Suzuka Super Formula: Palou on pole for decider

Alex Palou boosted his Super Formula title prospects by annexing pole position for Sunday's deciding race at Suzuka, coming close to establishing a new lap record.

Suzuka Super Formula: Palou on pole for decider
Listen to this article

Nakajima Racing driver Palou's lap of 1m35.972s at the end of the seven-minute Q3 session put him with a tenth of a second of the track record set by Kazuki Nakajima in 2017.

It also ensured he took a vital bonus point, putting him within three points of standings leader Naoki Yamamoto with 13 still up for grabs in the race.

"First job done," commented Palou after scoring this third pole of 2019. "I said yesterday [Friday] I was really motivated, because the first round [of the season at Suzuka] I lost pole position, and I had to bring that pole home.

"In Q2 I was a bit nervous, I don't know what happened, but the team worked on the set-up and gave me a new strategy.

"Tomorrow is the big day. We'll try to fight and we'll try to win the championship. I want this win and this championship so bad, I think the team deserves it."

Palou edged out Team Mugen's Tomoki Nojiri for pole by 0.112s, while Red Bull-backed Lucas Auer rounded out the top three for B-Max Racing.

Yamamoto was fifth-fastest, a place behind Dandelion Racing teammate Nirei Fukuzumi and 0.376s off pole, but ahead of nearest rival in the standings Nick Cassidy (TOM'S).

Cassidy had barely scraped into Q3, beating Harrison Newey for eighth in Q2 by a scant 0.058s and becoming the only Toyota runner to make it into the pole shootout.

The Kiwi driver then beat both Koudai Tsukakoshi (Real Racing) and Tadasuke Makino (Nakajima Racing) to qualify sixth.

After Newey's big shunt at 130R in second practice, B-Max was able to repair his car in time for the start of qualifying, with the Briton going on to secure his best grid slot of 2019 in ninth ahead of the second TOM'S car of Kazuki Nakajima.

Outside title hopeful Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing) could only manage 11th, while Kamui Kobayashi was the only one of the five contenders to be eliminated in Q1.

As per the previous round at Okayama, Q1 was split into two groups. KCMG driver Kobayashi was in the slower first group but could manage only the eighth-fastest time, leaving the Toyota LMP1 regular down in 16th on the grid.

Juri Vips (Team Mugen) took part in the second group but was 10th and slowest in his first-ever Super Formula qualifying session, meaning he'll start Sunday's race from 19th.

The Estonian nonetheless starts ahead of two-time series champion Hiroaki Ishiura (Inging), who was slowest in the first group after a trip into the gravel at Degner 2 on his hot lap.

Q3 results:

Cla Driver Team Time Gap
1 Spain Alex Palou TCS Nakajima Racing 01'35.972  
2 Japan Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen 01'36.084 00.112
3 Austria Lucas Auer B-MAX with Motopark 01'36.236 00.264
4 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 01'36.314 00.342
5 Japan Naoki Yamamoto DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 01'36.348 00.376
6 New Zealand Nick Cassidy Vantelin Team TOM'S 01'36.496 00.524
7 Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi Real Racing 01'36.595 00.623
8 Japan Tadasuke Makino TCS Nakajima Racing 01'36.621 00.649
Newey escapes violent 130R Super Formula crash
Previous article

Newey escapes violent 130R Super Formula crash

Next article

Cassidy: Toyota power shortfall worse than 2018

Cassidy: Toyota power shortfall worse than 2018