With the threat of a washed out race, the all important pole position for the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix goes to Nico Rosberg after Hamilton was unable to push him down the order.
Thanks to Typhoon Phanfone, and the FIA choosing not to change the race start time, tomorrow’s Grand Prix may be so wet and unsafe the race will need to be stopped. If that circumstance arises the man on pole will be in the best position for the points. Especially if the race is started behind the safety car as after two laps, half points can be awarded.
On the run up to qualifying, the news broke that Vettel will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season and Rosberg posted the fastest FP3 time, whilst Hamilton crashed out of practice. But for Vettel, his imminent departure should not be a distraction for the rest of the season. Whereas, the fight within Mercedes for the drivers championship continued to be a punch-by-punch battle.
Hamilton’s crash which took him out of the final practice session left his Mercedes mechanics with their work cut out in order to get the car fixed in time for Q1. Thankfully for Hamilton they were able to repair the car in time, and without the need for any replacements & no penalty.
When the green light flicked on for the start of qualifying, Kamui Kobayashi was the first man to hit the Suzuka Circuit to the joy of the home fans. Caterham even opted to send the Japanese driver and his team-mate immediately out on the medium tyres. A strategy also adopted by the two Marussia’s and Sutil in his Sauber.
As the early times began to fall onto the board, Vergne took the early lead as he looks to find a drive for 2015. But when the Silver Arrows came shooting across the finish line, Hamilton went fastest with Rosberg a shade back.
With the chequered flag approaching, the drivers at the top of the time sheet opted to stay in the pits whilst the drivers fighting to get into Q2 headed out on the mediums.
Pirelli only expect the mediums to be around half a second faster than the hards. But the white branded tyres were good enough to see Adrian Sutil leap ahead of the Lotus’ and find his way into Q2. Speaking of the Lotus’, Maldonado finished Q1 in 17th place but will find himself at the back of the grid courtesy of his 10-place grid penalty for his sixth engine of the season.
Out in Q1: 17) Maldonado [+ Grid Pen] 18) Grosjean 19) Ericsson 20) Bianchi 21) Kobayashi 22) Chilton
With those six drivers out of qualifying, Q2 began with Sutil leading the pack out of the pits. But his initial benchmark time didn’t take long to be beaten, with Perez and Bottas both moving on top.
Once again, the Mercedes proved early on why they’ve been so dominant all year-long with both drivers creating distance to the field. But Rosberg and Hamilton were only separated by 3 hundredths of a second.
Unlike Mercedes who had done enough not to need a second run in Q2, Red Bull were out fighting for survival at the end of Q2. Approaching their final run, the best Red Bull could do was with Vettel in 11th and Ricciardo in 12th. But not only were they both in the drop zone, they were both over two seconds off the Mercedes’ pace.
Luckily for the current Red Bull duo, they both managed to find their way into the top 10 after the chequered flag fell. Whereas Vergne, Perez, Kyvat, Hulkenberg, Sutil and Gutierrez all failed to make it through. Leaving the Mercedes duo along with the two Williams, Ferrari’s, McLaren’s and Red Bull’s to compete in the pole position shoot out.
When it came to the start of that shoot out, Valtteri Bottas was leaving the pit lane early and leading the field away.
By the time Bottas crossed the finish line, his best lap of the day put him on top. However he would only temporarily hold onto that position with the Mercedes again putting distance between themselves and third place. Although unlike in Q2 the gap between the Mercedes drivers had widened to three tenths, leaving Lewis with more work to do on his final run.
Entering the final runs, Ricciardo left the pits early in the hope of getting a clean lap in. Red Bull also opted to send Vettel out early but on his flying lap, he locked up at the hairpin sending him closer to the gravel trap than he would have liked.
Come the end of their laps, Vettel improved to go seventh but was soon pushed down by Ricciardo. Bottas was next to cross the line and moved his Williams closer to the Mercedes.
Those Mercedes however also improved on their final flying laps to ensure another front row lock out. Hamilton was able to find some extra time on his lap, but a lock up at the hairpin and Rosberg improving resulted in the German taking the top spot.
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:35.593||1:34.466||1:34.075|
|9||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:35.517||1:34.784||1:34.432|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.439||1:35.089|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.000||1:35.099|
|Q1 107% Time||1:40.163|