Hamilton wins pole for Japanese GP

80th pole for Lewis Hamilton
80th pole for Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has won the pole for the Japanese GP and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas will start alongside. Having topped every practice session as well, Hamilton put up a lap of 1m27.760s to beat Bottas by 0.299s and win his 80th F1 pole. The two Ferraris will start 4th (Raikkonen) and 9th (Vettel) after making huge errors on tire choice in the rain hit Q3 session. Max Verstappen was third, a massive 1.297s behind Hamilton.

The two Mercedes cars are legs up on the Ferrari here in Suzuka, so fast in fact that in Q2 they ran on harder rubber than the Ferraris and they will still easily quickest. The Silver Arrows will start the race on the soft compound – assuming it is a dry start. Ferrari will be on the supersofts and will have better grip off the start, but will have to pit earlier.

With rain hitting the track at the end of Q2, Ferrari opted to send both Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen out on Intermediate tires for the start of Q3, only to find that the track had quickly dried. The rest of the Q3 runners went out on slicks, while both Ferrari drivers lost time pitting and switching back to slicks.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Then after the Ferraris changed to slicks, the rain came and they were caught out on the wrong tires again. They looked like rank amateurs with Raikkonen way back in 4th and Vettel, having gone off track in the wet while on slicks, could only manage 9th.

Mercedes made all the right calls and Ferrari all the wrong calls on strategy. Mercedes beat Ferrari on strategy every race. This championship is over as Ferrari are done.

Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified fifth and 12th, respectively.

The Honda-powered Toro Rossos, with Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly trumped Force India in the midfield to go P6 and P7.

Meanwhile bottom feeders McLaren, who threw Honda under the bus the last three years, will start at the bottom of the grid. They only beat Marcus Ericsson, but that was because Ericsson crashed out in Q1, otherwise both McLarens would have been dead last.


Hamilton and Mercedes crush Ferrari and are almost guaranteed the 2018 titles
Hamilton and Mercedes crush Ferrari and are almost guaranteed the 2018 titles

Lewis Hamilton
The session started out ok, but then you look out the garage and you see it's raining, spitting, that it's very humid, I saw a couple of cars spin. It was very difficult to know whether the track was going to be dry or whether it was going to be wet. We obviously had not done any practice in the wet and it looked like it was going to be wet in Q3. We were waiting in the garage for someone else to go out first. I think we made the right decisions as a team today. It's been a bit of an anti-climax because we couldn't do that second lap. Today, they did such a great job in terms of the timings, there were no mistakes made even though there was a lot of pressure as there always is in Qualifying, yet still everyone was cool, calm and collected and did the job collectively as a team. It's really an amazing journey to be on with this team and I don't think 80 pole positions is the end – but it's a milestone and I'm very proud. The last six years with this team have been incredible and I'm so proud of everyone and so grateful for everyone's hard work which has enabled me to go out and exploit my own abilities.

Valtteri Bottas
First of all I want to say congratulations to Lewis – 80 pole positions, that's a big number and he deserves a lot of respect for that. The cars have been so quick today as they have been all weekend and it was enjoyable to drive in Qualifying. I struggled a lot in FP3, the car didn't feel stable at all and I was struggling to find confidence. It got better in Qualifying and by Q2 it felt pretty good. Everything came down to one lap in Q3, I missed a little bit in sector 2 and 3, but I enjoyed it. Everyone in our team should be really proud of what we achieved today, of the car that we have and of how the team worked today – every single decision was right, everyone was calm. It might have looked like a hectic session from the outside, but inside the team everything was so calm, we just stuck to our plan and made the right choices which ultimately produced this result.

Toto Wolff

Toto Wolff elated as he mocks the hapless Ferrari team
Toto Wolff elated as he mocks the hapless Ferrari team

That was an intense qualifying session and, in the end, Q3 ran pretty smooth for us – and we probably got a little slice of good fortune, too. The drivers did the job when they had to, on that first run in Q3, and found the right balance between aggression and caution in tricky, greasy conditions. But today the plaudits go most of all to the team on the pit wall, in the garage and in our race support facilities in Brackley and Brixworth; on days like this, we always say it is much easier to get things wrong than right, and today we made the correct calls in the correct moments. However, the excitement at the result fades very quickly into focus on the race. Conditions are expected to be much warmer and we saw in Sochi that the competitive picture shifted significantly between Saturday and Sunday. So we will stay skeptical, keep our feet on the ground and prepare solidly for all the challenges that we will face tomorrow. The racing happens on Sunday, and that's the bit we need to get right. But today was a good first step in that direction.

Andrew Shovlin
We're absolutely delighted with the front row today, the car has been working well all weekend but strong winds and unpredictable rain made it a whole lot more difficult. The first session was fairly straight forward and we were able to get a good lap in with both drivers before the red flag. In the second session we ran as planned on the Soft tire, having seen the compound work well yesterday. We were a bit surprised to see both Red Bull and Ferrari take the SuperSoft and were discussing whether we should cover it although a shower near the end of the session meant the track would not be quick enough which ended that particular conversation. Qualifying three was always going to be a bit of a gamble as it started with light rain and the radar was showing heavier rain towards the end of the session. We decided to go on the SuperSoft and both drivers did a great job getting good times on the board in tricky conditions. We came into the pits and took a second set with both cars but by then the heavier rain had started to fall and it was clear we were not going to be able to go quicker. We're expecting a hot and sunny day tomorrow which will make life tough on the tires so it should be an interesting race from that point of view as no one knows quite how they are going to behave.

“Today as a team we made no mistakes, on or off the track. We managed to optimize the set-up and conditions in Q3 which resulted in a really good grid position to start from tomorrow. It was crucial that we swapped the intermediates to slicks at the beginning of Q3, this allowed us to get out ahead of Ferrari and set a strong lap time. I was a lot more satisfied with my feeling and performance in the car compared to yesterday. The hard work the guys put in overnight showed and meant I could have a good qualifying session. I think the Mercedes will be too quick for us to challenge come the race, but with a good start who knows. Sebastian will be looking to come through the pack quickly so I may have some defending to do at some point, I will of course do my best to hang onto my position. We need to concentrate on doing the best possible strategy from our side and then hopefully finish on the podium."

Ricciardo screwed by Renault again
Ricciardo screwed by Renault again

“As soon as I came through the last chicane to start my fast lap I immediately felt that something was wrong. I just didn’t have full power and I could hear the turbo or something wasn’t healthy. I came to the pits and we tried to fix it but I think it’s something terminal. Then it started raining, I think if we had got out again and it was raining and I couldn’t get a lap in, then it could have been even more painful. I just can’t catch a break at the moment and I’m pretty fed up with it. I’m doing everything I can and applying myself the best way that I know how to, but it’s not working so hopefully it turns around soon. It makes me angry because if it was on me and I was slacking off then it would be different, but I still want to do the best I can for Red Bull until the end of the year and every race is important."

“The positive from today is to qualify third with Max for the race tomorrow and he once again put in a fantastic performance in tricky conditions. The rain arrived at the start of Q3 and it was all about getting a good first lap, which Max did a great job of. As the rain intensified, nobody could improve which meant Max’s lap was safe. For Daniel, it was extremely frustrating to lose him at the beginning of Q2 due to a throttle actuator issue. We are extremely keen for him to finish his final five races with Red Bull in a positive manner and unfortunately when issues like this happen which are beyond our control it’s immensely frustrating for Daniel and the entire Team."

Kimi Raikkonen
“It was a tricky qualifying with mixed conditions. In Q3 we thought that the rain would come earlier, so we decided to go out on Intermediate tires. Unfortunately it did not happen and then we were a bit off with the timing. We came in to fit the Supersoft , but in turn 14 I touched a wet curb, ran a bit wide and lost some time. Obviously fourth place is not ideal, but at least we were able to put a lap together despite the mistake. Third position could have been easily possible. It’s a pity we did not get it today; the feeling with the car was getting better and better in qualifying. For sure tomorrow is going to be tricky, but we will do our best".

Vettel in the hapless Ferrari on Intermediates when he should have been on slicks
Vettel in the hapless Ferrari on intermediates when he should have been on slicks

Sebastian Vettel
“At the beginning of Q3, I was asked if it was ok for me to go out on Inters and I said yes. Obviously, it was the wrong decision and now it’s easy to say, but it could have been the other way around. We thought there could have been more rain, but in the end it didn’t come. If it had rained five minutes before, it would have been a different story. However, it wasn’t our session in terms of timing and we’ve been through similar situations a couple of time so far. We are a team, so now we accept together the consequences. Tomorrow is another day, it won’t be easy as we start from the back, but it’s not impossible".

Brendon Hartley
“I was so happy with that! I was actually a bit emotional on the in-lap. I wouldn’t normally get emotional, but it was just the build-up of all of the effort we’ve put in and the struggles I’ve been having at times during the season. It was nice that today everything worked and went my way and I delivered when I needed to. It was a tricky Qualifying session with the weather, but the team played the strategy perfectly as we were on the track at the right time. To get sixth position on the grid in front of all the Honda and Japanese fans feels fantastic. Now I need to consolidate the points, but I’ll enjoy the feeling for the moment."


Pierre Gasly
“It’s a fantastic result today, sixth and seventh for Honda in Suzuka is clearly a really good job compared with some of the others we had this year – I’m really happy for the team! It’s probably the best Qualifying for the team since the beginning of the year, and to do it in Japan is really special. Suzuka is difficult to overtake, so we really need to focus on the start. Both Brendon and I have felt good in the car all weekend so we’ll keep pushing as we have some fast cars around us. We’ll have to fight hard, but hopefully we can have a good start and give Romain a hard time in P5. Since the beginning of the season we managed to make it work and catch the opportunities we have had, so once more we need to stay focused and really try to get the best result possible."

Jonathan Eddolls (Chief Race Engineer):
“It was a fantastic end to what’s been a challenging and tough day for us. Brendon had a pretty smooth FP3, his performance was very good even though the lap time didn’t necessarily show it. He knew there was a lot more in him and the car. The wind had a big effect as the strength was high, it made the balance inconsistent and different lap to lap, so he knew there was more to come from his side for Qualifying. Pierre had some calibration issues on his PU in FP3, which meant he didn’t get a clean lap in with maximum performance. So we weren’t able to give Pierre the best preparation for Qualifying, which was compounded with the issue we had yesterday. It was a challenging set of sessions in Qualifying due to the weather, but the team reacted well in each session to the conditions at the time and looking at the incoming weather. It’s fair to say throughout Qualifying, the drivers were on the right tires at the right time and were on the track when it counted, the teamwork between the engineers, Honda, and the mechanics worked well today, and that’s a big part in the end result. Both drivers did a fantastic lap when it counted in Q3, then the rain came and locked the positions in, so overall it was a good afternoon."

Tost (C) and Tanabe (R) celebrate Honda burying the bottom feeding McLaren Renault team
Tost (C) and Tanabe (R) celebrate Honda burying the bottom feeding McLaren Renault team

Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda F1 Technical Director):
“A fantastic performance from Brendon and Pierre and the whole team. To do it at Honda’s home race in front of all our fans makes it particularly special. We were able to fix the PU issue we encountered in Russia. I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to solve it. The team produced a very competitive car for Suzuka and ran a very good strategy in difficult weather conditions in qualifying, so that our cars will start from sixth and seventh on the grid. Today’s result is down to the efforts of everyone here at the track and all those who have worked so hard back in our facilities in Japan, the UK and Italy. However, the settings on Pierre’s PU are not ideal, so now we must study the data to see if we can do anything for the race. While we are very pleased with this result, it’s only tomorrow that we can score points, so we are staying focused in the hope of rewarding our home fans with a strong showing in tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix."

Qualifying Results

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.702 1:28.017 1:27.760 11
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:29.297 1:27.987 1:28.059 12
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Renault 1:29.480 1:28.849 1:29.057 10
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:29.631 1:28.595 1:29.521 13
5 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:29.724 1:29.678 1:29.761 17
6 28 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.248 1:29.848 1:30.023 15
7 10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.137 1:29.810 1:30.093 15
8 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:29.899 1:29.538 1:30.126 13
9 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.049 1:28.279 1:32.192 13
10 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:30.247 1:29.567 1:37.229 16
11 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:29.706 1:29.864 12
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:30.219 1:30.226 13
13 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:30.236 1:30.490 12
14 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:30.317 1:30.714 10
15 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 1:29.806 4
16 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.361 7
17 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:30.372 8
18 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:30.573 6
19 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:31.041 10
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:31.213 4

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