Vettel heads Ferrari front row, Ricciardo struggles in Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel has claimed pole in Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel has secured pole position for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix after leading a Ferrari front row lockout at Suzuka.

Vettel’s pole position is the fifth in a row for the Scuderia, with the Italian team stunning the field in the final segment of qualifying.

Vettel set a 1:27.064s to be 0.189s ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc.

Despite setting the pace on Friday, Valtteri Bottas qualified third ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen will start the race from fifth place despite setting an identical 1:27.851 lap time to that of Red Bull team-mate Alexander Albon.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Landon Norris locked out the fourth row ahead of Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean.

Down the field, Daniel Ricciardo’s tough season continued after failing to make it past Q1 ending up in 16th position.

Mercedes led the first two qualifying segments before Vettel set the best time in the first run of Q3, 0.3s ahead of Leclerc.

Leclerc was unable to beat Vettel in his second run, while the German improved again in the dying moments of qualifying.

“The conditions are very different to what we had on Friday, but the main thing is obviously the sun is out, people are happy and I think we’re quite surprised to be honest,” said Vettel.

“We didn’t expect that, the front row, so very happy.

“It was unbelievable, the car being so light on fuel and new tyres, and we had a headwind up the Esses which is just what you want because the car feels better. I don’t think I used the brake other than Turn 2, so it was unbelievable.”

Qualifying took place on Sunday morning (10AM local time) after Saturday’s running was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.

While track conditions were dry, wind and a low grip was causing early problems.

The session was halted before a lap time had been set after Williams’s Robert Kubica brought out a red flag. 

The Polish driver ran wide going onto the main straight, putting his left wheels on the grass, leaving him a passenger as his car slid into the wall.

After one timed lap opportunity, Kevin Magnussen brought out the second red flag of qualifying after crashing at the same spot as Kubica. 

The Haas F1 driver reversed out of the wall, but was unable to continue in qualifying.

The wind continued to cause problems for the remaining runners, with lap times from Q1 down on the best set in FP2.

Despite the slower running, Leclerc set the benchmark time in Q1 with a 1:28.405s ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen, Norris and Bottas.

At the other end of the times, the truncated qualifying segment saw two major scalps, with Ricciardo unable to recover a slow first sector time and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez unable to recapture his Friday pace.

“It was a little bit all over the place and not good enough to go through,” said Ricciardo. 

“I don’t really know where we missed out, but it felt like we were quite a bit off the pace just then.

“You feel it (the wind), it’s tricky. But it’s the same for everyone else. It certainly makes it more complicated trying to get the balance right. 

“We made a small adjustment between the first and second run. But the small adjustment seemed to make a big difference. So that’s why I’m a bit down right now. 

“It changed the car quite a lot. I didn’t think we were asking for such a big change, but maybe with the wind it’s a lot more sensitive.”

Also missing the cut from Q1 was Williams driver George Russell.

Hamilton fired a salvo in Q2, lowering the times with a 1:27.826s. 

Bottas beat his team-mate on the second run with a 1:27.688s, while Gasly and Grosjean also set times to secure spots in Q3 alongside the two Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren drivers.

Behind them, Antonio Giovinazzi, Lance Stroll, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat failed to make Q3.

The horror run continued for Renault with Nico Hulkenberg’s R.S.19 unable to set a competitive time before a hydraulics failure ended his session in 15th place.

The change to the schedule and delays during qualifying have left teams less than three hours to have the cars ready for the race – with Williams and Haas racing to have the cars for Kubica and Magnussen repaired in time.

Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:27.064s
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.189s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.229s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.238s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 0.787s
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 0.787s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 1.240s
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1.400s
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1.772s
10 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 2.277s
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 2.190s
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 2.281s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 2.294s
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 2.499s
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 3.048s
16 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 2.758s
17 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 3.280s
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 3.300s
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari
20 Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes

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