Many had expected Mercedes to be the dominant force again today in Suzuka, but qualifying showed a different picture. Ferrari delivered when it mattered, and in Q3, they outpaced everyone to lock out the front row on the Japanese Grand Prix starting grid.
With Saturday's action cancelled due to the threatening arrival of Typhoon Hagibis, all eyes were on Sunday morning at Japan, with qualifying taking place just a few hours ahead of the actual Grand Prix. Contidions did end up less severe than expected on Saturday, but the rain did of course create a green track.
This slippery situation immediately caused difficulty for various drivers, leaving Robert Kubica and Kevin Magnussen to crash out early on. At the pointy end it was Charles Leclerc who set the early pace for Ferrari while both Mercedes did two laps on their first set of tyres before slotting into second and third.
The disruption due to the red flags for the Williams and the Haas also meant it was extremely busy at the end of the session, which this time included the elimination of Daniel Ricciardo out of Q3 for only the second time this season.
Renault didn't really enjoy an improved continuation in Q2 as Hulkenberg also ended up eliminated there due to a loss of hydraulic pressure.
Mercedes were comfortable topping the second part of qualifying, but they found out in Q3 that when Ferrari pushed their power units to their maximum, there were still quite a bit of additional performance left.
Vettel's first lap was as solid benchmark to which nobody had an answer, but the German Ferrari driver improved even further on his second attempt. As he smashed the track record, the competition was blown away, and Mercedes had to settle for third and fourth on the grid. Max Verstappen, the main defendor of the Honda colours in Japan was a disappointed fifth.
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:28.896||1:27.688||1:27.293||21|
|4||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:28.735||1:27.826||1:27.302||20|
|5||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:28.754||1:28.499||1:27.851||16|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:29.351||1:28.156||1:27.851||19|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||1:29.018||1:28.577||1:28.304||21|
|8||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||1:28.873||1:28.571||1:28.464||21|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:29.411||1:28.779||1:28.836||21|
|10||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:29.572||1:29.144||1:29.341||15|
|11||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:29.604||1:29.254||-||15|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:29.594||1:29.345||-||12|
|13||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:29.636||1:29.358||-||15|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:29.723||1:29.563||-||16|
|17||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point BWT Mercedes||1:30.344||-||-||9|
|18||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:30.364||-||-||10|
|NC||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||DNF||-||-||2|
|NC||88||Robert Kubica||Williams Mercedes||DNS||-||-||1|