Japanese GP – Lewis Hamilton Takes Pole, Sebastian Vettel Only Ninth

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Lewis Hamilton clinched his 80th career pole position and his eighth pole of the 2018 Formula 1 season at the Suzuka race track at the Japanese GP. Valtteri Bottas completed the Mercedes 1-2 as the rain came down in Q3. Max Verstappen finished third ahead of Kimi RaikkonenRomain Grosjean finished fifth, as Sebastian Vettel could only qualify ninth because of a tactical error.

Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly finished sixth and seventh respectively on a triumphant day for Toro Rosso-Honda at their home race. Esteban Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, and Sergio Perez rounded off the top 10 positions.

Update: Ocon has a 3-place grid penalty for a red flag infringement

Lewis Hamilton Takes Pole, Sebastian Vettel Only Ninth

The qualifying session started under sunny skies but with a 60% chance of rain. The three Pirelli tyre compounds for this race are the white-striped medium tyres, yellow-striped soft tyres, and the red-striped supersoft tyres. There is one DRS zone at this fast and highly technical circuit. Nico Hulkenberg suffered a heavy crash in FP3, but Renault repaired his car in time for qualification.

Q1: Nico Hulkenberg Eliminated Even as Marcus Ericsson Crashes

The eighteen-minute long first session of qualifying got underway with all the drivers on the track immediately. Vettel survived a spin even as Ericsson crashed and brought out the red flag.

McLaren continued their wretched form in qualification as both their drivers were eliminated. Hulkenberg was pushed into the drop zone by the final laps of Lance Stroll and his teammate Carlos Sainz.

Q1 dropzone: Nico Hulkenberg, Sergey Sirotkin, Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, Marcus Ericsson.

Q2: Daniel Ricciardo Hits Trouble

The fifteen-minute long Q2 session started with dark skies and the threat of rain increased. Ricciardo hit trouble when his engine lost power and he was pushed by mechanics in the pitlane.

The Mercedes drivers set their fastest laps on the soft tyres, even as the other drivers in the top 10 did their fastest laps on the supersoft tyres. The two Toro Rosso drivers, Hartley and Gasly, made it into Q3 at Honda’s home Grand Prix.

Q2 dropzone : Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo

Q3: Mercedes drivers lockout front row as Ferrari and Vettel Falter

The final all-important twelve-minute shootout started with the Mercedes drivers setting the pace. Both drivers immediately went out on the supersoft tyres and set their fastest laps on their first flying lap. Hamilton took provisional pole position with a lap time of 1:27.760s. Bottas was 0.299s behind him.

Ferrari blundered by sending their drivers out on the intermediate tyres at the start of the session, in anticipation of the rain. But the track was still too dry and both drivers had to pit for the slick tyres. But by the time they went out again, the rain had started to fall. Raikkonen and Vettel managed to only finish fourth and ninth respectively in the wet conditions.

Verstappen took advantage of their woes to finish third. Grosjean was the “best of the rest”. The two Toro Rosso drivers, Hartley and Gasly finished an impressive sixth and seventh respectively. The two Racing Point Force India drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and tenth respectively.

Top 10 after Q3: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Brendon Hartley, Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez.

Japanese GP Qualifying Results:

Pos No Driver Car Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
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 Racing TAG Heuer 1:29.480 1:28.849 1:29.057 10
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen 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 Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:30.248 1:29.848 1:30.023 15
7 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia 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 Racing TAG Heuer 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

Q1 107% time -1m 34.911s

Note – Ocon has been handed a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently during a red flag period in FP3.

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