pole position is pending a review from race control after a near-miss with Lando Norris at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Having generally been the quickest man in the first two phases of qualifying, the Dutchman was moving slowly on his out-lap ahead of his opening run in Q3.
Norris decided that he did not want to wait for the reigning champion and, as was his right, he overtook the Red Bull heading into the final chicane.
Verstappen was trying to warm up his tyres on a cool racetrack, but he lost the rear as he did so, so when Norris squeezed by, the 25-year-old pushed Norris onto the grass.
The stewards opened an investigation, which will be completed at 9:00 BST after Norris showed exceptional car control to avoid a crash.
Verstappen caught up with his friend after his first run that saw him go fastest, and he appeared to offer a hand of apology.
A mistake at the start of his second run prevented Verstappen from improving, but Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez were unable to dethrone him, so he kept pole.
Team-mate Perez held onto his win in Singapore last weekend despite being given a five-second penalty for a Safety Car infringement.
The Mexican beat Leclerc by 7.5 seconds, so the punishment did not affect the result, but it remains to be seen what penalty, if any, awaits Verstappen.
The 31-time race winner is delighted to be back in Japan for the first time since 2019.
“It was pretty incredible to drive here again,” Verstappen told Johnny Herbert after the session.
“Especially in qualifying here when you are on low fuel, these cars really come alive in the first sector, so of course very happy to be on pole, but also in general, just super happy to be back here.”
Verstappen’s second run was ruined when he ran wide at Turn Two, losing a part of the rear of his car.
“I lost a part of the duct in my final lap, so probably that’s why I couldn’t really improve,” he explained.
“But nevertheless, the first lap was good enough.”
Speaking on the incident with Norris, the now 18-time polesitter detailed what happened.
“I was just driving quite slow, and I wanted to accelerate but my tyres were quite cold,” added Verstappen.
“So, I had a big moment, and then of course Lando was trying to pass my at the same time to avoid me a little bit, but luckily nothing happened.”
Verstappen will win the championship with a win and a fastest lap on Sunday, but weather may yet play a part.
“It will be interesting, first of all, to see the weather,” he affirmed.
“I mean, some [forecasts] say it’s going to be dry, some say it’s going to be raining at some point during the race, so we just need to see what happens with that.
“I’m quite confident that we have a car as well, so excited for tomorrow.”