Vettel on pole again in Japan
Mark Webber was send and gave Red Bull their first sweep of the front row in 2012 after dominating qualifying the past two years.
Local favorite Kamui Kobayashi will start third. He was fourth fastest for Sauber, but will move up when third-placed Jenson Button is given his gearbox change penalty.
Points leader Fernando Alonso in the struggling Ferrari was only seventh, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton.
Romain Grosjean was fifth for Lotus, with Sergio Perez sixth.
Sebastian Vettel (1st, 1:30.839): "It was good we got the time on the first run, with the yellow flags coming out later. We had a phenomenal balance in the car and I had the feeling we could go with the track today. We only needed one run in every session, which doesn't happen all the time, but it's very enjoyable around here when the car works how you wish, especially on low fuel and fresh tires. It's very special. Yesterday evening I wasn't too happy as I was losing time in the first sector, but I found my mistake and in today's practice session it worked straight away, I don't know why I didn't do it in previous years and it shows you never stop learning. Tomorrow will be interesting; it's hard on tires here, so we will need to work to stay where we are."
Mark Webber (2nd, 1:31.090): "That was a pretty solid session. We knew it was going to crank up in Q3, but I'll tell you, this place on low fuel with new tires is something else. I was pretty happy with my first attempt, apart from the hairpin, but Sebastian had that couple of tenths and I thought 'fair play', it was a competitive lap from him. Overall both of us were very competitive in qualifying and that puts in good stead for tomorrow. All the hard work from the factory is paying off. The main day though is tomorrow, that's where the points are."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A fantastic team performance; to achieve the front row for tomorrow's race is the best result for the team. It's a shame that the yellow flag came out at the end there, as both drivers were up on their lap times, but one and two is the best place to start tomorrow's race. Congratulations to Sebastian on his 34th career pole, which puts him third behind two illustrious names, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna, in the all-time list."
Cyril Dumont, Renault: "Today is simply a wonderful result; it's the best we could have achieved, so I'm pleased with that. The pace was there. Today was the 199th pole position for Renault engines, so I look forward to the next one. For the time being we need to focus on today's result and we hope that we will score important points tomorrow in both Championships."
Jenson Button (3rd, 1:31.290): "It was a good qualifying session - both my Q3 laps felt good. We've improved the car a lot since yesterday, when we tried a very low-downforce set-up to help with overtaking. We pulled back from that for today, and I feel a lot happier with the car. My gearbox penalty means it's disappointing to be starting so far back, though. Overtaking has never been easy around here - even with the introduction of DRS - and, that being the case, it's quite a surprise that the DRS zone has been shortened for this year. But I love racing around here. And because everyone's strategy could be up in the air tomorrow - because there's been quite a lot of tire graining and blistering - things could still be a bit unpredictable. The championship is a long-shot for me, I know that, but I'd love to do well in front of the Japanese crowd; I'll be going for the win."
Lewis Hamilton (9th, 1:32.327): "Today's qualifying session was one of the most disappointing of my year. To be honest, I went the wrong way with the set-up and ended up with too much understeer. Until quali, the car had felt great all weekend, but I just couldn't make it turn this afternoon, and as a result I just couldn't extract the best from it. Jenson showed that the car itself is quite good though - he did a great job today - and our long-run pace wasn't bad yesterday, either. So you never know what's going to happen in tomorrow's race. It's going to be a struggle, but I'll be pushing my hardest with the set-up I've got, and I hope that, through good tire management, I'll be able to overtake some of the cars in front of me. I'll be trying to get as many points as I can tomorrow."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Clearly, having been quick here yesterday, we're disappointed to have put up a comparatively unexciting performance in Q3 this afternoon. Jenson drove a good lap to be best of the rest behind the Red Bulls, but will nonetheless start tomorrow's race from P8, much farther back than his P3 qualifying pace would normally yield, having arrived here at Suzuka saddled with a five-place grid penalty, a result of a gearbox failure in Singapore. That said, he's a bit of a Suzuka ace, as we've seen as recently as last year, when he won the race with a fine drive from the front row, clocking fastest lap en route. So he'll be one to watch tomorrow, for sure. For Lewis, who was consistently quick yesterday, Q3 was perhaps more disappointing still - largely because, when he was on his quickest lap, waved yellow flags forced him to back off through the long Spoon corner, costing him quite a lot of time and ruining his lap as a result. Tomorrow, though, is another day - and the Japanese Grand Prix will be as hard as all Japanese Grands Prix at Suzuka tend to be, run as they are on such a magnificently challenging racetrack. Moreover, both Jenson and Lewis will be doing their best to make rapid progress, and to put on a decent show for the ever-enthusiastic Japanese spectators and the tens of millions of TV viewers alike."
Fernando Alonso (7th, 1:32.114): "What can I say, other than get angry about being unlucky? The yellow flags came at the worst possible moment, when I was coming into Turn 14. Up 'til then, my lap was great and there was every chance of setting the fourth fastest time of the day, which would have then seen me start from third on the grid. From there, the race could have taken on a completely different picture, but we have to accept what happened. We were unlucky today, so maybe we'll be lucky tomorrow! We are up against some very strong opponents, like Red Bull who are in front and there is also McLaren who are behind, so we will have to keep an eye on both sides of the track. I'm expecting a difficult Sunday: the main aim will be to finish - reliability is crucial- and bring home a good points haul. We changed a few things on the car compared to yesterday, but after FP3 we went back on our settings as we were not convinced about the changes. I am honestly more optimistic for tomorrow than I was for today, given that our race pace is usually better than our performance over a flying lap: let's hope that really turns out to be the case."
Felipe Massa (11th, 1:32.293): "I am very disappointed with the way this qualifying went. Up until the second run in Q2, everything was going well: the car felt very quick and I was happy with its balance. But suddenly, once we fitted a new set of Softs, I lost grip at the front, right from the first corner and it never returned throughout the lap. To miss out on Q3 by just 21 thousandths is a further blow. It's very frustrating not being able to get the right results when you know you can count on a good car. It definitely won't be easy making up places on a track like this, but we will give it our all and try and bring home plenty of points."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "We definitely couldn't say the Gods were smiling on us today! Yellow flags meant that Fernando was unable to secure a place on the front two rows: it's all part of the game, but that doesn't lessen the disappointment, at least in the heat of the moment. It's regrettable because neither of our two grid positions reflect our potential. Felipe could also have secured a good result: we have to understand what happened on his second run in Q2, because it's strange not to improve on a lap time set with old tires when new ones of the same type have been fitted. Clearly the way we approach the race changes completely after this afternoon: we will try and score as many points as possible in a race that will be very tough and tricky, especially in terms of tire wear. As usual, the number one priority will be reliability, because without that, you're not going anywhere."
Pat Fry: "It's been one of those days where it seems everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Felipe was fast all day, but at the moment when he should have made the most of his second set of Soft tires, he was unable to exploit all their potential: we now need to understand why this set of tires did not live up to expectations. In Q3, we were hit by the yellow flag, which deprived Fernando of the chance of at least setting the fourth fastest time, a result that was within his grasp. Clearly, starting from these positions on the grid, we can expect a very difficult race, also when one takes into account that our closest competitor in the championship is on pole. We worked a lot over the past two days to find the right car configuration and it seems we have found a good compromise: it's just a shame we were not able to demonstrate that fully when it came to the lap times. Putting this disappointment behind us, now we are concentrating on race preparation, always keeping in mind that the points are only given out tomorrow afternoon..."
Michael Schumacher (13th, 1:32.469): "It was a shame that we couldn't do more today, after things hadn't looked too bad this morning, but we simply didn't get the performance together. Although we should also say that, knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn't necessarily expect to look in great shape here. Perhaps I could have made it through to Q3, because the data showed that I lost two-tenths in turn 11 because of traffic, but I wasn't quite sure what Hamilton was doing ahead of me. I saved a lot of tire sets and in that respect got the maximum out of the situation. Now we need to wait and see what happens tomorrow. I will be certainly aiming for the best possible result, starting from the back of the grid."
Nico Rosberg (15th, 1:32.625): "It's been a difficult weekend for us. Qualifying in 15th place is not where we want to be although I will gain some places due to grid penalties. The times were so close today and it's disappointing that we couldn't make it through to Q3. Our pace felt better on high fuel, so hopefully this will work out well in the race and I can gain positions."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "Today has been fairly challenging for us and it goes without saying that we're not happy to see both cars knocked out in Q2. We've done a lot of work in the last few races exploring the performance variables of the car and whilst that has increased our understanding, it's still not enough to be competitive. The balance of the car isn't too bad though, and we seem to have stronger race pace, so we will try to race well and see what we can achieve."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "We struggled to get further than the second part of qualifying, when the fastest time was a little less than a second quicker than Michael's best. He was missing two-tenths of a second to proceed to Q3 and Nico four-tenths. As a consequence, we will not be in the grid positions where we would have liked to start the race from."
Romain Grosjean (5th, 1:31.898): "Yesterday we had two tricky sessions, so to have both cars in Q3 is a good recovery. We knew it would be very tight in qualifying and I think we could maybe have been one place higher with a cleaner run through the first sector, but the leaders were too quick today. We're lacking a little bit of downforce at the moment, but with a few minor adjustments overnight and the right strategy I think we can take home a good haul of points tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (8th, 1:32.208): "I spun. I was on a good lap and I was pushing - maybe a little too hard - and lost the rear. It's a shame as the car feels the best it has all weekend. If the car's good tomorrow we should be able to move forwards. Let's see what happens."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Not bad but we could have done better. We had the pace to get both cars further up the grid. Kimi spun off on a new set of tires which hampered his progress and Romain didn't have a great first sector on his qualifying lap so he could have maybe been a place higher, but overall, it's been a reasonable weekend so far. We're comfortable with the E20's performance on a full fuel load and over long runs so we're looking forward to the race and hopeful that we can gain positions from where we start. Suzuka is pretty demanding on the tires and we have shown well in this area previously, so there's certainly potential. We know these tires pretty well. For qualifying there was a reasonable difference in pace, but for the race it's likely to be more even."
Nico Hulkenberg (10th, No Time): "The build-up to qualifying was quite intense because the guys were working hard to repair my car after the accident this morning. It was not a big impact, but the angle was unfortunate and there was quite a lot to fix - so all credit to the boys who got me out with enough time to set a time in Q1. The car felt good straight away and we made it through to Q3, which was always the target. We then took a strategic decision to save tires so I didn't set a time. That opens up the strategy for tomorrow, especially because we knew I would get a five-place grid penalty for changing the gearbox. There's still a chance to get points tomorrow if we can make our strategy work."
Paul di Resta (12th, 1:32.327): "It was quite a tough session with traffic today and even on my quick lap in Q2 I was slightly compromised in the second sector. I locked a wheel and it may only have cost half a tenth, but that's how close the margin was to the top ten. I think given what happened yesterday with losing so much track time we can be pretty happy with our performance today. We have got ourselves up there, close to the top ten and in with a chance of points. For tomorrow it's clear that tire wear will be a big issue for everyone, but hopefully we can use the strategy to challenge the people in front. There are some question marks going into the race because I've done no high fuel running, but we have data with the other car."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "We've been reasonably competitive in all the sessions leading up to qualifying so we felt we had a car that was capable of reaching the top ten. But the pressure was on to fix Nico's car in the run up to qualifying and as a precaution we had to change the gearbox. As always the boys did a fantastic job to get the car running in time and Nico was immediately on the pace. A place in Q3 was a good effort, although the gearbox penalty means he will drop down the grid. Paul has been playing catch up after losing track time yesterday and was close to making Q3 as well. So we've done all we can to be in with a chance of points tomorrow and left ourselves plenty of flexibility with the strategy of both cars."
Kamui Kobayashi (4th, 1:31.700): "I am happy because I think I achieved the maximum possible today. On my last lap I lost a bit of time because of the yellow flag when I backed off and switched off the DRS. I want to thank the team for the big step forward they have managed with the car since Friday. In the beginning we were struggling with the new parts but now we have got it right. After quite a few changes to the settings the car is fast again. From where I am starting I should have a chance to fight for a podium finish, and it would be a dream come true if I could achieve my first podium in Formula One in front of my home crowd. But first of all I have to manage a good start, and then I should have more luck than in Spa this year where I started from the front row but got involved in an accident."
Sergio Perez (6th, 1:32.022): "My last lap in Q3 wasn't perfect but still good. I am very happy for the team that we have achieved such a strong qualifying result today. They have done a great job because initially on Friday here we were really lacking pace. It was a strong and speedy recovery and I'm confident tomorrow in the race we will be able to fight for another podium."
Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO: "P4 and P6 in qualifying - this is a sensational result! We brought a new aero package to Suzuka, did a lot of work evaluating it yesterday and finally got the reward. Great compliments to the team and, in particular, to the two drivers who both did a great job. Now our goal is to convert this qualifying result into a great race."
Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering: "After a very productive day yesterday we spent a lot of time analyzing all the data over night, and things also went well today without any unexpected issues. In free practice three we did some checks, which paid off, and in the end we got the result we expected. Great compliments to both drivers! Now we have to keep cool for the race."
Daniel Ricciardo (16th, 1:32.954): "Without taking the grid position into consideration, this afternoon's session was great fun. Driving this circuit on low fuel and with the best tire of the weekend- a new set of Options - is very enjoyable. Today, it was really just a fight between myself and Jean-Eric in Q2 because the others were a little bit too far out in front. However, it's not too discouraging, because on the positive side, we have definitely made progress since yesterday and if we can find another step forward for tomorrow, then hopefully we can sneak into the points again."
Jean-Eric Vergne (17th, 1:33.368): "I'm not so happy with today's qualifying as we have struggled to find the right balance on our car all weekend. For qualifying, maybe we went too far the other way in terms of set-up and when the balance is not right, you lose a lot of time in the high speed corners. But hopefully the race will be better tomorrow; it usually is. As for the incident with Senna, I was catching Glock on my flying lap and I had to slow because of that. I saw Bruno was coming very quickly and unfortunately he caught me at the chicane where there is not much room. But I knew I had to let him past and moved as much to the outside as I could, even though I knew I would not be in the best position to come out of the corner. After that, he slowed a lot and I had to pass him again on the straight, otherwise I would not have set a proper time."
James Key, Technical Director: "Today's qualifying result is slightly disappointing. We worked overnight to try and improve our performance in Sector 1, where we have struggled for most of the weekend, primarily with a balance issue. We worked hard on it with the drivers and made progress this morning. However, we knew we needed to do more so we took another step for this afternoon, making further set-up changes, which was a bit of gamble. It did seem better, but not enough to make a big difference. The second and third sectors of the track look much better and in general we have improved since the start of the weekend. As we have seen in the last few races, our race pace is better than in qualifying, because our drivers have done a good job of learning how to manage the tires. Therefore, from the grid positions we secured today, we can still aspire to score points tomorrow, but it won't be easy."
Pastor Maldonado (14th, 1:32.512): "We've been working hard to make the car more competitive but for one reason or another, we just couldn't pull it all together today. We need to try to understand why, but tomorrow is going to be a long race so I'm quite optimistic. The gaps are so close and our longer run pace looks encouraging, so we aim to push for some points tomorrow."
Bruno Senna (18th, 1:33.405): "It was a frustrating qualifying session as I was held up on my final timed lap at the end of Q1 and couldn't post the time that I wanted. However, it's a long race tomorrow and although this track is difficult to overtake at, we've been in this position before and so we'll give it our best shot to score some points in the race."
Mark Gillan, Chief Operations Engineer: "We had a tough day today with Pastor struggling with car balance which ultimately limited his potential pace and he qualified 14th. Bruno was looking very comfortable to proceed into Q2 alongside Pastor, having been 0.6 seconds up on his previous run, when Vergne blocked his lap slowing him by 1.6 seconds and leaving Bruno extremely frustrated in 18th. There are a few penalties to apply to drivers further up the grid which should promote both our drivers and we are confident with our race pace going into tomorrow."
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 1:34.657): "For me I'm pleased with what I got out of the car today. On my second run I was following Hulkenberg on the out lap and wasn't quite able to get my tire temperatures up to the optimum level so in the first sector on the quick lap I had a little bit of understeer, but the other two sectors were about as good as they could have been. The car's pace on Sundays has been pretty good all year so the aim now is to have a strong race and be in the right place to take advantage of anything that happens ahead. Really, for me, I'm not worried about the cars behind me. The team is doing everything they can to keep progressing and I want to do whatever I can to help them. Laps like today, while not as quick as we'd like to be, are what I can do - not make mistakes, get everything out of the car and help push the team forwards in the right direction."
Vitaly Petrov (23rd, 1:35.432): "In FP3 we found that the car wasn't working as well as it had yesterday in FP2 when it had felt pretty good. When we went through the data we found that the tire temperatures weren't coming up as well as we'd have liked and we made a couple of changes for qualifying that immediately improved the setup. On my first run the car felt much better and on my second run I was at least 7/10ths up on my previous quickest lap, but I made a mistake in turn 14 and that cost me a lot of time. Despite that I'm not disappointed with where I finished. Heikki's lap shows that we have a gap of around 6/10ths to the cars behind and while they're doing a good job in trying to catch up with us we're also working as hard as we can to pull away from them and try and fight with the cars ahead. Tomorrow's race gives us a chance to do that, and with good strategy and careful use of the tires I think we can have a decent Sunday."
Pedro de la Rosa (21st, 1:35.385): "Today I went out to give it my all and I'm happy with how it went. The team did a fantastic job and the car's set-up improved notably. In qualifying I did two good laps; the second one was even better, almost perfect, and tomorrow we will start ahead of Caterham and Marussia which is already a success. More so at a circuit like this one. We've got to be more than happy with what we've done. Tomorrow in the race we will go for everything. The important thing is to have a good pace, look after the tires and finish strong."
Narain Karthikeyan (24th, 1:36.734): "In the morning the car was working very well and my first laps were fantastic but then I spun off and damaged my new floor so we had to go back to the old one. In qualifying I barely had any grip and on my last lap I went long at 130R. It wasn't a good qualifying session for me, but the car is performing much better and, although tomorrow will be a tough race, we will try and finish it in the best way possible."
Toni Cuquerella, Technical Director: "Today we opted for a different balance to yesterday to make the car more neutral, with less understeer, and we got it right. Frankly we didn't expect to come so close to our rivals at a high downforce circuit like this one and it was a pleasant surprise besides being a reward for a job well done. Pedro's times were very competitive and he was in the 103.6%, which is the second best result in qualifying of the year. It was a shame that Narain damaged the new floor and had to come out with the old one. This result adds to the data we analyzed and confirms that the aero upgrades that we introduced at Singapore are an important step forward. In tomorrow's race, tire wear will play an important role and the most probable thing will be to opt for a two or three stop strategy."
Timo Glock (20th, 1:35.213): "All well that ends well, but FP3 was a difficult start to the day, a bit like Singapore. Here, we had an oil pressure problem with the engine and I couldn't run very much, which was a bit of a shame as we needed to do some fine-tuning due to the track temperature change; our car was quite sensitive to it. So I was a little bit worried going into qualifying blind again and as we seemed to have dropped a bit in pace. We had a good think between me and my engineers on what to do and I think the changes all worked out well for us. I had only one flying lap on my second run and there was a little mistake in sector 1, but the car was good. To be ahead of one of the Caterhams despite the challenges we have had makes me quite happy and now we will see if we can find some more in the race."
Charles Pic (22nd, 1:35.429): "I am reasonably happy with my qualifying lap, and to have achieved our objective of getting ahead of one of the Caterhams. Having said that I think there is more to come from the car still and extracting that will continue to be a big focus this afternoon and evening. At the moment it feels that we are a little less competitive than at Singapore, so we will use the time before the race to see what we can to do make some more progress tomorrow."
John Booth, Team Principal: "I think we can feel pleased with how today has panned out, after a challenging morning for Timo in particular, which has surely affected his ability to give 100% in qualifying. Having performed well in races of late, we still needed to carry that performance through in qualifying and today we have done just that, with both Timo and Charles finishing ahead of Vitaly Petrov. We're not quite as close to the car ahead as we would have liked, and Pedro delivered a good lap to just squeeze Charles out from behind Timo. Nonetheless, we are confident in our usual tendency to shine a little more in race trim and we are all looking forward to tomorrow and seeing how the various strategies play out."
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