Vettel continues his Suzuka dominant form with fourth pole

Sebastian Vettel took his fourth consecutive pole position at Suzuka with a superior performance in the Red Bull RB8.

The defending world champion was quickest in Q2, and then set a mighty lap of one minute, 30.839 seconds early in Q3 to take provisional pole.

Vettel was set to improve further until Kimi Raikkonen spun his Lotus into the Spoon Curve gravel, causing a yellow flag in the middle sector when all the top ten drivers were trying to go faster.

Despite that, Sebastian achieved his 34th pole position in Formula One. His impressive record means the 25-year-old German is now third in the all-time list, one ahead of Alain Prost and Jim Clark.

Mark Webber completed Red Bull Racing’s first front row lock out of the year, but was 0.2 seconds down on his team-mate.

Home crowd favourite Kamui Kobayashi will start third. He was fourth fastest for Sauber, but will gain a place when third-placed Jenson Button is given his gearbox change penalty.

However, the Japanese driver might lose this position due to not slowing down efficiently following Raikkonen’s spin at Spoon Curve.

Both Button’s McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton and world championship leader Fernando Alonso appeared to be hampered by the yellow flags. Alonso’s Ferrari was only seventh, ahead of Raikkonen and Hamilton.

Ferrari was already struggling for pace in Japan, with Felipe Massa unable to do any better than P11.

Romain Grosjean was fifth fastest for Lotus, with Sergio Perez demonstrating Sauber’s pace with sixth.

Nico Hulkenberg edged out Force India team-mate Paul di Resta by less than a tenth to make it into Q3, eventually taking P10. But the German has also received a gearbox-change penalty.

Mercedes had been centre of attention in the build-up to the race following the news announcement on driver line-up. As for the team’s on-track performance, it was a disappointing result for both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

The former waited until the final seconds of Q1 to set a time and only just scraped through in P16, before taking P13 in Q2, two places ahead of his team-mate Rosberg.

It was another miserable qualifying session for Bruno Senna. He got boxed in behind Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso at the chicane on his last Q1 lap – waving his hand in angry and a slow time.

When Schumacher delivered his final lap, Senna was demoted down to P18, just behind Vergne.

Pastor Maldonado couldn’t do much to raise the Williams team spirits this time, and will start the Japanese Grand Prix in P14.

While at the back go the grid, Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham is ahead of Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT as usual, but things were shaken up in between, with Timo Glock and Pedro de la Rosa ahead of Charles Pic and Vitaly Petrov.

Qualifying positions for the Japanese Grand Prix:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m30.839s
2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m31.090s
3.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m31.700s
4.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m31.989s
5.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m32.022s
6.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m32.114s
7.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m32.208s
8.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m31.294s*
9.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m32.327s
10.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m32.293s
11.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m32.327s
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m32.512s
13.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m32.625s
14.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m32.954s
15.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes no time*
16.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.368s
17.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m33.405s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m34.657s
19.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m35.213s
20.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m35.385s
21.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m35.429s
22.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m35.432s
23.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m32.469s**
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m36.734s

107 per cent time: 1m38.471s

*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change
**Ten-place grid penalty for causing a collision during the Singapore Grand Prix

13 thoughts to “Vettel continues his Suzuka dominant form with fourth pole”

  1. Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel celebrates his ‘perfect’ Suzuka qualifying. has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel labelled his qualifying in Japan “nearly perfect” after securing his fourth consecutive pole at Suzuka.

    The Red Bull driver put an end to McLaren’s run of four poles in a row this season to help his team complete a front row lock-out ahead of team-mate Mark Webber.

    The result was Vettel’s fourth pole of the season and the 34th of his career.

    “It is not bad! I am very, very happy with today’s result,” said Vettel, the winner of the previous race in Singapore.

    “I think we had a very smooth qualifying session, nearly perfect. I could not have asked for more.

    “We didn’t have best start to the weekend yesterday. I wasn’t very happy, but it got better each time I went out.

    “The car feels fantastic around here. I was able to pick up a bit more overnight and it all came together nicely and now we hope for a very good race tomorrow.”

    The world champion admitted his team had to dig deep to make his car so competitive after a difficult Friday.

    “We worked very hard to get it where it is now,” Vettel said. “This year we are struggling in places and corners where traditionally we were competitive so didn’t know what to expect here.

    “Sector one seemed very competitive here all weekend. I am happy we are back to the shape we had the last couple of years around here.”

    Vettel, second in the standings, will start the race five places ahead of championship leader Fernando Alonso.

  2. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was glad to be back on the front row following a series of difficult races. has the news story.

    Mark Webber declared his Japanese Grand Prix qualifying result a chance to get his 2012 season back on track following a string of difficult races.

    The Australian’s second place behind Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Suzuka qualifying was his first front row performance since Silverstone in July.

    Webber has not finished in the top five since winning the British round.

    “It has been a good weekend for us so far,” said Webber. “Seb and I had a clean run in Q3 when it mattered at the start and those were two pretty big laps from both of us.

    “We have had a bit of a rough run of late and it makes life much more difficult – so I am looking forward to the race.

    “It is good for the championship to have our cars further up again.

    “We can really race from there and have a good run tomorrow.”

    Red Bull has tended to be the Suzuka pacesetter in recent years, with Vettel securing four straight poles and winning in 2009 and ’10.

    Webber said Red Bull’s performance this weekend showed how hard it had been pushing of late, and that he would have been disappointed to see its Suzuka superiority ended.

    “We have had to work like hell to get the car into the window where we liked it,” he said.

    “It’s now pretty good and we would be unhappy if we were not competitive here as it should be a track we are competitive at.”

  3. Despite recording the third quickest time in qualifying, Jenson Button will drop down five places on the grid following his gearbox change. However, the McLaren driver is feeling positive that he can regain lost ground come race day. has the story.

    enson Button believes his McLaren is quick enough to still salvage a strong Japanese Grand Prix result despite his gearbox-change penalty dropping him to eighth on the grid.

    Button, who recorded the third fastest time of the qualifying session behind the two Red Bulls, incurred a five-place grid drop after changing his gearbox.

    “Third place would have been nice to start the race but with this race you don’t know what will happen,” he said.

    “It is not the easiest place to start from but I think we can race well from there.

    “The balance for me was great and I felt happy with the car. That was it; I felt I got everything out of it, still quite a long way off these two [Red Bulls].”

    With both Saubers and Lotuses among the cars Button will drop behind, he is optimistic about his chances of recovering places.

    “It’s an unusual group of cars in front so we should get some points,” Button said.

    However, the Englishman fears his McLaren will not have the pace to challenge the two Red Bulls.

    “I think we expected them to be quick here. Their race pace has been quick in the last few races and their pace has been good here,” said Button.

  4. Sebastian Vettel has been summoned to see the Japanese Grand Prix stewards for allegedly impeding Fernando Alonso during Q3.

    The incident, which happened in the final chicane during the dying moments of qualifying, came after Vettel had secured his fourth consecutive pole position at Suzuka.

    Both Vettel and Alonso were summoned to see the stewards after qualifying.

    Alonso was seventh quickest.


  5. HRT driver Pedro de la Rosa celebrates HRT quaifying breakthrough at the Japanese Grand Prix. has the details.

    Pedro de la Rosa says starting the Japanese Grand Prix in front of a Caterham and a Marussia is already a success for his HRT team.

    The Spaniard qualified in 21st position on Saturday, outqualifying the Marussia of Charles Pic and the Caterham of Vitaly Petrov.

    De la Rosa was also nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than team-mate Narain Karthikeyan.

    “Today I went out to give it my all and I’m happy with how it went,” said de la Rosa. “The team did a fantastic job and the car’s set-up improved notably.

    “In qualifying I did two good laps; the second one was even better, almost perfect, and tomorrow we will start ahead of Caterham and Marussia which is already a success – more so at a circuit like this one.

    “We’ve got to be more than happy with what we’ve done. Tomorrow in the race we will go for everything. The important thing is to have a good pace, look after the tyres and finish strong.”

    Karthikeyan will start from the bottom of the grid after being over a second slower than his closest rival.

    The Indian damaged his car’s new floor in final practice and was forced to revert to the old one for qualifying.

    “I barely had any grip and on my last lap I went wide at 130R,” he said.

    “It wasn’t a good qualifying session for me, but the car is performing much better and, although tomorrow will be a tough race, we will try and finish it in the best way possible.”

  6. Michael Schumacher believes it would have been possible for him to go into Q3 at Suzuka had he not found Lewis Hamilton in front during his flying lap.

    The seven-time world champion, who will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the year, qualified in 13th position, but will be sent to the back of the grid following the penalty he was given in Singapore for crashing into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso.

    Schumacher admitted he did not expect a great result given the nature of the circuit, but he did feel it was possible to do better.

    “It was a shame that we couldn’t do more today, after things hadn’t looked too bad this morning, but we simply didn’t get the performance together,” said Schumacher.

    “Although we should also say that, knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn’t necessarily expect to look in great shape here.

    “Perhaps I could have made it through to Q3, because the data showed that I lost two tenths in Turn 11 [the hairpin] because of traffic, but I wasn’t quite sure what Hamilton was doing ahead of me.

    “I saved a lot of tyre sets and in that respect got the maximum out of the situation.

    “Now we need to wait and see what happens tomorrow. I will be certainly aiming for the best possible result, starting from the back of the grid.”

    Team-mate Nico Rosberg completed a poor day for Mercedes by qualifying in 15th position, but the German is hopeful of making up positions in the race.

    “It’s been a difficult weekend for us,” he said. “Qualifying in 15th place is not where we want to be although I will gain some places due to grid penalties.

    “The times were so close today and it’s disappointing that we couldn’t make it through to Q3. Our pace felt better on high fuel, so hopefully this will work out well in the race and I can gain positions.”


  7. After impending Bruno Senna during qualifying, Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne has been given a three-place grid penalty by the race stewards at Suzuka. has the details.

    Jean-Eric Vergne has been handed a three-place grid penalty following his incident with Bruno Senna in Q1 at Suzuka.

    Senna was angry after the Toro Rosso driver did not get out his way going into the chicane at the end of the first qualifying segment.

    The stewards determined that Vergne, who had qualified in 17th, was at fault.

    “I saw Bruno was coming very quickly and unfortunately he caught me at the chicane where there is not much room,” said Vergne.

    “But I knew I had to let him past and moved as much to the outside as I could, even though I knew I would not be in the best position to come out of the corner.

    “After that, he slowed a lot and I had to pass him again on the straight, otherwise I would not have set a proper time.”

  8. Championship leader Fernando Alonso has blames yellow flags for a poor qualifying result at Suzuka. has the story.

    Fernando Alonso was left lamenting the timing of the yellow flags at the end of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Ferrari driver was forced to slow down during his final flying lap as there were yellow flags at Spoon curve following a spin by Kimi Raikkonen.

    That meant Alonso was unable to improve his time when he looked set for fourth place on the grid.

    “What can I say, other than get angry about being unlucky? The yellow flags came at the worst possible moment, when I was coming into Turn 14,” said Alonso.

    “Up until then, my lap was great and there was every chance of setting the fourth fastest time of the day, which would have then seen me start from third on the grid.

    “From there, the race could have taken on a completely different picture, but we have to accept what happened. We were unlucky today, so maybe we’ll be lucky tomorrow.”

    Alonso, currently leading the championship by 29 points from poleman Sebastian Vettel, will start the race from sixth position.

    The two-time champion is predicting a difficult race given Ferrari’s form this weekend.

    “We are up against some very strong opponents, like Red Bull who are in front and there is also McLaren who are behind, so we will have to keep an eye on both sides of the track.

    “I’m expecting a difficult Sunday. The main aim will be to finish – reliability is crucial- and bring home a good points haul.

    “We changed a few things on the car compared to yesterday, but after FP3 we went back on our settings as we were not convinced about the changes.

    “I am honestly more optimistic for tomorrow than I was for today, given that our race pace is usually better than our performance over a flying lap. Let’s hope that really turns out to be the case.”

  9. Lewis Hamilton fears he will not be able to make much progress in the Japanese Grand Prix after a “huge” set-up mistake left him only ninth in qualifying.

    The McLaren driver made a set-up change at the end of free practice, but felt that he had made the wrong choice as soon as he went out in Q1.

    “We just made a mistake and now we are stuck with it,” Hamilton said. “We made some changes going into P3 but it went the opposite way into oversteer so we didn’t know what to do. We went back the other way and it was a disaster.

    “I felt we had a great car all weekend, it was just the set-up changes and then the car would not turn anymore.

    “We were miles off and when you start you first lap you think ‘damn, I wish I had gone the other way.'”

    Several drivers said the yellow flags brought out by Kimi Raikkonen’s spun Lotus hampered their Q3 efforts, but Hamilton said this was not an issue for him.

    “It didn’t make much difference. We weren’t quick enough. I wasn’t quick enough. It was a struggle and a huge mistake with set-up,” he said.

    Hamilton thinks there is little he can do to salvage a result on Sunday.

    “Honestly I don’t think it will be good,” he said.

    “I’ll try to do everything I can with it but I have masses of understeer.

    “I’ll push as much as I can and if I look after my tyres better than others I can pinch some points off some people.”

    Jenson Button qualified third in the sister McLaren but will lose five places due to a gearbox-change penalty.


  10. Home crowd favourite Kamui Kobayashi will be aiming for a podium finish after qualifying third for Sauber. has the story.

    Kamui Kobayashi is targeting a podium finish in his home race after securing third place on the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Sauber driver qualified in fourth position but will move up a place when Jenson Button drops to eighth following a gearbox-change penalty.

    Kobayashi was delighted with his effort as he felt there was nothing else to extract from the car.

    “I am happy because I think I achieved the maximum possible today,” said Kobayashi. “After quite a few changes to the settings the car is fast again.

    “From where I am starting I should have a chance to fight for a podium finish, and it would be a dream come true if I could achieve my first podium in Formula 1 in front of my home crowd.

    “But first of all I have to manage a good start, and then I should have more luck than in Spa this year where I started from the front row but got involved in an accident.”

    Team-mate Sergio Perez completed another positive day for Sauber after finishing in sixth, although the Mexican will also gain one place after Button’s penalty.

    “My last lap in Q3 wasn’t perfect but still good,” he said. “I am very happy for the team that we have achieved such a strong qualifying result today.

    “They have done a great job because initially on Friday here we were really lacking pace. It was a strong and speedy recovery and I’m confident tomorrow in the race we will be able to fight for another podium.”

  11. Felipe Massa blamed the set of tyres he used for his final Q2 attempt for failing to make the top 10 shoot-out in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

    The Ferrari driver qualified 11th but will actually start 10th on the grid, thanks to Nico Hulkenberg’s gearbox penalty.

    Nevertheless the Brazilian was convinced he and the car were capable of far more than that this weekend.

    “Actually I was very happy with the car all the time and doing great laps on prime or whatever tyres I was using,” said Massa. “And then I get through to Q2, and I had a [set of] scrubbed soft, and I was fifth.

    “I scrubbed a new set and everybody was improving by a minimum of half a second. When I arrived in corner one I didn’t have grip for the whole lap. I’m sure it was a problem with the second set of tyres because I never had those problems with all the tyres on Friday.

    “The car was very good to drive, but then the car was just very different. I’m disappointed because today it was easy to get to Q3 and it was possible to start in the top five.”

    Asked what he thought the problem with the tyres was, Massa replied: “I have no idea, the only thing I know is that I had no grip at the front. It wasn’t happening in any of my attempts before, the car was good.

    “I even increased in grip from the hard to the soft, so I think it was a problem with the set.

    “It is frustrating you know because it was the most important time to have this problem.”

    Massa hoped that having the choice of which tyre to start on, having not participated in Q3, will give him an advantage in the race.

    “I think it is important to have fresh tyres all the time,” he said. “I hope this can be a good advantage but I don’t know, we need to wait and see how it’s going to be with strategy for everyone around.

    “If you start on the soft and go to the hard and use two sets of hards, then everybody’s doing that, everybody has no hards so it doesn’t change anything. So we need to understand what is going to be the right strategy.”


  12. Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg says gearbox penalty was his own fault. has the story.

    Nico Hulkenberg accepted the blame for the gearbox-change penalty he will get for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

    The Force India driver lost control of his car during the final practice session at Suzuka, damaging the front and forcing his team to replace the gearbox after making contact with the tyre wall.

    The gearbox change means the German will lose five places on the grid after qualifying in 10th position.

    “It was a bit of a tricky day, starting with my accident this morning. That wasn’t in the schedule,” said Hulkenberg. “We made the most of it and the mechanics did a fantastic job to turn the car around in the first place.

    “We whizzed into Q3 and we have to pay the price now for this morning because we damaged the gearbox.

    “I’m in the car, so I’m responsible for what happened. It wasn’t a silly mistake, just a small lock-up and with the way that corner is, there was no way to recover it. The timing was pretty bad and now we have to deal with the situation as best as we can.”

    Hulkenberg decided not to post a time in Q3 in order to save tyres, and he will have a fresh set of soft rubber for the race.

    “Given where we were, we didn’t think we can get much further up than 10th so we decided not to run to save tyres and give us the flexibility of what to start on,” he added.

    “The target is always trying to get points. We’re more in the back of the field, so we need to survive the first lap and I don’t know where we will end up. Hopefully we can squeeze ourselves into the points.”

    Team-mate Paul di Resta was knocked out in Q2 and qualified in 12th position, but the Scot said he was pleased with his effort after missing all of Friday’s second practice following his crash.

    “There was a tenth in there. I came across [Romain] Grosjean at the Degner 2 and the hairpin and just lost a bit of downforce,” di Resta said. “The car is very sensitive to the cars in front of it. I wouldn’t say it was a mistake, but I just slightly locked an inside front wheel and didn’t have the grip.

    “Other than that, it was good and we both matched each other the rest of the way. Other than that, it was a shame not to make it into Q3. We can be quite happy with having a new set of tyres for tomorrow.

    “Given the loss of track time yesterday, we should be grateful of where we qualified. It’s nice to be in a position where we can challenge.”

  13. Sebastian Vettel will keep pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix after the stewards decided to just reprimand him.

    Vettel’s pole was in doubt after he was summoned by the stewards for allegedly blocking championship leader Fernando Alonso during the final moments of Q3, when the Spaniard was arriving at the chicane.

    Having talked to both drivers and analysed videos of the incident, the steward decided to reprimand Vettel, but he is allowed to start from first position on Sunday.

    Alonso was seventh in qualifying.


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