Hamilton scores pole in Japan as Vettel falters

Lewis Hamilton pic: Mercedes-AMG F1 Twitter

Lewis Hamilton has continued his domination of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, claiming pole position ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton’s special lap on his first run in Q3 placed him 0.229s faster than Bottas, and even more significant, was that his title rival Sebastian Vettel ended up in ninth place after a failed intermediate tyre gamble.

Rain reared its head again at the end of the session, making the first portion of the final qualifying the most important.

Hamilton’s 1:27.760s proved to be fast enough after another rain sprawl hit the area in the middle of the session.

In a bid to get an upper hand, Ferrari duo Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went out on intermediate tyres at the start of the session, only for the rain to hold off long enough for the Mercedes duo to get the advantage.

Both Vettel and Raikkonen aborted their laps to take on slicks, and Raikkonen was able to get one clean lap in to secure fourth behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Vettel, however, ventured off at Spoon Curve and will start ninth.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean will start fifth, and will kick the race off on the soft tyre compound having been the only driver in the top 10 to use the tyre to set his Q2 time.

New Zealand ace Brendon Hartley will start sixth in the Toro Rosso, ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly, while Force India’s duo Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez will start eighth and 10th respectively.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was eliminated in Q2 after suspected engine problems. He will start the race from 15th on the grid. The issue meant that he was unable to complete a full lap.

Charles Leclerc, who will leave Sauber at the end of the season for Ferrari, was the fastest of those eliminated from a wet Q2 and will start 11th. His time was set on the soft compound and attempted to complete a supersoft lap on his second run before spinning at Degner 1.

The only incident of significance during the session was a crash for Marcus Ericsson at Turn 7 during Q1.

The Japanese Grand Prix will start at 1610 AEDT tomorrow.

UPDATE: Esteban Ocon has been issued a three-position grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently for red flags during practice. Revised grid: 8th Vettel, 9th Perez, 10th Leclerc, 11th Ocon.

Results: Qualifying

Pos Driver Car Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.760s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.059s 0.299s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m29.057s 1.297s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m29.521s 1.761s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m29.761s 2.001s
6 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m30.023s 2.263s
7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m30.093s 2.333s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m30.126s 2.366s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m32.192s 4.432s
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m37.229s 9.469s
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m29.864s 2.104s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m30.226s 2.466s
13 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m30.490s 2.730s
14 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m30.714s 2.954s
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.361s 2.601s
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m30.372s 2.612s
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m30.573s 2.813s
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m31.041s 3.281s
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m31.213s 3.453s

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