Japanese GP

Rosberg edges out Hamilton for Japan pole

Qualifying started under cloudy skies, with the Manor drivers leading the way as the clock stuck the hour. Carlos Sainz Jr followed after he lost a lot of time in the morning with an electrical problem.

Nico Rosberg went wide on in the second part of Degner, getting green paint and rubbish on his tyres compromising his first lap on the medium tyres. Lewis Hamilton was a third of a second slower despite the mistake from Rosberg.

Grosjean was a couple of tenths quicker than Felipe Nasr, but his own teammate was neary half a second quicker than him after he had to get past a Red Bull in 130R.

Button on his first lap went sixth, to split the Sauber drivers, with Red Bull’s Ricciardo in third, only to be deposed by Max Verstappen. Alonso was in sixth and behind Gutierrez’s Haas, who was only a couple of tenths behind the Red Bull, with both Mercedes and Red Bull on the medium tyre.

Daniil Kvyat put his Toro Rosso in fifth, with Perez’s Force India in sixth. Hulkenberg had a very good middle sector of the lap to go third fastest, although on the soft tyre compound. Kimi Raikkonen was also on the soft tyre and went fastest overall in the Ferrari. Massa and Bottas went 10th and 11th, with Sainz not making it in the top 16. Vettel went faster than his teammate, but only just with the Ferrari drivers evenly matched.

Those with all their first runs completed and in the drop zone included Sainz, Button, Wehrlein, Ocon, Palmer and Ericsson. Magnussen was the driver that was immediately on the bubble, only just behind Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.

With the field tightly bunched, many of the cars returned to the circuit. The first to blink were McLaren, with both drivers returning to the circuit with three minutes remaining. Ferrari and Mercedes decided not to go out again, along with Sergio Perez who was down at ninth at the time.

Alonso crossed the line to take 11th place, with Button improving to 13th. Grosjean was the next over the line to go 6th fastest in the Haas. Ericsson went 16th in the Sauber, with Gutierrez in 11th, and Palmer 13th. Sainz got out the bottom 16 in the Toro Rosso. The shuffle meant that Jenson Button got pushed into the bottom 6, with Fernando Alonso on the bubble. Both Palmer and Sainz got through though, with Red Bull aborting their laps.

Those who went out in Q1 included Button, Magnussen, Ericsson, Nasr, Ocon and Wehrlein.

As e have seen recently, Mercedes were out again early in Q2, with Lewis Hamilton going out on the soft tyre. Rosberg, also on the soft tyre did a 1:30.7, of which Lewis Hamilton was four tenths down once again. It was the turn of Lewis Hamilton to wide at the second Degner, although Rosberg was still faster in every sector.

Also out on the soft tyre, Ricciardo was slower by some margin, a second down on Rosberg. Raikkonen was faster in the Ferrari, but still not able to match the compromised Hamilton. Verstappen was once again ahead of his teammate though, but the surprise of the first part of the session was Romain Grosjean, ahead of Perez and Hulkenberg which also saw his teammate in the mix.

Williams went out on a set of used soft tyres, but it was only a installation lap with both drivers then coming in for a quick pitstop. Rosberg to Ricciardo in the top six decided not to go out again, with Williams just starting the fast laps. It was only 8th for Bottas after getting traffic on his fast lap, with Felipe Massa going only 10th fastest. Fernando Alonso, who had struggled in Q1 was only 14th, while Hulkenberg improved to 7th.

Carlos Sainz had a spin at Spoon Curve, with the Spaniard out of qualifying. Gutierrez improved to 7th, with Grosjean in 8th. Perez was only 10th which knocked out both Williams drivers.

So those out included Bottas, Massa, Kvyat, Sainz, Alonso and Palmer.

Red Bull went out early in the third session of the afternoon, Max Verstappen got his wish of going out clear of traffic. It was a super lap by Verstappen, to go a little faster than his teammate. Kimi Raikkonen was the faster of the pair though, Rosberg a couple of tenths faster behind Lewis Hamilton went a couple of tenths faster again. It was two, by two, by two with only the three top teams going out for an early run, Mercedes ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull.

With everyone going out on the second runs, Lewis Hamilton was released onto the circuit behind Kimi Raikkonen, which he immediate showed that he wasn’t happy. Sebastian Vettel was the last on the circuit. Raikkonen had a great first sector, although the Mercedes were going faster. Verstappen went third, with Raikkonen second. Rosberg the first of the Mercedes was fastest, but Hamilton behind couldn’t match his teammate by 0.013 of a second. Vettel with a three place penalty couldn’t’ improve on his fourth place.

About the author

Ashley Quint

Ashley founded the Purple Sector website back in 2012, later renamed to SpeedMajor which now covers both Formula 1 and Formula E. As well as writing on Formula 1, Ashley also works within the world of luxury travel and was a finalist in the Aspire Travel Trade Writer of the Year competition in 2013.

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