Nico Rosberg and Mercedes rained supreme to take pole position for the first time since the Spanish GP. Hamilton just missed out by 0.075, and thanks to Daniil Kvyat’s scary accident, it compromised everyone from improving their time.
Rosberg won pole by less than a tenth, while Williams can be utterly proud of their achievements, Bottas will start third on the grid, ahead of the Ferrari of Vettel. Raikkonen showed his form during Q1 and Q2, but when it mattered the most, the Finn had no answer to the relentless Sebastian Vettel.
After strong-showing in practice, Ricciardo only managed P7, and Kvyat’s scary accident meant he didn’t set a time, and qualified 10th. Grosjean impressed to go P8, ahead of Perez’ Force India.
Story of the session:
Q1 got underway in bright conditions, unlike this time around yesterday where the rain was ever hard. Verstappen was first to set a lap during the first Q1 session, who put in a strong 1.35.415. Nonetheless, Mercedes weren’t far down the road, and Hamilton quickly set a 1.33.595 to go fastest from team-mate Rosberg.
Shortly later, Ericsson found himself going backwards at some 150 MPH at Spoon corner, the Sauber driver was lucky not to collide with the barriers.
Ferrari left it to the last minute, the Maranello squad sent their cars out with just six minutes to go in Q1. The squad were nowhere near the Mercedes standard, Raikkonen went third, just over half a second shy of the Mercedes cars, whilst Vettel got P5.
The bad news was on Max Verstappen, as towards the end of Q1 his Scuderia Toro Rosso stopped on track, ending his qualifying session. This spoilt several people’s last laps, which meant Jenson Button will start outside the top 10 for the first time in Suzuka ever.
At the end of Q1, it was Lewis Hamilton who had the edge over team-mate Nico Rosberg, whilst Raikkonen was shortly followed in third place, with the Red Bull’s in 6th and 9th.
As Q2 emerged, it was the front runners who were on track very early, in anticipating of a possible temperature drop. Red Bull, Williams and Mercedes were the first three to take to the track. Rosberg was first to get a lap in, who was first to step into the 32s, the German hooked on a 1.32.632, and had the edge by a tenth over Hamilton. The Williams looked as it had overcome the Red Bull, with the Mercedes engine maxed out.
The Ferrari’s yet again were late out, Raikkonen yet again was able to overcome team-mate Vettel, Raikkonen was seven tenths off Rosberg, and Vettel was 1.2 seconds further back.
At the end of Q2, it was Rosberg who had the edge over team-mate Hamilton. Raikkonen managed third as ‘best of the rest’ for Ferrari, whilst Williams looked in prime position to challenge the Red Bull’s. Ricciardo was P7, while Kvyat was a sad P9. Alonso said on the radio “I cannot do much more than this”, as the Spaniard qualified P14 and the slowest of all in Q2.
Q3 started in optimum conditions, as Nico Rosberg was first to take to the track. During the first runs, Rosberg got the fastest time by 0.076 over team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas managed best of the rest, in P3 0.440 off Rosberg, whilst Vettel put on a better lap to go P4. When it mattered the most, Raikkonen wasn’t able to hook up a competitive time, and only managed P6.
During the second runs, it was a nasty accident for Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat which got the session to the end and handed pole position to Nico Rosberg.