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2011 Suzuka GP

Sebastian Vettel pips Jenson Button to Japanese GP pole | F1 News - ITV Sport

Vettel pips Button to Japan pole after tense finale

Published: 08/10/11, 04:23PM

Sebastian Vettel pulled out all the stops in qualifying at Suzuka to narrowly overcome the biggest assault on Red Bull’s stranglehold on pole position this season, putting himself in the perfect place from which to seal the world championship in style in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

For the first time since last November’s Brazilian GP it appeared that someone not driving a Red Bull would be starting a race from pole position as McLaren’s pacesetting form from practice continued, Lewis Hamilton comfortably topping Q2 and then holding provisional pole ahead of team-mate Jenson Button after the first Q3 runs.

However, qualifying king Vettel is never one to give up on a fight easily and, despite putting a wheel on the grass at both Dunlop and Spoon Curve on his final hot lap, sneaked past the McLarens to secure his remarkable 12th pole, and RBR's record-equalling 15th, of the year ahead of a race he needs just one point from to become Formula 1's youngest ever double champion.

The in-form Button was behind on the road and was up on the German following the first two sectors but ultimately came up an agonising 0.009s short, although this was still enough to usurp Hamilton from the front row after his team-mate was involved in a strange incident at the final chicane which meant he didn’t cross the line in time to complete his final lap.

Despite the clock fast ticking down to zero, Hamilton appeared to slow under braking for the chicane more than normal in order to build a gap to the car ahead but was suddenly passed on either side by Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher, both seemingly concerned they were about to run out of time.

While the delayed Hamilton and Schumacher – who had anyway caped his tyres with dirt after taking to the grass – ran out of time, Webber did get a final lap in yet couldn't improve on his earlier time and ended up in sixth behind both Ferraris.

The Italian marque got within four tenths of pole, although for only the third time this season it was Felipe Massa who was their lead qualifying runner after edging out Fernando Alonso by eight hundredths of a second to join Singapore rival Hamilton on row two.

Mercedes’ Schumacher was still classified seventh despite not completing a Q3 lap time at all, the German joined in that category by the two Renaults and Sauber's Kamui Kobayshi as the bottom end of the top 10 again chose to sit out running to save tyres for race day.

For Renault duo Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov it marked a return to form for the team following the nightmare of Singapore, while home star Kobayashi gave the packed grandstands something to cheer as he made the top 10 for the first time since Turkey, having earlier even topped Q1 thanks to the use of the soft tyres. Moreover, when the official grid was published some hours later Kobayashi was shown in seventh, highest-placed of the four drivers who did not set Q3 times, on the basis that he alone had started a flying lap.

Force India narrowly missed out on getting either driver into Q3 as Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta found themselves on row six in the dying stages of Q2, the Williams pair to start directly behind as Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado who took 13th and 14th positions respectively.

Despite showing strong pace throughout practice, Toro Rosso appeared to sacrifice a shot at a rare Q3 appearance to save a set of soft tyres for the race for each of their drivers and therefore didn’t go out for a final run in the second knockout stage.

The inevitable consequence was that Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were shuffled down to row eighth, although this was still ahead of an under-the-weather Sergio Perez who didn’t set a Q2 time after his Sauber ran into hydraulics problems.

Those issues had already accounted for the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, the German’s demise having made Q1 even more academic than normal given the three second-year teams as usual were unable to trouble the lower-end of the midfield in dry conditions.

The technical problem on Rosberg’s W02 ended the German’s impressive 100% Q3 appearance record this season although he was saved from last position on the grid by the HRT of Tonio Liuzzi, whose already problematic weekend hit another snag thanks to a misfiring Cosworth engine.

Meanwhile, filling 18th to 21st positions , Heikki Kovalainen edged out Jarno Trulli in the intra-Team Lotus battle by a mere six hundredths of a second, while over at Virgin things were similarly close as Jerome D’Ambrosio sneaked ahead of team leader Timo Glock right at the Q1 death, the first time that has happened since Turkey.
Japanese GP qualifying times
Rank Driver Name Team Name Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m30.466s (Q3)
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1m30.475s (Q3)
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m30.617s (Q3)
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m30.804s (Q3)
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m30.886s (Q3)
6 Mark Webber Red Bull 1m31.156s (Q3)
7 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m32.380s (Q2)
8 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m32.116s (Q2)
9 Bruno Senna Renault 1m32.297s (Q2)
10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m32.245s (Q2)
11 Adrian Sutil Force India 1m32.463s (Q2)
12 Paul di Resta Force India 1m32.746s (Q2)
13 Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m33.079s (Q2)
14 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m33.224s (Q2)
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m33.227s (Q2)
16 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m33.427s (Q2)
17 Sergio Perez Sauber 1m34.704s (Q1)
18 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 1m35.454s (Q1)
19 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 1m35.514s (Q1)
20 Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin 1m36.439s (Q1)
21 Timo Glock Virgin 1m36.507s (Q1)
22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m37.846s (Q1)
23 Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT no time
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