Hamilton on pole in Japan, Vettel ninth after Ferrari blunder
Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying

Hamilton on pole in Japan, Vettel ninth after Ferrari blunder

06/10/2018

Lewis Hamilton pipped Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pole position in Japan as Ferrari made yet another costly blunder, this time misjudging the weather conditions in Q3 and leaving Sebastian Vettel on the wrong tyres.

The four-time world champion had been in a class of his own during practice -- comfortably quickest in all three sessions -- and stayed atop the timesheets in qualifying with his lap of 1:27.760 in Q3, 0.299s ahead of teammate Bottas. It was an afternoon to forget for Ferrari who added yet another disappointing chapter to what has already been an error-riddled season. The Scuderia decided to send Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen out on intermediate tyres at the beginning of Q3 but with a mostly dry track it was clear they had made the wrong call and both drivers promptly returned to the pits to fit the super-soft compound.

However, by the time they had done that, and everyone else had set a flying lap, rain began to fall at Suzuka and both Vettel and Raikkonen were caught in limbo having missed their chance to set a proper qualifying lap. Raikkonen was able to recover the best to set the fourth quickest time and will start behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen but Vettel will line up ninth after setting a lap that was over four seconds adrift of his title-rival's pole time.

Romain Grosjean's second half of the season resurgence continued with the Haas driver claiming P5 on the grid while Toro Rosso had an afternoon to remember with Brendon Hartley qualifying a career best P6, 0.070s ahead of teammate Pierre Gasly. The Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez sandwiched Vettel at the bottom end of the top 10.

A mix of gusty and drizzly conditions made qualifying in Japan quite difficult. In Q1 alone, Vettel spun his Ferrari at the hairpin before Sauber's Marcus Ericcson brought out the red flags when he careered into the barriers on the outside of Turn 7.

It wasn't the only drama, either. Midway through Q2 a dejected Daniel Ricciardo reported that he had suffered a loss of power in his Red Bull. The Australian returned to the garage and wasn't seen again, meaning he will start P15, barring any grid penalties.

Charles Leclerc missed out on another entry into Q3 after spinning his Sauber late in Q2. The soon-to-be Ferrari driver will start P11 ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who all weekend long has been off the pace of Grosjean. Behind them will be the Renault of Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll's Williams and Ricciardo.

Knocked out in Q1 was Nico Hulkenberg who miraculously was able to take part in qualifying after crashing hard at Turn 5 during final practice. His Renault mechanics had to work overtime in the two hour gap between FP3 and Q1 to repair his rear wing, floor and suspension but ultimately he was only able to set the 16th fastest time.

Williams' Sergey Sirotkin finished the session 0.011s behind Hulkenberg but ahead of McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne who will start P18 and P19 respectively. Ericcson will line up at the back of the grid.

The Japanese Grand Prix begins on Sunday at 15:10 local time.

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13/12/2018
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