Lewis Hamilton put in a dominate performance to take pole position ahead of title rival Sebastian Vettel by three tenths of a second for the Japanese Grand Prix.
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.
Lewis Hamilton comes out of Eighteen heading for the outside of the circuit as he crosses the line to start the lap. He is in eighth gear using the DRS to give himself maximum speed and turn into First Turn breaking half way through the corner. Stays in a low gear and at low speed on the short run into Two, goes to the outside then back to the inside as he approaches Three. Outside then to the inside as weaves his way through the S Curves. Opens up the car on exit of Seven.
Eases off slightly through Degner goes along the kerb before easing off a bit more at Nine. He runs to the outside staying there before quickly heading to the outside kerb through Ten. Continues on the breaks rolling his Mercedes around the Hairpin, before heading to the outside kerb. Building his speed through twelve goes for the central line on approach to thirteen breaks for first part of Spoon, continues until he hits the second part. Goes to the outside opening up his Mercedes.
Eighth gear as he crosses the bridge taking Fifteen flat, before he breaks into the first part of Casio Triangle. Hits the entry kerb in third gear, into the second part the chicane running along the kerb crossing the track to the outside and across the line with a 01:27.319
Palmer out of race seat
Jolyon Palmer has announced that Carlos Sainz will replace him for the rest of the season, making Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix his last race for Renault.
The Englishman who will start the race from eighteenth on the grid, has been under pressure all season. But the news last month that he was being replaced by Sainz next season has uped the rumours about him being replaced sooner.
Posting on Instagram, he said “Tomorrow’s Japanese GP will be my last race for Renault. With my grid penalty I’ll be starting near the back but I will be giving it my all as always. Thanks everyone for the support during the last 2 years, it means a lot!”
Palmer will start the race from eighteenth on the grid thanks to grid penalty for engine component changes. The news means that Daniil Kvyat who was dropped by Toro Rosso after Singapore will return to drive alongside Pirre Gasly.
Mercedes stellar performance
So Hamilton put in that seller qualifying session topping all three parts of the session and broke that unofficial lap record by Michael Schumacher after bettering his time. To think last weekend and in Singapore we were all a little puzzled as to why Mercedes they were struggling to match Ferrari on pace.
Hamilton said that the W08 had felt transformed this weekend, as the balance issues that blighted the team’s weekend in Malaysia were gone. Saying “The car is a lot different this weekend and a lot more enjoyable to drive. Last weekend was a bit of a disaster but we still got pole, which was unusual.”
Asked if the team understood why it was quicker this weekend, Hamilton added: “We have an idea. There’s a lot of analysis that’s gone in to understanding it, so I think we do understand, yes.” Suzuka a high speed circuit and the cooler conditions are more favourable for mcedes.
Team boss Toto Wolff said “The bad days makes you progress more, and there was some learning and we changed the car for Suzuka. We put it on the track and it was pretty solid, straight from the get-go.”
“We learned a lot in Malaysia and looked at the data, analysed it. We found ways where we thought we could optimise the car’s setup and it proved to be the right direction.
In Q1 Romain Grosjean crashed out of qualifying. The Frenchman had a wobble going through the Esses runs wide over the kerb onto the grass comes back onto the track and spins the car. Going nose first into the tyre barrier, hits the front wheel which breaks off his car.
Speaking after the session, Grosjean says that he does not understand why he struggled with the handling of the car on his second run, after he said he felt the team had made a significant step forward in performance between final practice and qualifying.
“I don’t know [the reason why]. I went faster than the previous lap but slower than FP3. From FP3 to qualifying I think we made a really good choice technically, the car felt really nice on the first run.”
“I had a massive moment at Turn 11 and lost more than 0.5s, so I wasn’t worried that we would not go through [to Q2]. I came back in the garage, did a tiny bit of front wing and went again.”
Daniel Ricciardo says that Red Bull’s pace this weekend has been better than the team expected. In Qualifying both Ricciardo and his team-mate Max Verstappen were around a second off Hamilton, with fourth and fifth respectively.
Asked if he had expected to be closer to the pace, Ricciardo said: “Yeah. A second is quite a bit. Before the weekend, I thought it would be around more six tenths, half a second but after the morning we were a bit off the pace.”
“I don’t think we could have done anything better. Max and I tried different downforce settings and we still ended up with more or less the same lap times so I don’t think we left half a second anywhere. I made the decision to try overnight and our lap times are pretty much more or less the same.
“I don’t think we could have done more with what we had today, relative to the gap to pole but yeah they’re [Mercedes] just too quick unfortunately.”
Stroll v Perez
Sergio Perez has not awarded any penalty despite being found to have impeded Williams’s Lance Stroll during qualifying. In Q1, the Canadian complained about being held up by the Mexican at the final chicane.
The steward ruled that while Stroll was held up it did not constitute unnecessary impeding because Perez’s position was a consequence of having just been passed by Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly.
“Throughout qualifying cars were slowing considerably entering Turn 16 in order to achieve a gap to the cars in front of them. This created an accordion effect when several cars were doing this in succession. This contributed to the incident between Car 11 [Perez] and Car 18 [Stroll].@
“Sergio Perez was setting up for a fast lap behind several cars ahead of him. Pierre Gasly was behind Perez, and approaching Turn 16 passed Perez, which he was entitled to do. The interaction with Gasly caused Perez to be at the apex of Turn 17 at the moment that Lance Stroll, who was on a fast lap, also reached Turn 17.”
What they are saying is that while they accept Stroll was impeded by Perez, the Mexican was unable to avoid impeding Stroll as the Gasly incident was the reason he backed off.
Honda boss Yusuke Hasegawa says he is “ashamed” by Fernando Alonso’s grid penalty for the manufacturers home Grand Prix. Alonso qualified in the top ten, but drops to the back because of a thirty five place penalty.
Honda discovered a hydraulic leak on Alonso’s engine after Friday practice and elected to swap the power unit in its entirety rather than attempt a fix.
Hasegawa told reporters after the session “We didn’t have an engine failure, we had some hydraulic leakage, which we can change if we find out [the cause] with enough time, but we couldn’t, that’s why we need to change the engine.”
Tomorrow race will be a fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, particularly the two championship rivals. We know Mercedes can be beaten by Ferrari, Vettel knows that overtaking will be difficult but Hamilton will expect a fight from the Red Bulls as well.
Hamilton will want to get the Red Bulls in between himself and Vettel as he knows it will be more difficult for Vettel to pass them. Ideally yes he would have liked Bottas alongside him, but he could play a part if Mercedes can get him ahead of the Red Bull’s to put pressure on Vettel.
- Japanese GP – Qualifying Result
- JAPANESE GP – Hamilton takes a maiden pole at Sukuza going three tenths faster than Vettel, breaking the lap record
- Notebook – Japanese Practice
- JAPANESE GP – Hamilton tops the times in rain affected second practice
- JAPANESE GP – Vettel edges out Hamilton in first practice by two tenths
- Preview – Japanese Grand Prix