Super Sebastian on pole at Suzuka

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 –

3 thoughts to “Super Sebastian on pole at Suzuka”

  1. Japanese Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    Mercedes appeared to be the team to beat after Friday practice at Suzuka, but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel caused a shock as he delivered a lap so sweet, he chose to tell his team how good it was on the radio as he secured pole position in a delayed Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session…

    The pressure was on for the entire grid after third practice was cancelled and qualifying rescheduled for Sunday morning courtesy of the impending arrival of Typhoon Hagibis. While the conditions weren’t as bad as anticipated, as the typhoon changed course late on, the heavy rain did wash off all of the rubber laid down during Friday practice.

    It meant conditions were tricky in qualifying, with the sun out but strong gusts blowing across the circuit, with Robert Kubica and Kevin Magnussen both caught out and crashing early on. But when it got down to the sharp end, it was Ferrari – rather than Mercedes – who impressed, with Vettel delivering the goods on the track he calls his favourite.

    The four-time world champion nailed a cracking lap on his first run and then went one step better on his second to clock a 1m27.064s, to secure his first pole position since the Canadian Grand Prix – incidentally the last he outqualified team mate Charles Leclerc – and give Ferrari their fifth successive pole position.

    Leclerc ended up 0.148s adrift, as Ferrari locked out the front row for the first time at Suzuka since 2006, with Valtteri Bottas outperforming Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton as they finished third and fourth respectively.

    Max Verstappen was fifth quickest, with Alex Albon clocking the same lap time but classified sixth as he set his time after his Red Bull team mate. Carlos Sainz edged out Lando Norris as McLaren ended up best of the rest in locking out the fourth row.

    Pierre Gasly was a strong ninth for Toro Rosso, making three Honda-powered cars in the top 10 at the Japanese firm’s home race, while Romain Grosjean completed the Q3 set for Haas.

    But the morning was all about Vettel, who was just “too quick” according to team mate Leclerc. It continues a remarkable turnaround for the German, who has been in a rich vein of form since the Singapore Grand Prix. Can he convert in a few hours time?

    Q1 – Kubica and Magnussen crash, while Ricciardo gets knocked out

    Gloriously sunny but gusty conditions greeted the drivers as F1 returned to Suzuka after a rare day off on Saturday courtesy of Typhoon Hagibis, with qualifying rescheduled for 10am local time on Sunday morning.

    The session was just a few minutes old when Robert Kubica got a couple of wheels on the grass as he exited the final chicane, which spat him into the barriers and caused significant damage to his Williams.

    The red flag was called into action, as the stricken Williams was removed, with the team facing a race against time to get his car ready for the race later on Sunday. Qualifying restarted, but just a few laps in, Kevin Magnussen lost his Haas at the final corner and clattered into the barriers.

    The Dane managed to engage reverse and get going again, but he did so with a broken front and rear wing and failed to return to the track. When the session resumed, there was a flurry of cars that headed straight out as only seven drivers has so far set a timed lap.

    Charles Leclerc set the pace for Ferrari, with Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas needing second laps on their first set of tyres to get as they went second and fifth, split by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

    It wasn’t such good news for Renault, who looked slow across Friday practice, with Daniel Ricciardo the highest profile driver to get the boot in the opening segment. That Q1 exit was Ricciardo’s second of the year and first time at Suzuka since 2011.

    Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, whose best lap was just 0.02s quicker than Williams’ George Russell, also got knocked out, as his team mate Lance Stroll out-qualified him for only the second time this year.

    Knocked out: Ricciardo, Perez, Russell, Magnussen, Kubica

    Q2 – Renault’s woes continue as Mercedes show speed

    Vettel edged out Ferrari team mate Leclerc by a fraction to set the early pace, but they were no match for Lewis Hamilton as the championship leader dipped down into the 1m27s to go 0.348s clear.

    Not for the first time this season, Verstappen bemoaned “no power, no power” as he headed down the back straight, but the Red Bull driver’s time was still good enough for sixth.

    His team mate Alex Albon impressed with his second run late on as he went third, behind the two Mercedes, who swapped positions after their second runs, with Bottas the quicker of the two by 0.138s.

    Antonio Giovinazzi missed out on Q3 by a tenth in 11th, but the Italian did at least out-qualify team mate Kimi Raikkonen, as the Alfa Romeo duo sandwiched Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.

    Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat also exited, as he ended up eight tenths behind Pierre Gasly who made it three Honda-powered cars in the top 10, along with Nico Hulkenberg, who suffered hydraulic pressure loss, which led to him being stuck in gear.

    Knocked out: Giovinazzi, Stroll, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Hulkenberg.
    Q3 – Ferrari deliver when it matters, with Albon impressing

    Having stepped up their game in Q2, Mercedes appeared to be living up to their tags as favourites for pole, but in gusty conditions, it was Ferrari’s Vettel who blew them away with a staggering time on his first flying lap out of the box in the qualifying shoot-out.

    Leclerc got close on his second effort, but behind him Vettel was going even faster and he crossed the line to smash the track record. Their Mercedes rivals were still both on hot laps, but they simply didn’t have the pace across the first two sectors, with Bottas out-qualifying Hamilton for the first time since F1 resumed after the summer break.

    Hamilton ended up an unusual fourth, a position he has not won from in over 10 years (Hungary 2009 was the last time) as Mercedes failed to end up one-two in Q3 at Suzuka for the first time in the turbo hybrid era.

    Verstappen’s fifth was his worst at Suzuka since he joined Red Bull in 2016, with Albon setting the exact same time to earn a congratulatory message from his team boss Christian Horner. Norris appeared to be the stronger of the two McLarens in the first two segments of qualifying, but Sainz delivered in Q3 to out-qualify the Briton for the fourth successive time.

    Gasly driving the Honda-powered Toro Rosso reached Q3 for the first time since re-joining the team at Spa to the delight of the Japanese fans with Grosjean giving Haas something to smile about after team mate Magnussen crashed in the first segment of qualifying.

  2. Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have admitted their front-row lock out at the Japanese Grand Prix was unexpected.

    With rivals Mercedes having looked so fast on Friday, few had expected Ferrari to have a chance of maintaining a run of pole positions that stretches back to the Belgian Grand Prix.

    But the Maranello cars were dominant throughout the delayed Sunday morning Q3 session, with Vettel ending up on pole from his teammate by just under two tenths of a second.

    Vettel said: “I think we are quite surprised, to be honest. We didn’t expect to have the front row so I am very happy.

    “It was unbelievable, the car being so light on fuel and new tyres. We had a headwind up the Esses, which is just what you want because then the car feels even better.

    “I don’t think I used the brakes other than Turn 2. It was unbelievable. I really enjoyed it but it is only part of the job done so let’s look forward to this afternoon.”

    Leclerc admitted that he had not been as happy with his car this weekend, even though he still had enough to edge out Mercedes.

    “Seb did an amazing lap and today he just deserved to be on pole” said the Monegasque driver. “I’ve been a bit struggling since the beginning of the weekend but to be honest I was pretty happy with my lap now in qualifying, apart from the last sector where I did some few mistakes but pole position was not possible.

    “Seb was just too quick, so congratulations to him. Very happy and very surprised to be first and second after the free practices we have had.”

    Third-fastest Valtteri Bottas said that Ferrari’s straightline speed advantage had again played a key part in leaving his outfit unable to respond.

    “We seemed quite strong ahead of qualifying but always knew Ferrari maybe might have something in reserve to turn things up, especially in Q3,” explained the Mercedes driver. “They were untouchable really.

    “It is the same thing: on the straight lines they are quicker, through the corners we are good. We had the new package here with the new aero bits and that was a lot better than before but still not quite enough.”


  3. Ferrari’s turnaround in performance and one-two in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying came “out of nowhere”, admitted Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff.

    Mercedes had a commanding advantage in Friday practice at Suzuka but, after a day without track activity thanks to Typhoon Hagibis cancelled Saturday’s running, Ferrari came to the fore in Sunday morning’s qualifying session.

    Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari its fifth straight pole as Charles Leclerc completed a front-low lockout, with Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton consigned to the second row and more than two tenths off the pace.

    After qualifying, Wolff told Sky: “It should be a good track for us. The Ferraris again, from Friday, out of nowhere.

    “Once they package it all together, they are very quick.”

    Mercedes has brought an aerodynamic upgrade to Suzuka and Wolff said the car is “generally well-balanced” but “lacking over one lap at the moment”.

    His drivers looked to have an advantage on Friday’s long runs as well as one-lap pace, but Wolff said: “Race pace we’re looking good, but if you’re behind, it’s a problem.”

    Hamilton’s assessment of a “not spectacular” final pair of runs in qualifying was similarly pessimistic after Ferrari’s turnaround.

    The five-time world champion admitted it “could have gone better” but said the handling of the car is not the issue, pointing again to Ferrari’s apparent engine advantage over one lap.

    “The car was fine, they obviously turn up and go to another level we can’t really compete with, power-wise,” he said. “But the car was feeling good.”

    Asked if he felt encouraged by Mercedes’ race pace, Hamilton said: “Ferrari have a faster car. I think we’ve got a solid car.

    “We’re hopefully going to be able to give them a fight but they’re very quick on the straights.”


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