Nico Rosberg has secured his 8th pole position of the season by setting the fastest time around Suzuka Circuit during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, ahead of both Williams cars.
Qualifying kicked off with lots of action early on in the session. The Mercedes notably went out after 3 minutes and immediately shattered all hopes of everybody else, easily topping each of the 10 times set thus far by 2 seconds. As the session progressed, it seemed the hard tyre was the preferred one while only in the last 4 minutes drivers who risked being eliminated were opting for another run on the mediums.
Pirelli estimates the medium to be around 0.5s faster, but for Lotus that certainly did not work out, as in the final seconds they saw themselves get eliminated by the Sauber drivers. Marcus Ericssson meanwhile qualified 19th, ahead of Bianchi in the fastest Marussia, followed by Kobayashi and Chilton.
At the start of Q2, Williams are out early, along with Rosberg. The latter is rapidly told he got fuelled for two flying laps, and predictably on the second of those he set the fastest time, slightly quicker than Hamilton who said his set of medium tyres showed a little vibration.
2 minutes later, Alonso split the Williams cars in 4th while Magnussen set 6th, seemingly securing himself of a place in Q3 already. In the dropzone after the first number of laps were both Red Bulls though, requiring them to come out again. As they did, they improved enough to get through into the top 10, along with Button and Raikkonen.
Eliminated was Vergne in 11th, ahead of Perez, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Sutil and Gutierrez. Hulkenberg particularly had only to blame himself for missing out on the top 10, knowing that he was up 3 tenths before going wide through the entry on the chicane.
The first runs in Q3 result in a very similar ranking with Rosberg topping Hamilton, ahead of Bottas and Massa, then followed by Alonso, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Button, Vettel and Raikkonen.
The final attempts are started with Vettel who went faster initially, only to drop down one place again as Ricciardo passed over the finish line, completing a lap 4 tenths quicker than his team mate.
Bottas improved as well but failed to jump either of the Mercedes. Rosberg didn't gain any time, but as Hamilton only found 2 tenths, it was Rosberg's pole with two tenths in hand over his teammate. Williams are set to start from the second line while Alonso again qualified 5th.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, heavy rain is expected during the Grand Prix, a result of the outskirts of a typhoon that is passing over Japan. This should spring up a few surprises and may similarly reduce the importance of today's qualifying. Still, despite the predictions and the FIA keeping an eye on the situation, the race will go ahead at the planned time.
|1||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||1:33.671||1:32.950||1:32.506|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:33.611||1:32.982||1:32.703|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:35.593||1:34.466||1:34.075|
|9||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:35.517||1:34.784||1:34.432|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.439||1:35.089|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.000||1:35.099|