Japanese GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Vettel pips Webber to Suzuka pole
Sebastian Vettel (1:30.785) pipped Red Bull Racing team mate Mark Webber (1:30.853) to the Suzuka pole by just seven hundredths of a second as Adrian Newey's RB6s locked out the front row at a circuit where their high speed handling capabilities were expected to pay dividends.
The strengths of the Red Bull were obvious throughout Suzuka's sweeping first sector, where Vettel and Webber were half a second quicker than anything other than Hamilton's McLaren.
"It's good to change the colours on the front row again!" Vettel smiled. "The last two races have been a bit difficult for us but we came here with confidence. The first sector could be made for us and after the weather yesterday it's a good start. It's a new situation to have qualifying and race in one day but I had a good sleep last night and I'm hoping for the same result as last year. I'm on the clean side of the grid so hopefully the start should be good too."
Webber was content with his second place. "It was a good tussle with Seb and the boys did a good job. It's going to be a busy day for everyone but we're off to a good start."
Hamilton (1:31.169) set third quickest time but will start eighth when his five place penalty for a changed gearbox is added.
"I think it's the best I could have hoped for," he explained. "We knew Red Bull would be quick and it's not been the best weekend for us. It was a fantastic job by the team to get the updates here (which included a new wing which is not on the car for the race due to lack of time for practice evaluation). Unfortunately, the collision I had with Mark in Singapore damaged the driveshaft or differential, which caused the gearbox change, and we didn't spot that. It was hard to come into qualifying with only five or six laps through Friday, so I feel happy to get as far as I have."
Robert Kubica (1:31.231) did a fine job to put the first Renault fourth on the grid, 0.13s clear of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari (1:31.352) but it is Jenson Button (1:31.378) who has applied a different tactical approach and will be interesting to watch in the race. The reigning champion will start sixth on Bridgestone's hard compound, which is expected to be a much more durable race tyre and he stands every chance of leading the race when the drivers who start on the soft compound make earlier stops. Button will obviously have to stop later in the race to put the options on, but he looks a good bet for a podium.
Nico Rosberg (1:31.494) put the first of the Mercedes seventh, while Rubens Barrichello (1:31.535) narrowly shaded a good inter-team battle at Williams, pipping Nico Hulkenberg (1:31.559) by just two hundredths of a second. Michael Schumacher also got his Mercedes into the top 10, 0.35s down on team mate Rosberg.