Sebastian Vettel takes pole position for Japanese Grand Prix
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will start fourth after Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas out-qualified the Briton for third.
Sebastian Vettel put his Ferrari on pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix after beating Charles Leclerc to top spot in Suzuka.
Vettel ended a run of nine qualifying defeats against his team-mate with a track record as Ferrari locked out the front row for Sunday’s race.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will start only fourth after Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas out-qualified the Briton for third.
Hamilton, who holds a 73-point championship lead over Bottas with 130 available, improved with his final lap, setting the fastest time of anybody in the final sector, but missed out on usurping his team-mate by nine thousandths of a second.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen starts fifth ahead of team-mate Alex Albon. Both drivers set an identical time, but the Dutchman lines up ahead of Albon having crossed the line first.
The shootout for pole was pushed back a day after Suzuka was put on lockdown following the arrival in Japan of Super Typhoon Hagibis.
Saturday’s torrential rain made way for a sunny day, but the high wind remained.
Mercedes dominated practice here on Friday, but Ferrari, who have been the team to beat since the summer break, bounced back in qualifying.
We are surprised. We didn’t expect to have the front row
- Sebastian Vettel
Leclerc has led Ferrari’s resurgence, bidding here to secure his fifth consecutive pole, but it was Vettel who got the best out of his Ferrari, finishing 0.189 sec clear of the Monegasque.
“It was not easy,” said Vettel. “The conditions were different to what we had on Friday. We are surprised. We didn’t expect to have the front row.
“It is only part of the job done. I look forward to this afternoon.”
Leclerc added: “Seb did an amazing lap and he deserves to be on pole.
“I have been struggling since the beginning of the weekend but I was happy with my lap.”
Qualifying was suspended twice after Robert Kubica, and then Kevin Magnussen crashed at the final corner.
The action was barely a few minutes old, when the gusts of wind appeared to contribute to Kubica running wide on to the grass, causing him to lose control of his Williams.
The Pole slammed backwards into the barrier, sustaining extensive damage to his car. Kubica walked away unscathed from the incident, but his Williams team are facing a tall order to get his car ready for the race.
The session was immediately red-flagged to retrieve Kubica’s stricken Williams and clear debris from the track.
But moments after it resumed, Magnussen crashed at the same bend. The Danish driver sustained damage to his Haas, but, unlike Kubica, was able to make it back to the pits. There are doubts whether his car can be rebuilt in time for the race, which will start less than three hours after qualifying finished.
British teenager Lando Norris will line up eighth in his McLaren, one spot behind team-mate Carlos Sainz.