Vettel beats Button for pole in Japan
World Champion Sebastian Vettel, the fastest man in F1, did it again on Saturday at Suzuka taking his 12th pole position of the year in his Red Bull Renault, just beating McLaren's Jenson Button who was fastest in every practice session of the weekend until then. And it is not his car that makes him fast, because his teammate Mark Webber was a full 7/10ths slower.
It wasn't until his final lap that Vettel was just able to pull out enough to beat Button. Suzuka is a real driver's track and it took the skill of Vettel to carry his slower Red Bull across the line to beat the superior McLarens of Button and Hamilton.
Vettel can claim the world championship tomorrow by just scoring a single point, or if Button fails to win.
Lewis Hamilton ended up third in the 2nd McLaren with the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso rounding out the top-5.
Lewis Hamilton's troubles continued on Saturday after missing out on pole position at Suzuka.
As Vettel and Button went quicker on their final attempts, however, Briton Hamilton failed to start his flying lap before the checkered flag flew.
He looked gutted in parc ferme and the television unilaterals, insisting he still had a couple of tenths of pace in store for his last attempt.
Hamilton said he was "attacked" at the end of the out-lap by Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher, describing their moves as "dangerous".
"We told him not to back up and let so many cars by. Unfortunately he got hustled at the last corner," McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said on BBC 1.
Mark Webber could only manage sixth in the other Red Bull, despite setting the fastest sector one time.
Michael Schumacher was one of several drivers not to set a Q3 time as he saved tires for the race. His Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was not able to run at all on qualifying. A hydraulic issue struck his Mercedes after 1 lap in Q3 and he never set a time.
Sebastian Vettel (1st, 1:30.466): "I went off in the free practice yesterday and damaged the front wing, so it wasn't ideal to prepare the car for today. We suffered a bit from that this morning regarding the car's balance and were too slow. We sat down after P3 and looked at where we could improve and we were able to extract everything out of the car in qualifying, which was crucial. There wasn't much between me and Jenson! I want to say thanks to the team and the factory for getting another front wing out for me, I would not sit here now without them, so I'm very happy and very proud. Regarding one point or no point tomorrow, I'm not focusing on that. I had a lesson yesterday where for a little moment I wasn't 100% focused and lost the car. Tomorrow is a long race and it's challenging; I'm looking forward to it. We really love to come here, it's a special atmosphere and the fans are so passionate and crazy. When we leave the hotel in the morning, it's full of people and they're all screaming, so it's a nice feeling to be part of that and starting from pole tomorrow will be special. It's a long race and a lot of things can happen."
Mark Webber (6th, 1:31.156): "I'm very surprised to be sixth. I did my best, but it wasn't quick enough and it was a bit of a surprise that I couldn't go with the pace there at the end. Seb obviously did a massive lap for pole so he got on the front row just, which was a great effort. I'm disappointed to be on the third row. The car was pretty good yesterday on the long run - and it was good on short runs too, up until the end there - so clearly I didn't get the most out of it today. I'll wake up and push tomorrow."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A phenomenal qualifying. It was very, very close with a tremendous last lap from Sebastian. It's been tight with the McLarens all weekend and he produced a remarkable last lap to get the pole by 100th of a second. This rewards the hard work that's taken place both here and in the factory after one of the new front wings was damaged yesterday and needed to be replaced. It's a fantastic way to pay back that effort. With Mark, he was up on his last run and was purple in his first sector, but thereafter the lap seemed to move away from him time-wise and he wasn't able to improve in the final two sectors in a very, very tight grid. Hopefully he can make good progress from there tomorrow."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "Again a wonderful result from Sebastian. This weekend was a tremendous job in terms of teamwork and I would like to congratulate everyone here and at the factory - they did a really good job. For Mark, I feel a bit sorry as we deprived him from running this morning due to an electrical engine problem, so he wasn't able to do the first part of P3 this morning. I would have preferred for him to have been up with Sebastian, but I think his pace was good during P2 so he should be solid tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (3rd, 1:30.617): "I'm happy to be third - I'll be starting from the cleaner side of the grid, and we can have a good race from there. And I'm pleased that we've been extremely competitive all weekend. We've definitely shown an improvement: to be so close at a high-speed circuit like this means we're doing well. It's very encouraging, because if we'd had this car at the beginning of the season, I think the championship could have been a different story. In Q3, my final attempt at a lap was compromised when I entered the final corner on my out-lap and, from out of nowhere, Mark [Webber] shot up the inside of me. Then Michael [Schumacher] came past on my outside and went across the grass. Those incidents delayed me, so I couldn't reach the start line to begin my lap - it was an interesting situation but we were all up against it to get across the line. I might be starting third, but I know I'm as quick as the two guys in front of me. It's not been a fantastic weekend for me so far, so hopefully that'll change tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "The whole qualifying session was extremely tight today. In terms of pace, we're encouraged by our performance - it's the closest we've been to the Red Bulls for some time, and, with one driver starting second and the other third, we're in good shape for the race tomorrow. Jenson did a great job in qualifying. In fact, he's been driving brilliantly all weekend - to miss out on pole by 9/1000ths of a second, which equates to a mere 68cm when travelling across the start/finish line at around 280km/h, is extremely unfortunate. But he's on the front row and in a very strong position for the race. Lewis did a great job, too, particularly with an incredibly quick lap in Q2 and on his first run of Q3. It was a little tight on time as we left the garage for his final run - we knew we couldn't afford to let any other cars past - but he lost time on his out-lap and didn't quite make it to the finish line in time to start his final run. With the benefit of hindsight, we perhaps didn't make it clear enough to Lewis about what he needed to achieve on his out-lap. Nonetheless, our car has a good balance, both drivers are feeling confident and I'm sure we can have an exciting race tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (4th, 1:30.804): "It was a difficult qualifying session but at least we managed to keep one of the four best cars behind us. It's never easy here to put together the perfect lap and my last run was very good, even if I lost a little bit in the final sector. Tomorrow, it will be important to get a good start. Hamilton alongside me on the grid? It makes no difference to me if it's him or anyone else. The race looks like being a complicated one, with a lot of stops to change tires that show significant degradation here, so it follows that strategy will play a key role. It will be vital to find the right pace, so as to be quick, but at the same time, save the tires. Overtaking will not be easy, despite KERS and DRS: maybe tire wear will count for more, given that you come onto the main straight off a very slow chicane. Our aim is the podium: we're starting one place off it, so it's a realistic expectation."
Fernando Alonso (5th, 1:30.886): "I am not very surprised by this result: at the end of the day, McLaren and Red Bull have been quicker than us all weekend long and at least we have managed to get ahead of Webber. I seem to have a season ticket for fifth place this year and at least it means I start from the clean side of the track. Tomorrow I expect significant tire degradation to be a key feature of the race, with the possibility of several pit stops, which means strategy will play a very important role. We hope we won't have the same problems as in Singapore two weeks ago. We will try and make the best choices and fight for a podium finish, which is a realistic target. The win is certainly less so: as we saw in qualifying, McLaren seem very close to Red Bull here. The start will also be an important moment: both myself and Felipe will try and put pressure on those closest to us and then, if we happen to make up some places we will try and have our say. My first run in Q3? I was pushing to the maximum but, after looking at the lap time analysis, I don't think I could have done much better than my second run."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "Before moving on to talk about our performance today, I would take this opportunity for a more general observation. Once again today, as has happened before during this season, we have seen cars - no less than four in Q3 - give up on doing a flying lap. Far be it for me to criticize those who made this choice, which is absolutely respectable from a technical point of view, I think it shows something is not right in the way qualifying is run and we should give it some careful thought for the future, because I don't think it's such a good thing for the spectators in the grandstand, who, I must say here are amazing in the way they make you feel their passion for Formula 1 and for those who are watching on television. Moving on to our result, I have to say it is more or less what we expected. We know where we stand at the moment technically and we have to try and make the most of every opportunity to fight for a podium finish. We will attempt that with our trademark level of determination."
Pat Fry: "Overall, this is the result we could have expected. We felt that, if we put together the best possible package and squeezed the most out of it, then we could hope to reduce the gap to pole compared to recent races: that's how things turned out, even if it definitely does not affect the hierarchy down pit lane. Felipe had a great qualifying, especially in Q3, so we really hope that for once, he can have a normal race after all the problems he has encountered recently. Tomorrow's race will be very tough, especially for the tires which, historically at this track are given a hard time. It therefore becomes crucial to select the right strategy, pinpointing the best moment to change tires and, especially, not to make any mistakes. We have a duty to fight right to the very end to achieve the objectives that are still within our grasp this season and we will leave nothing to chance. At the same time, we have to use the remaining days we have on track this season to learn as much as possible about elements that could be useful for next year."
Michael Schumacher (7th, No Time): "It was a tricky ending to my qualifying session today, but at least we have saved a set of tires for the race tomorrow. We are still in a good position for gathering some important points, and obviously that is what I am geared to do. I am very happy with how we worked as a team to improve our performance this weekend, and I am really looking forward to having a good race at this great track which is one of my favorites."
Nico Rosberg (23rd, No Time): "On my first lap out in Q1, the team advised that I had a problem and asked me to come back into the pits. We tried to fix it in time for me to complete a lap, however the hydraulic systems are quite complicated and there just wasn't enough time. So for the race, I have a promising strategy with all the new tires that I have! But seriously, I will push and try to get into the top ten. That will be my aim tomorrow."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "It was a mixed qualifying session for us today. We had a hydraulic problem with Nico's car right at the start of Q1 which we now need to investigate and establish what the cause was. It's going to be quite a challenge for him starting from the back of the grid but it will be an interesting race with the tire situation so there should be opportunities. Michael had a good session although the end of Q3 wasn't as clean as we would have liked. It should be a good race and I look forward to seeing what both Michael and Nico can do."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Michael and our team did a calculated job to save tires during qualifying and it was more important for us to go into the race with the maximum number of fresh tires than to maximize our grid position. Thanks to our overall strategy for the session, Michael got into Q3 with a single run in Q1 and Q2 - and will start the race with more fresh tires available than the cars ahead of him, which means he has a variety of strategic options. We will wait to hear from the FIA whether he will ultimately start from seventh on the grid tomorrow. It was unfortunate that Nico suffered a hydraulic problem during Q1 - sorry for that, Nico. This prevented him from completing a timed lap and means he must start from P23 tomorrow. However, three races ago, Michael started last and climbed through the field to a strong fifth place at the finish. That's positive motivation for us all - Nico first and foremost."
Bruno Senna (8th, No Time): "It was a bit of a squeeze getting my car together in time for qualifying but the team did a fantastic job to mend it after my mishap in practice this morning. I haven't been able to get as much track time as I would have liked yet this weekend, however the car performed flawlessly throughout qualifying, and the strategy we deployed helped put us in a strong position for the race tomorrow. I am really looking forward to lining up on the grid, as it should be an exciting race. As I've said several times this weekend, I love this track and I am very well supported here so I hope to be able to give the supporters in the stands something to shout about."
Vitaly Petrov (9th, No Time): "I'm pleased with lining up ninth on the grid. We are looking much stronger here than in Singapore, and we're demonstrating the potential of the R31 at high speed corner tracks once again. The car has felt progressively better each time I've taken to the wheel this weekend. It felt good in FP1 and FP2, and then FP3 this morning confirmed my sense that there will be a good opportunity for us to perform well here. The stability of the car improved around the high speed corners and the traction was better too, so I'm feeling confident going into tomorrow. A lot of different strategies will be played out during the race but I'm glad we are back in the hunt again."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "I'm satisfied with the performance. It has been a good day although it was unfortunate that Bruno crashed this morning, which stymied his hopes of getting some good lap time before qualifying. The mechanics did a fantastic job to get the car ready in time for qualifying and he made his way comfortably through Q1 and Q2, and secured a good position on tomorrow's grid. We decided that in a straight fight in Q3 we would have struggled to make much more ground on our positions in the top 10 - it would have been difficult to beat Schumacher anyway - so we decided to put both cars out on medium tires (scrubs) to ensure we had the luxury of choosing our starting tire tomorrow afternoon. The tire degradation is high here. Suzuka is a high grip track that is very tough on tires, so having the flexibility to do what we want will be of great help to us. We will spend some time tonight looking at what will work best. We have a good idea of how to approach the race, but we'll look hard at the data to devise the best possible strategy to give the guys a strong chance tomorrow."
Rubens Barrichello (13th, 1:33.079): "First of all I want to thank the team for working so hard on making the changes I wanted. The car wasn't behaving well in practice this morning so we changed almost everything on it before qualifying. Everyone did a great job turning it around in time. The changes really transformed the car and we pulled off a strong lap this afternoon."
Pastor Maldonado (14th, 1:33.224): "Quite a difficult qualifying for me, primarily because we lost a lot of track time during yesterday's practice. We made a few changes after this morning's session and we managed to get a good lap out of the car in qualifying. I don't have the balance I'd like, but we have time go through everything and do some more work ahead of the race."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "It was good to get through the entire run plan in P3 after a difficult day yesterday. Rubens was initially unhappy with the balance on his car after it had to be almost completely rebuilt after his crash in P2. The crew did an excellent job to make a number of changes between P3 and qualifying and Rubens had a very good lap this afternoon which placed him in 13th. With limited running in practice, Pastor also did really well to learn the circuit as quickly as he did and pushed hard to get 14th."
Adrian Sutil (11th, 1:32.463): "Overall I think today's qualifying session went pretty well. I was a little bit disappointed to miss Q3 because we were not too far away from it, but everybody knows P11 is a very good place to start, especially because of the free choice of tires for tomorrow. I was happy with my laps and I don't think I could have found much more. Also, we opted to do just one run on the soft tires in Q2, which means I have a fresh set available for the race. So I think we can make the strategy work tomorrow and have a good race."
Paul di Resta (12th, 1:32.746): "Given the weekend we've had I'm pretty happy to be starting P12 - just a place behind Adrian. I've struggled to get fully up to speed here and find the ideal balance, which is why we've opted for a set-up more suited to the race. Hopefully that will pay off tomorrow because I think tire wear is going to be a major factor in this race. Also, I'm feeling a bit under the weather today with a sore throat, so I'm pleased to come away with a starting position that should allow us to fight for points. I'll get some rest tonight because this is one of the more physical tracks of the year and will give it my all tomorrow."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "We always knew the high-speed nature of Suzuka was unlikely to suit our car as much as Singapore, but I think we can be pretty satisfied with our showing this afternoon. Two cars just outside the top ten means we are well placed for the race and we have a free choice on tire strategy. Paul did well today considering he's not feeling 100% and Adrian loves this track and delivered once again. There's a long race ahead tomorrow and managing the tires will probably be the main concern for all the teams. We know we've got a good race car, strong pace over long runs, and hopefully we can convert that into a result tomorrow afternoon."
Kamui Kobayashi (10th, No Time): "I am really happy we made it into the top ten qualifying in Suzuka. I very much enjoy seeing all the fans here. In free practice we struggled quite a lot with the balance of the car, but the set up changes we made for qualifying worked out well. I think from the pace of the car you can see now that the new aero package is starting to work. My laps in Q1 and Q2 were good, and I can't complain. We still have some good tires left for the race tomorrow, and the race is what counts. I want to score points in front of this crowd."
Sergio Perez (17th, 1:34.704): "As you can see from Kamui's result the car is quite competitive, and I was optimistic t I would also make it to Q3. But then on my last lap in Q1 in sector two I suddenly had a hydraulic problem, I lost everything, starting with the power steering. Therefore I could not go out in Q2, which is obviously disappointing. The mechanics worked very hard and tried to fix it, but we have to do some further investigations and I'm sure we will be alright for the race. For me the weekend isn't that easy because I also have a cold. However, looking at it positively - I have plenty of good tires for tomorrow's race."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "This qualifying had an upside and a downside. Kamui drove very well and made it into Q3 in his home Grand Prix. Congratulations for a great performance. This also shows that our aero package is working as expected. This cannot be taken for granted without testing these parts beforehand on a race track. I'm very sorry for Sergio, who also drove very strongly all weekend despite suffering from a cold, but he was stopped by a hydraulic problem. I'm sure he would have had a good chance to also make it into Q3."
James Key, Technical Director: "This morning we carried on with the new parts we brought here and eventually came to some reasonable solutions about what we needed to do for qualifying. Both drivers were quite happy after FP3, although Kamui still had a few issues with some of the tighter corners. In qualifying Kamui did a fantastic job to make it into Q3. He drove a good lap and showed that the car is working as we expected. We hope to have an equally strong race tomorrow. For Sergio it was a great shame. He too had a good chance to make it into the top ten, but unfortunately we had a hydraulic problem on the car which the guys worked very hard to fix quickly, but we decided in the end not to send him out so as not to risk any further issues. We will look into this tonight."
Sebastien Buemi (15th, 1:33.227): "I got a super lap in Q1, but I cannot be happy with Q2, because I made a mistake on the exit of Turn 9, hitting the curb a bit too hard which sent me off into the grass, costing me around half a second. I am disappointed about that because I've ended up behind the Williams, when we could easily have been ahead of them. They don't give out any points for qualifying, so we took the decision to save tires for the race and we will see if that was the right choice tomorrow. Tire degradation is quite heavy, which means that having new tires will be important in the race."
Jaime Alguersuari (16th, 1:33.427): "We could have had a much better qualifying in performance terms, but we had concentrated on the race in terms of our set-up and aero balance. Therefore, even if the grid position is not so good, I am quite happy because I feel that tomorrow I will have a car strong enough to score some points. I could have gone quicker this afternoon, but we decided to save tires as well as run with a race set-up. I expect we can see a situation similar to Valencia and Monza, being very quick in the race. We have tried to focus a lot on the race in terms of getting consistency from the tires, even if that was going to penalize us this afternoon. Thanks to the mechanics who did a good job of sorting out a problem on the car after Q1 in order to get me back on track in Q2."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "We looked good in Friday's FP1, but then we had to back-pedal on performance as we had concerns over reliability with some of the new elements we were running here. But today, we did not get it right and it was not a good performance, neither in how we engineered the session, nor in our capacity to produce a good lap time. With hindsight, possibly we should have given Sebastien another set of tires and sent him out again at the end of Q2. There would not have been much point doing that with Jaime because he had too much understeer and we could not fix it, which was not quite the same picture we had seen this morning. Actually, this should work in his favor for the race, because according to our numbers, the rear tires will be very difficult to manage tomorrow, which explains the amount of understeer Jaime had this afternoon. Sebastien was happier with the car, but he made a mistake on track. As usual, I tried to privilege the race rather than qualifying, which is why we did not send him out again and inevitably, some people moved ahead of us."
Heikki Kovalainen (18th, 1:35.454): "I'm pretty happy with that, particularly as it was one run, one lap to get it right, and I nailed it straight out of the box. We took the riskier strategy with the tires, went out late in the session and I think I may have even been able to find a bit more in the first sector, but overall I'm pleased. I went through 130R with the rear wing open which was pretty hardcore, but having been bold with the tires we're in a good position for the race tomorrow. There's been quite a lot of talk about the tire wear here but I'm not sure the degradation will be as big a problem as people thought. The long run on the soft tires yesterday was good - I think we can get maybe up to 15 laps out of them, and as we have a few new sets ready to go tomorrow it'll be an interesting afternoon."
Jarno Trulli (19th, 1:35.514): "That was a good session. The car felt much better this afternoon as we made the right changes to the setup and even though I made a couple of mistakes on my quickest lap I still don't think I could have got much more out of it. Tomorrow we'll fight as hard as possible in the race and give our Japanese fans something to cheer for. Our pace in the races has been good all season, so I hope I can make as good a start as I have been in a lot of the races this year, play with the tire strategies and see where we end up."
Riad Asmat, Chief Executive Officer: "We keep edging ever closer to the teams ahead so where we finished up today is very pleasing. We made the right call on the tire strategy, opting to save sets of the softs, and as we have seen all season we can mix it with some of the cars ahead in the race, so with the excellent way our pit crew have been performing in the stops I think we are in a good position for the race."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "A good Saturday for us in both sessions. Jarno and Heikki has issues this morning with understeer but we managed to dial that out for qualifying and their feedback was that they were both happy with their cars this afternoon. Jarno chose to do a run on the medium tires early in qualifying to see if that could help him get more temperature into the brakes, and then the plan was always to do one run on the softs on both cars. We wanted to make sure we kept well clear of the cars behind and, with tire degradation likely to play an important role in the race, give ourselves as many sets of tires as we could for tomorrow, so job done."
Thierry Salvi, Renault: "We have been working all weekend on giving the drivers the best engine maps for this circuit and I think today's performance in qualifying shows we have done a pretty good job on both cars. We need to make sure the engine has good drivability, particularly through the 'S' curves in the first sector where it is important to have a smooth power delivery that does not upset the balance of the cars, and the feedback we have had from both drivers, especially Jarno, is that we have achieved that, and the times we have seen this afternoon bear that out, so this has been a good weekend for us so far."
Daniel Ricciardo (22nd, 1:37.846): "From my point of view it was not a bad session. I approached it well and did what I had to do. In qualifying you have to push 100% and I definitely did that. I went a little bit wide in some areas from pushing too much but I'd say I only lost about a tenth which isn't enough to get in front of our rivals. I am satisfied because the balance of the car was the best it's been all weekend but the others have also improved and we have to keep on working. Anyways it's time to focus on the race where I'm keen to put in a good performance."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (24th, No Time): "It's been a terrible start to the weekend. Yesterday I could only do four laps, eight this morning after an engine issue and this afternoon again problems so in the end I've hardly done any laps in two days. We'll start from last position, which isn't very positive, and it's a shame because the few laps we did weren't too bad. But this is one of the best races of the season with a great atmosphere so I'm hoping to put this behind me and have a good race tomorrow."
Colin Kolles, Team Principal: "Again another day with highs and lows. Daniel has done a good job and has always been pushing and taking steps forward. But today, again, we experienced problems with Tonio's engine. Yesterday he could only manage 4 laps and only 10 today. It is far from ideal but with his experience I'm sure he will be able to pull out a good race. Races are always a different matter and now we can only hope for a trouble-free race for both cars to finish the race."
Jerome d'Ambrosio (20th, 1:36.439): "It was a good Saturday. We had a very good last lap, something which is difficult to achieve here. You want to push hard, but you still have to think, as it's all about priorities and working out which corners to sacrifice. I'm pretty happy about today, especially because we turned it around - yesterday was a difficult day and we managed to do well at a track like Suzuka. I'm really happy. I worked well together with the engineers and I think that thanks to this combination we improved the car and my driving."
Timo Glock (21st, 1:36.507): "For me I think it was a good qualifying session. Going from Free Practice 3 to Qualifying was a bit blind again because we tried something overnight which didn't really work out as we had hoped, so we had to go back on that between sessions. In the end the car was really good and my lap was pretty spot-on. There's not much to say apart from I think today Jerome was slightly quicker and he did a good job. I'm happy with the car so we'll see what happens tomorrow."
John Booth, Team Principal: "After probably one of Jerome's more challenging Fridays, he spent a lot of time last night going through the data with his engineers to see where he needed to improve. Throughout P3 he did an impressive job to close the gap to Timo and into qualifying he had a good second run to finish 0.07s ahead of him. We anticipated a reasonable level of track improvement throughout Q1 so we left the final run right until the end with only one timed lap, which worked out perfectly for the traffic and enabled both drivers to get the most out of the car. Timo reverted to his P2 set-up for qualifying, having tried a slightly different direction in FP3 which proved not to be the way to go. We've seen the track throw up many incidents during the course of the three practice sessions so tomorrow we'll be looking to ensure that both cars have a clean race and are in a position to take advantage of any opportunity."
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