Sebastian Vettel achieve a commanding pole position at Suzuka as Ferrari overturned rival Mercedes practice pace advantage to lock out the front row.
Vettel led the way throughout Q3 at Suzuka, setting a one minute, 27.2 seconds lap on his first run and improving to a one minute, 27.0 seconds best on his final run to claim his first P1 since the Canadian Grand Prix.
Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc found three tenths of a second between his two Q3 runs, but missed out on making it five poles in succession and saw his streak of nine straight qualifying victories over Vettel come to an end.
Having dominated Friday practice, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both had disappointing first runs in Q3 to only get third and fourth, behind the Ferraris.
Bottas, who led the way in both sessions, improved to one minute, 27.2 seconds on his final run but still missed out on the front row by 0.040 seconds.
Championship leader Hamilton was less than one hundredth of a second behind in fourth position.
Max Verstappen, who suffered a power loss on his Red Bull-Honda in Q2, and teammate Alex Albon set identical times in locking out row three of the grid. Verstappen claimed fifth by setting his one minute, 27.851 seconds lap before Albon did.
Carlos Sainz continued his strong form by again qualifying best of the rest for McLaren, 0.160 seconds clear of teammate Lando Norris.
Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso-Honda and Romain Grosjean’s Haas rounded out the top ten, Gasly almost four tenths down on Norris and Grosjean over half a second adrift of Gasly.
Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen narrowly missed out on the top ten during the late rush of improvements at the end of Q2.
Giovinazzi was just over a tenth adrift of Grosjean, while Stroll and Raikkonen missed the cut by just over two tenths.
Daniil Kvyat was two tenths further back after making only a small gain on his final run, while Nico Hulkenberg was cut well adrift in P15.
Hulkenberg was unable to complete the Q2 session after suffering a “major problem” on his Renault. He complained of feeling something “funny” with the power steering and gear shift on his out-lap.
Daniel Ricciardo missed out too by just under a tenth of a second in the other Renault, despite finding six tenths of a second between his first and second runs in Q1.
Sergio Perez’s Racing Point was P17, half a second down on Ricciardo and only 0.020 seconds faster than George Russell’s improved Williams.
The lack of grip and windy conditions early on in qualifying appeared to catch out Kevin Magnussen and Robert Kubica, who both crashed out at the turn just before the start/finish line before setting a lap time.
Kubica struck the barrier at the end of his out-lap, wrecking his Williams and causing the qualifying session to be red-flagged.
Television replays showed Kubica understeering off the circuit onto the grass on the outside as he tried to negotiate the kink. He described it as a “f***ing joke” before returning back to the pits.
Magnussen then hit the barrier after going off at the same place shortly after the session resumed, causing a second red flag period.
The Haas driver lost control of the rear of his car, and managed to limp back to the pits with front and rear wing damage after spinning into the barrier, but he did not re-emerge from the garage.
Despite the red flags in the early part of qualifying, the end result was the red cars finishing first and second on the grid. Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel with pole position with his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc alongside. Bring on the race!
Japanese Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:27.064
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:27.253
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:27.293
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.302
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:27.851
6 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1:27.851
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1:28.304
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1:28.464
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1:28.836
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1:29.341
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:29.254
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point=Mercedes 1:29.345
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo=Ferrari 1:29.358
14 Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1:29.563
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.112
16 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:29.822
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1:30.344
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:30.364
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari –
20 Robert Kubica Williams- Mercedes –