Japanese GP | Rosberg tops qualifying for third straight Suzuka pole

Rosberg completes Japanese Grand Prix clean sweep in qualifying.

Fastest in practice and qualifying, Rosberg remains on top in Suzuka to claim third straight Japanese Grand Prix pole. Narrowly edging Hamilton for the top spot, as McLaren faltered at Honda’s home and Ferrari bettered the ‘Bulls.

Nico Rosberg had dominated every practice going into qualifying to top the sessions ahead of Hamilton. But while Lewis reduced the deficit on Friday, he faced a larger margin on Saturday morning as did not set a flying lap in FP3.

Then throughout qualifying, whenever Hamilton would have looked at the timesheet, he would have seen his team-mates name sitting above his. Right up until Q3, when Lewis broke the streak to claim provisional pole.

A final flyer from both saw the margin between them reduce. With Rosberg getting the better of his team-mate in qualifying for the eighth time this year. Matching the number of poles Hamilton has taken in 2016.

Q1

When the green light came on at 3PM local time, qualifying was go in Suzuka as the Manor duo of Ocon and Wehrlein immediately crept out of the pits.

Ocon and Wehrlein were not alone in running early, with Carlos Sainz straight out of the Toro Rosso garage after a control electronics issue meant he could only complete a handful of laps in FP3.

While Carlos returned to the pits after an out lap, Ocon and Wehrlein remained on track to post the first times of the day. With Ocon edged Wehrlein by two-tenths of a second on the soft compound tyres.

Mediums for Mercedes meanwhile was enough for the Silver Arrows to take the top spots away from Manor. With Rosberg rapid in the flowing first sector to go top with a 131.858, despite understeering onto the astro turf coming out of Degner 2.

Red Bull joined Mercedes in lapping on the medium tyres in the early stages. With Verstappen edging Ricciardo for third, by five-hundredths of a second.

While Daniil Kvyat, a year on from crashing out of qualifying in Japan, lead the soft tyre runners. With Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button far down the order at Honda’s home Grand Prix.

As Jenson continued to be pushed further and further down the order and into the bottom six, Ferrari completed their first runs of the session. With both Vettel and Raikkonen on the yellow-walled Pirelli’s.

With the softer rubber fitted, Ferrari flew to go top with Sebastian Vettel bettering Raikkonen’s 1:31.674 by a single hundredth of a second. But the margin between the fastest Ferrari and the fastest Mercedes was just two-tenths of a second, despite Rosberg running a harder compound tyre.

As the clocked ticked down towards the end of Q1, the first drivers to return to the track were McLaren’s Alonso and Button. With Fernando sat in P14, five-tenths up on the drop zone. While Button sat eight-hundredths down on safety.

First out the pits meant Fernando was first to post a new lap time. Moving up from 14th to 11th, while Button found six-tenths of a second to move up to 13th.

But as soon as the McLarens moved up the order, they were falling again as Romain Grosjean moved up to sixth place.

Marcus Ericcson could only improve marginally to edge out of the drop zone and take 16th place. But a final flyer from Palmer saw the Renault rocket up the order and into 12th place. Enough to see him through to Q2.

As Gutierrez joined Grosjean in the top 10, Carlos Sainz now found himself in the drop zone as Ericsson and Button sat on the cusp. A cusp that began to fall away from them as Sainz demoted Palmer to take 12th place and eliminate the Sauber.

While an improving Bottas, moving up from drop zone to 5th, eliminated Button at Honda’s home track. Only missing out on survival by three-hundredths of a second to his McLaren team-mate, with Alonso only surviving in 16th.

Q2

After taking Q1 on the mediums, the Mercedes duo was straight out on the softs in Q2. With Rosberg leading his team-mate on track and on the timesheet with a 1:30.714.

Hamilton’s lap was not perfect as he crossed the line 4-tenths down on his team-mate. But even a slower lap for Lewis was enough for him to remain in the top 2 throughout Q2, with Ricciardo crossing the line a full second off the pace.

With Ricciardo a full second down on Rosberg, Ferrari and Vettel were able to move ahead of the Australian. But Vettel in third still faced a half second deficit to the benchmark of Rosberg.

After needing to improve late on to survive Q1, the Haas duo ended their first runs up on Nico Hulkenberg with Sergio Perez splitting the pair. Romain’s position ahead of Hulkenberg even came despite almost having a huge accident at the end of his lap after dipping a wheel onto the grass. Grosjean was, however, able to catch the slide as the car snapped sidewards.

Carlos Sainz later had a spin of his own as he dipped a wheel onto the astro turf at Spoon. But unfortunately for the Spaniard, his spin came at a costly time for him as he resided in 13th place and was unable to improve.

Luckily for others, the yellows for Sainz failed to hamper their runs. But unfortunately for Williams, their single Q2 runs were not strong enough and both were eliminated in 11th and 12th.

Massa and Bottas’ exits came thanks to Hulkenberg improving from 12th to 7th before Gutierrez took the position. While a final change of position came as Perez marginally missed out on bettering his team-mate, but did enough to claim 10th – demoting Bottas to 11th.

Q3

For the penultimate time in qualifying for the Japenese Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo lead the leading the pack across the line and post the first time. Momentarily topping the timesheet with a 1:31.240.

Ricciardo’s time atop the timesheet was but a moment, as Max Verstappen crossed the line to edge his team-mate by a hundredth despite losing gear sync

Kimi Raikkonen then followed through to move ahead of the ‘Bulls by five-hundredths of a second, himself. But the margin to the front rapidly grew as the Mercedes’ crossed the line.

First up for the Silver Arrows came the qualifying pace-setter of Nico Rosberg, as the German claimed P1 by more than two-tenths of a second.

But despite being down on his team-mate throughout qualifying, Hamilton was the man to claim provisional pole. Bettering Rosberg by two-tenths of a second and create a half a second margin across the top six.

With fifth place currently in his hands, Verstappen was first to run again. Moving up to third, ahead of both Ferrari’s but still down on the Silver Arrows.

Raikkonen, though, regained his position ahead of Verstappen – moving back up to third place by two-tenths of a second. Vettel and Ricciardo then followed but were unable to better their team-mate’s, with Sebastian claiming fourth and Daniel sixth. Although Vettel will fall back to seventh with a three-place grid pen for causing a collision in last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

In the fight for pole, meanwhile, both Rosberg and Hamilton were up on Lewis’ benchmark. With Rosberg crossing the line first to go top by 0.111 seconds.

Hamilton, though, lost time at the end of his lap. And despite claiming provisional pole, missed out on pole position for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix by 0.013 seconds. A single hundredth of a second splitting the Silver Arrows.

Pole today is Rosberg’s third consecutive Japanese Grand Prix pole position, and his eighth of the year. But in the previous two Japanese Grand Prix’s it has been Hamilton who has claimed the win from second on the grid.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’30.647
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’30.660 0.013
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’30.949 0.302
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’31.028 0.381
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’31.178 0.531
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’31.240 0.593
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1’31.961 1.314
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’31.961 1.314
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’32.142 1.495
10 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1’32.547 1.9
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’32.315 1.668
12 Felipe Massa Williams 1’32.380 1.733
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’32.623 1.976
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1’32.685 2.038
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’32.689 2.042
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’32.807 2.16
17 Jenson Button McLaren 1’32.851 2.204
18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1’33.023 2.376
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’33.222 2.575
20 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’33.332 2.685
21 Esteban Ocon Manor 1’33.353 2.706
22 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1’33.561 2.914