Vettel takes pole position for Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel has taken pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. He will be joined on the front row by Mark Webber, and followed by Robert Kubica, after Lewis Hamilton’s 5-place penalty. Here is the full report:

Q1

As the session began, it was quickly apparent that the track hadn’t completely dried out, as the contours had resulted in patches of wet tarmac appearing in places, despite the sunshine. With this in mind, Jenson Button went out on intermediates, while everyone else stayed on slicks.

Button pitted without setting a lap, so it was a clear indication of the conditions. Having said that, the times were well away from those seen in Friday Practice. The fastest lap in the first 5 minutes was a 1.32.858 by Rubens Barrichello.

It took another few minutes before the Red Bulls and McLarens went out on track,  but they were cautious for their first few laps. Eventually, Sebastian Vettel went one tenth quicker than the two Williams cars.

Nico Rosberg did well to get into 3rd place, while Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld struggled down in 13th and 14th.

Robert Kubica was the final driver to leave the pits, but could only go 13th. Meanwhile, Sebastien Buemi had a very poor set of laps, and couldn’t get himself out of the drop zone. He was 18th, ahead of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

18) Sebastien Buemi

19) Jarno Trulli

20) Heikki Kovalainen

21) Lucas di Grassi

22) Timo Glock

23) Bruno Senna

24) Sakon Yamamoto

Q2

As Q2 began, the Ferraris of Alonso and Massa went fastest within minutes, before Mark Webber went another tenth faster with a 1.31.651. Jenson Button went 2nd, Sebastian Vettel 4th, and Lewis Hamilton 5th.

It soon emerged that the “green” track, which means it isn’t rubbered in, wasn’t working well with the soft tyres, prompting many teams to change their tyre strategies, such as Nico Hulkenberg.

The next two cars to make a move were the Mercedes drivers of Nico Rosberg and Schumacher, going 7th and 10th. Felipe Massa was stuck in 11th, but several backmarkers ruined his first attempt. Kamui Kobayashi was very close to knocking out Michael Schumacher, but braked too late for the final corner and messed up his lap, leaving him 14th.

Massa had a very disappointing final lap, while Nick Heidfeld momentarily took 10th from Schumacher, until Michael’s final lap took back the position.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Nick Heidfeld

12) Felipe Massa

13) Vitaly Petrov

14) Kamui Kobayashi

15) Adrian Sutil

16) Jaime Alguersuari

17) Vitantonio Liuzzi

Q3

With the start of Q3, Lewis Hamilton was the first out, surely to try and make up for his 5-place grid penalty. Contrary to belief that there would be a split between the hard and soft tyres, most drivers were going out on the soft tyres, with the notable exception of Jenson Button.

Lewis got the ball rolling with a 1.31.3, which Fernando Alonso was unable to beat. Mark Webber went 2 tenths faster than Alonso, before Vettel smashed that time by another 0.4 seconds.

With 3 minutes to go, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg went out on track, with Button on the harder tyre. His first attempt was poor, with only 4th. Hamilton jumped to 2nd, before Mark Webber took the position back. Nobody could get near Sebastian Vettel, who still decided to improve upon his time by 0.007 seconds. Hamilton’s penalty now leaves Robert Kubica 3rd, Fernando Alonso 4th, Button 5th, followed by Rosberg, Barrichello, Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Schumacher.

This was Sebastian’s 8th pole position of the year, and it is critical to win this race later if he is to keep up his title hopes.

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