Lewis Hamilton put in a dominant performance to take pole position ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel by three-tenths of a second for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver broke the lap record by one and half seconds which had belonged to Michael Schumacher, to take his first ever pole at Suzuka meaning he has taken pole at every circuit on the calendar this year.
Hamilton team-mate Valtteri Bottas qualified second two tenths off, however, he has a gearbox penalty which drops him to seventh. This means that Hamilton’s title rival Vettel will join him on the front row of the grid.
The Englishman put in one of the best performances, getting through Q1 on the soft tyre putting him three tenths quicker than Vettel. In Q2, h managed to instantly break Schumacher’s lap record, which had stood for eleven years and then improved again in Q3 when the Silver Arrows are able to deploy a power boost that Red Bull reckon is worth up to eight-tenths of a second.
Hamilton explained to former team-mate Jenson Button, “Incredible. It’s been a really good day. Every lap was fantastic. I never did great in qualifying here. To finally get the balance here, thanks to the great work of my engineers.”
“I finally went out on track and did a time. The car is crazy here. I was running out of opportunities so had to make it stick.”
Vettel added “Qualifying has been quite good to be honest, I’m pretty happy. I tried everything on that last lap as I knew I had to take a bit more risks. It didn’t work! I knew that we’d be on front row because of Valtteri’s penalty.”
Suzuka is appearing more favourable to Mercedes that follows two very difficult races where Ferrari have been ahead on track. However, luck has helped Mercedes at both Grand Prix’s, as Ferrari has been involved in first lap collisions and technical problems.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo out-qualified his teammate Max Verstappen for the first time in seven races, the Australian finding a fraction more than his teammate, to take fourth. Kimi Raikkonen was a tenth off Verstappen, but the Finn also has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
Force India locked out the fourth row, with Esteban Ocon a tenth faster than his team-mate Sergio Perez. But, the Mexican has placed under investigation for impeding Lance Stroll’s Williams during Q1. Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten.
However, the Spaniard will start from the back thanks to a thirty five-place grid penalty. Alonso just squeezed into Q3 at the expense of his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne who missed out by two-thousandths of a second.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was twelfth and teammate Jolyon Palmer fourteenth, the pair being spilt by Haas’s Kevin Magnussen. That represents the best qualifying for the US owned team since August with them being within a tenth of the German.
Sukuza would not surely allow everyone to escape trouble free, at the end of Q1 Romain Grosjean crashed out while trying to improve. The Frenchman complained “something wrong on the car, massive oversteer” at the beginning the Esse.
The Frenchman ran wide on exit before losing the rear of the car after touching the grass destroying the front of the car and appeared to damage every corner, leaving the team with a big repair job ahead of Sunday’s race.
Grosjean explained, “The car just went on a massive snap. It’s a shame because I thought we could have made the top ten.”
Pierre Gasly will start seventeenth ahead of Lance Stroll, the Williams driver complaining of blocking in Q1. Marcus Ericsson out-qualified Sauber team-mate Pascal Wehrlein by three tenths.