Record-breaking qualifying result for Hamilton at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton achieved his 71st career pole position in Formula 1 with a dominant qualifying performance at Suzuka.

The Mercedes driver had so much speed and confidence. Breaking the lap record set by Michael Schumacher from 2006.

Championship leader had the edge over his rivals by more than four tenths clear of Sebastian Vettel after the first runs in Q3 and lowered his own benchmark by a couple of hundredths to confirm pole.

Vettel’s Ferrari was provisionally on the front row after the first runs, but a small improvement at the end was not enough to stay second.

Valtteri Bottas, who almost crashed at the second Degner in Q1 after shunting in final practice session, found a lot of time on his own final run to make it onto the front row.

However, a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change on Bottas’s Mercedes will promote Vettel back onto the front row for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest in the best of the Red Bulls, just 0.026 seconds clear of team-mate and Sepang winner Max Verstappen.

Kimi Raikkonen went off at the second Degner on his first run in Q3, scene of his crash in final practice, and his second effort was only good enough for sixth.

Raikkonen will also drop five places on the grid after requiring a new gearbox following that crash.

Esteban Ocon narrowly beat Sergio Perez again, while Felipe Massa’s Williams and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda rounded out the top ten in Q3.

Perez is under investigation for impeding Massa’s Williams team-mate Lance Stroll in Q1, while Alonso will drop to the back of the grid thanks to a 35-place grid penalty for an illegal engine change, following a hydraulic leak discovered after practice.

Alonso’s McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne missed out on beating Alonso into Q3 by just 0.029 seconds after failing to improve on his second run, but he should start the race inside the top ten thanks to Alonso’s grid penalty.

Nico Hulkenberg was P12 in the best of the Renaults in Q2, a tenth further back, while Kevin Magnussen scored the best qualifying result for Haas since the Belgian Grand Prix by posting P13, within a tenth of Hulkenberg.

Jolyon Palmer was P14, less than three tenths from making the top ten, while Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso was cut adrift of the group in P15, almost four tenths slower than Palmer.

Palmer and Sainz both face 20-place grid penalties for requiring illegal engine component changes.

A heavy crash for Romain Grosjean at the top of the Esses in the closing stages of Q1 brought that segment to an early end, which prevented any of the lower runners from go quicker.

Grosjean, who complained “something wrong on the car, massive oversteer” as he ran off the road at Turns 5 and 6 before crashing into the wall before Turn 7, was already in the drop zone when he crashed, having earlier lapped less than a tenth slower than Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

So, Grosjean ended up in P16, ahead of Toro Rosso rookie Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll, who complained about being blocked multiple times in the early part of Q1.

Marcus Ericsson was quickest of the Sauber drivers in P19, almost three tenths clear of team-mate Pascal Wehrlein and within two tenths of Stroll.

So a brilliant performance by Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka. His first pole position at this challenging, figure of eight track. Title rival Sebastian Vettel starts alongside on the front row and it’s going to be a fascinating fight for race victory.

Qualifying positions, Suzuka:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m27.319s
2    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m27.791s
3    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m28.306s
4    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m28.332s
5    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m29.111s
6    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m29.260s
7    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m27.651s
8    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m29.480s
9    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m29.778s
10    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m29.879s
11    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m28.498s
12    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m29.972s
13    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m30.849s
14    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m31.317s
15    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m31.409s
16    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m31.597s
17    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m31.885s
18    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m30.022s
19    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m30.413s
20    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m30.687s

7 thoughts on “Record-breaking qualifying result for Hamilton at Suzuka

  1. Japanese Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes staged a dramatic return to form in Suzuka, as the world championship points leader earned his 71st pole position – and his first at the charismatic Japanese track – after a stunning display that left rivals reeling. Team mate Valtteri Bottas was second, but a gearbox penalty for the Finn means it’s Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who will start alongside Hamilton on the front row.

    Fourth and fifth fastest were the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, followed by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who like compatriot Bottas has a five-place gearbox penalty. The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were seventh and eighth, with Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completing the top ten.

    Early in the hour, Q1 came to an explosive end as Romain Grosjean lost control of his Haas going up the hill behind the paddock, after putting a wheel over the kerb. It hit the outer tyre wall hard, removing its nose and the left front wheel, but the Frenchman walked away unharmed. With 1m 18s remaining, the session was not restarted.

    Hamilton had set the pace with 1m 29.047s, from Raikkonen on 1m 29.163s and Verstappen on 1m 29.181s. Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo followed, the Mercedes driver hugely lucky to get away with a massive slide into the dirt in Degner 2 on his first run. Interestingly, however, only Hamilton and Vettel were using the soft Pirelli tyres, the rest had supersofts.

    The luckless Grosjean was the first to fail to get into Q2, his 1m 30.849s best beaten fractionally by team mate Kevin Magnussen. Then came Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly on 1m 31.317s, Williams’ Lance Stroll on 1m 31.409s (claiming he was blocked at the end of his best lap by Sergio Perez – the stewards are investigating), and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 31.597s and 1m 31.885s respectively.

    Having come close to Michael Schumacher’s absolute track record of 1m 28.954s in Q1, Hamilton didn’t just beat it in Q2, he unofficially pulped it, with a stunning lap of 1m 27.819s on supersofts. Vettel’s best was 1m 28.482s on the same rubber, as Raikkonen got close to Hamilton’s Q1 best on softs, with 1m 29.079s. That was soon bettered by Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo, however. Later, Vettel improved to 1m 28.225s, but Hamilton and Mercedes had made a massive statement ahead of Q3.

    Further back, Alonso just aced McLaren team mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who on 1m 29.778s just failed to beat the Spaniard to the final Q3 slot. He was followed by Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault on 1m 29.879s, Kevin Magnussen’s surviving Haas on 1m 29.972s, Jolyon Palmer’s Renault on 1m 30.022s, and Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso on 1m 30.413s.

    Bottas set the early pace in Q3 with 1m 27.986s, but Hamilton immediately beat that with 1m 27.345s before Vettel did likewise with 1m 27.797s. Ricciardo and Verstappen followed on 1m 28.444s and 1m 28.985s respectively.

    Could Hamilton stay ahead and take pole for the first time at Suzuka?

    Indeed he could, as he trimmed down to 1m 27.319s to head Bottas, who cut down to 1m 27.651s to beat Vettel, who improved to 1m27.791s. Verstappen momentarily went ahead of Ricciardo with 1m 28.332s, but the Aussie took fourth place back with 1m 28.306s as Raikkonen was left sixth on 1m 28.498s.

    Behind them, Ocon held on to seventh with 1m 29.111s from team mate Perez on 1m 28.260s, with Massa close on 1m 28.480s and Alonso distant on 1m 30.687s.

    Various grid penalties will mix up the provisional starting order. In summary, penalised for using additional power unit components are Sainz (20 grid places), Alonso (35), Palmer (20). Bottas and Raikkonen, meanwhile, get five-place drops for unscheduled gearbox changes.

  2. After scoring a pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted his record Suzuka pole lap felt “insane”. Motorsport.com has the full story.

    Lewis Hamilton described the feeling behind the wheel of his Mercedes Formula 1 car as “insane” after taking his first Suzuka pole position in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.

    The world championship leader broke Michael Schumacher’s qualifying lap record, set in Q2 in 2006, by 1.365s to take his 71st F1 pole and first in 10 attempts at this circuit.

    Hamilton was particularly impressed by the feeling created by the increased downforce levels allowed by the 2017 regulations.

    “It’s incredible to come here with this car, this car has been one of the greatest, if not the greatest,” said Hamilton.

    “This car is mind-blowing. [Suzuka has] always been one of the craziest roller-coaster rides, three seconds quicker [than 2016].

    “It is insane being thrown around. It is incredible for me, my first pole position here so 10th time lucky. I am grateful for that.”

    Having struggled with balance at Suzuka in the past, Hamilton said this was the first time he has felt completely confident in his car here.

    This has played a part in him never taking a Suzuka pole, although this is his third Japanese Grand Prix pole position having twice topped qualifying when the race was held at Fuji.

    “Every single time I have struggled here, struggled with finding the right balance, generally not starting on the right foot,” said Hamilton.

    “And if I have started on the right foot, I’ve gone in the wrong direction. It has always been up and down.

    “This is the first car I felt has been underneath me all weekend, small tweaks here and there in the right direction and ultimately a good job done globally.

    “It has worked out better this time and my knowledge of the car is better than it was before, which has enabled me to go out and do the job.

    “It is a real confidence boost to our group.”

    Hamilton added that while the Mercedes has been tricky to get the best out of at times during the 2017 season, the car has generally been good to drive in qualifying.

    “It has been a great car in qualifying this year, and qualifying for me is the most enjoyable part of the weekend,” he said.

    “Being able to put together laps like today is the one you wait for all weekend, Q1, Q2, Q3 – motorsport is about ultimate performance from myself and the car.

    “It is great when it comes together on days like this. If we were on back foot here it wouldn’t be great position to be in, let’s hope she is not stubborn tomorrow.”

  3. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel admits extra risk in Q3 didn’t work and had to settle for second position. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel says he took extra risk in the final part of qualifying for Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix because of Valtteri Bottas’s grid penalty, but it “didn’t work”.

    The Ferrari driver qualified third fastest at Suzuka, but will start on the front row thanks to a gearbox penalty for Bottas.

    Vettel was second after the first runs, but a small improvement at the end was not enough to stay second.

    “In the last run in Q3 I tried a bit more than there was,” Vettel explained. “Valtteri wasn’t a threat, so I took a bit more risk, but it didn’t work.

    “Still, I am happy with third and the front row tomorrow, the starts lately have been quite good. The car balance is getting better and better.

    “We are lacking a bit of performance but the car should be a bit better in the race.”

    Vettel qualified more than four tenths slower than poleman Lewis Hamilton, who he trails by 34 points in the championship.

    After a qualifying problem forced Vettel into a charge from the back of the grid in Malaysia last week, with Mercedes vulnerable, Vettel conceded his rival was “back to normal” in Japan.

    “I don’t know which sort of pace they will have,” he said. “They are a bit up and down, last week they weren’t very quick, this race back to normal.

    “For us normally we are a bit stronger in the race compared to qualifying, so we get together and see what we can do at the start and during the race.”

    Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen made an error on his first Q3 lap and his second attempt was only good enough for sixth.

    He will drop further down the grid thanks to a gearbox penalty earned from a crash in FP3, and Vettel said it was “not ideal” but stopped short of suggesting it was hurting his own chances not having his teammate closer to support him.

    “There was a small issue that led to a problem with Kimi’s car,” said Vettel.

    “The car is quick, last weekend showed that if you start out of position, you can still get back. I am sure he can have a strong race from where he starts.”

  4. The Iceman paid a “hefty price” for his final practice mistake which affected his qualifying. Kimi Raikkonen will take a five-place grid penalty for changing a gearbox. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    Kimi Raikkonen says he paid a “hefty price” for his mistake in final Japanese Grand Prix practice which hampered his Formula 1 qualifying preparations and forced a gearbox penalty.

    The Ferrari driver damaged the left side of the car when he crashed at the Degner 2 right-hander halfway through the one-hour final practice session at Suzuka.

    The rear of his Ferrari got away from him mid-corner and Raikkonen failed to regain control before he hit the barriers.

    Ferrari inspected the unit and decided it a change was needed ahead of qualifying, which instigated a five-place grid penalty, but repaired the car ready in time to get him out for qualifying.

    “I just went off,” said Raikkonen. “It was a mistake, and I paid quite a hefty price for it with the penalty and far from ideal preparation for qualifying, but that’s how it goes.”

    Raikkonen could not match his teammate in qualifying, ending up around 0.7s behind teammate Sebastian Vettel.

    He qualified sixth, but will line up 10th after his penalty and will begin the race on the soft tyre – rather than the supersoft like most of the top 10 – after using the compound in the second part of qualifying.

    “The first lap (in Q1) was far from ideal,” said Raikkonen. “On the second lap, I wasn’t sure how much there will be grip because it wasn’t a great feeling on the first run.

    “The biggest issue was very limited running because of the issue this morning. At a place like this where you have to get it right to be able to go fast in the first sector, you pay a big price.”

    Raikkonen is hopeful of a stronger race on Sunday, given his feeling in the car before his accident on Saturday morning.

    “[The feeling] has been OK,” he said. “It’s a bit tricky because this morning. It’s not the greatest feeling in the end of qualifying.

    “Before we had the mistake, it’s been good. I think the race should be OK. I think we have a good car, we will do our best and see where we end up.

    “It’s not going to be easy, but I’m sure we should have a pretty decent race.”

  5. Sergio Perez has escaped punishment despite being found to have impeded Williams driver Lance Stroll during Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.

    Williams driver Stroll complained about being delayed by Perez on a fast lap during his first Q1 run, having encountered Perez in the middle of the Turn 16/17 chicane.

    But F1 stewards, including nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours Tom Kristensen, 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,” said the stewards’ statement.

    “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.

    “After Gasly passed Turn 17 he was told by his team to pit.

    “Article 31.6 [of the sporting regulations] prohibits ‘unnecessarily’ impeding. Both drivers agreed in the hearing that had there not been the interaction of the other cars, Perez would not have been in the position he was and that the situation changed significantly and unavoidably when Gasly passed Perez.

    “And therefore the stewards concluded that while Perez certainly impeded Stroll, he did not unnecessarily impede Stroll and therefore take no further action.”

    Stroll was unable to set a time on his second Q1 run thanks to the red flag triggered by Romain Grosjean’s crash and did not make it to Q2.

    “I didn’t get a lap time as I was blocked on both my push laps, by Perez and Gasly in the last chicane, and then we got the red flag, so there was no chance to make Q2,” said Stroll.

    “But that is how it goes and there is nothing I can do about it now.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

  6. Haas driver Romain Grosjean suffered a major qualifying crash after losing control in the Suzuka Esses. Grosjean was okay after the incident but was left feeling baffled by his Q1 crash. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Romain Grosjean admitted he could not really explain the reason for his big accident during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Haas driver lost control of his car at Turn 4 during Q1, having gone wide in the previous corner.

    He crashed against the wall and caused heavy damage to his car, forcing the session to be red-flagged with less than two minutes remaining.

    Grosjean admitted his car’s handling changed drastically in his second run in Q1, and said he had no clear explanation as to why he had crashed.

    “I don’t know. I went faster than the previous lap but slower than in FP3, so I don’t know,” said Grosjean. “From FP3 to qualy I think we made a really good choice technically, the car felt really nice in that first run.

    “I had a massive moment in Turn 11 where I lost more than half a second, so I wasn’t worried that we would not go through, so I came back in the garage, we added a tiny bit of front wing and went again.

    “And in Turn 1 already I had a big snap. I didn’t really know where it came from. I kept going and I went into [Turn] 3, but by the time I went into [Turn] 3 I just lost the rear and it was too late.

    “Honestly it’s not crystal clear. Yes, I pushed a bit more, but we we are talking little compared to the handling different I had.”

    Grosjean finished in 16th position, but is set to move up the grid thanks to penalties to drivers in front of him.

    The French driver, however, felt his car had the pace to be in Q3.

    “I’m sorry because honest the car had the pace to be in the top 10 today,” he added. “I’ve got no explanation about what’s the difference between the first one and the second run. In the car we added 1 percent of aero balance.

    “Not a disaster, but clearly the top 10 was very, very possible today.”

    Despite the damage to his car, Grosjean was optimistic he will not need a gearbox change that could translate into a penalty.

    “I haven’t heard the latest, but I think we are going to be fine and there’s a few penalties in front of us so we can start 13th or something like that,” he said.

  7. Daniel Ricciardo expected Red Bull to be closer to Mercedes come the race at Suzuka. Motorsport.com has the news story.

    The Red Bull Formula 1 team’s pace so far during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend has been worse than expected, according to Daniel Ricciardo.

    Red Bull scored its best result of the season last time out in Malaysia, with Max Verstappen winning and Ricciardo taking third.

    But in qualifying at Suzuka, Riccardo and Verstappen finished around one second off the pace set by pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton.

    When asked if he 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 difference 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 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.”

    “They’ve obviously found the step they needed through here maybe to cool the track. I think Mercedes do perform better on cooler surfaces.”

    Verstappen echoed Ricciardo’s thoughts that the cooler temperatures at Suzuka and the lack of degradation have swung the advantage away from Red Bull while adding the nature of the circuit has hurt the team, too.

    “This track has become a lot faster, so a few corners have been flat out now compared to last year when it was still a corner,” he said.

    “The corners which are flat out are also power related so we are losing more than we expected on the straight. In sector one, there aren’t too many corners on the track where you gain a lot of lap time.

    “There isn’t much degradation, the heat isn’t a big factor here.”

    Verstappen chose to stick with the downforce levels the team had run on Friday while Ricciardo took downforce off and the Australian is hoping that pays him back in the race.

    “We thought if we could get it on one lap to be competitive with the high downforce then it should give us more of a chance in the race to attack or defend,” he said.

    “Nothing is guaranteed but I’m happy to have that in the race now knowing I’ll have a bit more straight line speed to keep my elbows out.”

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