Hamilton on pole in Japan as Vettel hits trouble

The German qualifies ninth!


By Olivier Ferret

6 October 2018 - 09:10
Hamilton on pole in Japan as Vettel (...)

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton took his eighth pole position of the season at Suzuka and the 80th of his career, while title rival Sebastian Vettel faces a ninth-place race start after a troubled final segment of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas will start alongside Hamilton in the second Mercedes, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with start at the front of row three, alongside the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen.

Vettel established an early benchmark in Q1 with a lap of 1:29.049, more than half a second clear of Ferrari team-mate Kimi Räikkönen. Hamilton soon bypassed Vettel to take P1, however, with a lap of 1:28.702 that left him 0.347 ahead of the Ferrari man.

Vettel then had a spin at the hairpin, but there was worse to come for Marcus Ericsson who lost control of his Sauber in Turn 7 and hit the barriers hard. Ericsson was soon out of his car but the red flags were immediately shown.

In the final runs of Q1, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly made the biggest jump, climbing from P15 to P10 at the end of the session. It was a necessary improvement, as Williams’ Lance Stroll put in a good final lap to jump to 15th place with a time well clear of Gasly’s best time from before the final laps.

Stroll’s escape from the drop zone meant that Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated in P16 ahead of Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and the unfortunate Ericsson.

In Q2, Mercedes both Hamilton and Bottas out on soft tyres, and this time it was Bottas who set the pace, the Finn topping the timesheet at the end of the session with a lap of 1:27.987, three hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton.

Further back there was trouble for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian began his opening run but experienced a power loss and quickly returned to the pits.

With the covers going back on his car in the final minutes of the session, it looked like his team had solved the issue, but rain was already falling on track and as conditions worsened Ricciardo’s hopes of getting in a lap dwindled. He was ruled out in P15 with no time on the board in Q2.

Also ruled out at the end of Q2 were 11th-placed Leclerc, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Stroll.

In Q3 it was Ferrari’s turn to encounter trouble. Rain was expected, but it didn’t arrive soon enough for the Italian and they sent Räikkönen and Vettel out on intermediate tyres at the start of the session. Both were forced to lap and pit for slick tyres, putting them out of sequence to the other front runners.

Hamilton staked a claim to pole position with a time of 1:27.760, more than two tenths ahead of Bottas, while Verstappen slotted into third place on the timesheet. Räikkönen managed to sneak in a lap to take fourth place, but Vettel made a mistake on his opening lap and was forced to try again. By the time he was ready for a hot lap rain was falling and his chance was gone. He ended the session in P9 between the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.

With the conditions growing steadily worse, the session was effectively over and after the clock had counted down to the flag, Hamilton duly took his 80th career pole position ahead of Bottas, Verstappen and Räikkönen. Grosjean was fifth for Haas, while Brendon Hartley scored his best ever qualifying result with sixth place, just ahead of Toro Rosso team-mate Gasly.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:28.702 1:28.017 1:27.760
02 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG 1:29.297 1:27.987 1:28.059
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:29.480 1:28.849 1:29.057
04 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:29.631 1:28.595 1:29.521
05 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:29.724 1:29.678 1:29.761
06 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.248 1:29.848 1:30.023
07 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.137 1:29.810 1:30.093
08 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:29.899 1:29.538 1:30.126
09 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.049 1:28.279 1:32.192
10 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:30.247 1:29.567 1:37.229
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:29.706 1:29.864
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:30.219 1:30.226
13 Carlos Sainz Renault F1 1:30.236 1:30.490
14 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:30.317 1:30.714
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:29.806 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 1:30.361
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:30.372
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:30.573
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:31.041
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:31.213

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