Vettel on pole in Red Bull front row
Sebastian Vettel has topped the timesheet once again in qualifying and secured his 8th pole position of the season in another Red Bull front row. Webber came very close and was 3 tenths quicker than third fastest Hamilton who will drop 5 places on the grid.
Due to the terrible weather on Saturday, qualifying takes place on Sunday here at Suzuka. the skies are sunny, but the track is still a bit damp at some places, but entirely dry on the racing line.
Due to missing out on FP3, many drivers are missing some practice on this track, while new components on some cars are still not sufficiently tested. McLaren instance opted against their new F-duct and rear wing for this qualifying session after it could not gather enough data from it.
As Q1 kicked off, Nico Hulkenberg was quickly showing promising pace, taking the top of the timesheet when only 4 times were set, and keeping it for 15 minutes into the session. That is until Vettel improved the German's time by 0.145 seconds.
The other Williams of Barrichello is working similarly well with third fastest while Webber is 4th. Robert Kubica is struggling meanwhile after looking impressive on Friday. After quite a few laps and still running he is down in 16th place and in the danger zone.
When the clock stops, Kubica improves to 11th. As a results there are no real surprises after Q1, with Buemi, Trulli, Kovalainen, Di Grassi, Glock, Senna and Yamamoto out of the remainder of qualifying.
At the start of Q2 the Ferrari drivers are queuing in the pitlane, ahead of Hulkenberg. Just like Q1 this will likely become an extremely busy session with some traffic problems.
Mind you that Lewis Hamilton will also drop 5 places on the grid for today's race as the team found it necessary to replace his gearbox.
The championship contenders are still running on the hard tyres with Alonso first topping Massa by 0.6 seconds. Vettel improvd that 3 minutes later, as well as Button and Webber who set the fastest time so far. The Red Bull really is excelling in the first sector containing several consecutive medium speed sweepers.
Surprisingly many drivers are finding the hard tyre better performing at current track conditions. Michael Schumacher only managed 10th on the option tyre, Hulkenberg 8th. The other Williams on the harder tyre had a better lap. Speed differences are smaller around here as the track's rubber from the Friday sessions has all been flushed away by Saturday's weather.
4 minutes before the end of Q2, both Ferraris are again out closely together. Both are now on the soft option tyre. Massa is struggling and is out of Q3 at the moment. He managed to improve on the options by while not being really impeded by other cars, he came across several of them along his flying lap, possibly causing some distraction.
A further lap was not good enough either, and his final lap in Q2 is not good enough either. As Michael Schumacher then improves to 10th place, he knocks out Heidfeld. Felipe Massa was 12th fastest and pays for his sluggish first lap on the option tyres. Behind him are Petrov, Kobayashi, Sutil, Alguersuari and Liuzzi.
In Q3 Alonso is again early out, but it is Hamilton who puts in the first flying lap. 5 minutes into the session and just after the Red Bulls set their first laps on the soft tyres, Vettel quicker than anyone and 4 tenths ahead of his teammate who is second fastest.
The only person opting for the harder tyre is Jenson Button. He start a three lap run with 4 minutes to go, and his first lap is good enough for 4th place, with more of the tyre coming to him shortly.
Alonso improves on his final attempt but as Kubica put in a brilliant lap it doesn't get him any further than 5th. Webber improved as well, but Vettel did even better and secured his 8th pole position of the year.