Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix. Meanwhile, things appear to be going from bad to worse for title rival Sebastian Vettel who ended up ninth.
The first round of qualifying saw Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson eliminated first after crashing into the barrier. His teammate, Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, finished the session sixth fastest.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg crossed the line eleventh fastest after failing to go fast enough in sector 1. The German took it easy in the first sector after his FP3 crash a couple of hours earlier. However, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, Brandon Hartley, and Lance Stroll managed to set faster times and pushed Nico down to the bottom five.
Both McLarens were also out of Q1 with Alonso outqualifying his Vandoorne yet again. Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin also failed to make the top 15.
The second session started with drama for Daniel Ricciardo who lost power a couple of minutes into the session. The car had to retire and left the Aussie 15th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Both Mercedes set their fastest times and qualified to Q3 on the Soft compound Pirellis. The Ferraris used Supersofts to set their Q2 time.
It started raining towards the end of the session and lots of drivers found themselves struggling for grip and setting slow lap times. Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, and Lance Stroll ended up getting eliminated.
Ferrari went for Intermediates after the showers in Q2. To their surprise, the track was not wet enough and the tyre choice cost them precious qualifying time. The remaining teams went on dry compounds and were able to set good qualifying times.
The Ferraris had to go back in after one lap in the Intermediates, switch to dry compounds, go back and do an out-lap, before getting a shot at recording good qualifying times. Vettel made an error in his flying lap; a mistake that would eventually result in him qualifying ninth.