2014 Japanese GP Qualifying: Nico Rosberg enjoys a calm pole before Sunday's storm | Japan Grand Prix | Sky Sports Formula 1
2014 Japanese GP Qualifying: Nico Rosberg enjoys a calm pole before Sunday's storm
Eighth pole of the season for Rosberg; Bottas third for Williams ahead of Massa; Typhoon Phanfone threatening to disrupt Sunday's race
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 04/10/14 8:44am
Nico Rosberg has seized back the momentum in the 2014 title race by outpacing Lewis Hamilton to qualify on pole position for the Japanese GP.
Rosberg had the edge over the World Championship leader throughout Saturday morning's session at the famous Suzuka circuit, eventually edging out his Mercedes team-mate by two-tenths of a second to claim his eighth pole of the season.
Hamilton was on the backfoot after crashing out in Practice Three, with his Mercedes W05 finally fixed just a few minutes before the qualifying session commenced.
"Nico was very fast today, I did the best I could," said Hamilton. “Today I wasn't really feeling it. I just wasn't quick enough and never got to where I needed to be."
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So often the centre of attention, an out-of-sorts Hamilton was emphatically eclipsed by Rosberg's final run of 1:32.506 - although the German's effort was itself somewhat overshadowed by the news that Sebastian Vettel is leaving Red Bull at the end of the season and the prospect of Typhoon Phanfone disrupting Sunday's race.
It remains to be seen to what extent the storm will wipe out the significance of qualifying - or even if, in a worst-case scenario amid warnings of torrential rain striking the Suzuka circuit, the race itself. Metaphorically and literally, this was the calm before the storm as Mercedes cruised to their eighth front-row lockout of the year.
Delivering one of the laps of the day, Valtteri Bottas was third-fastest for Williams, a respectable half a second shy of Rosberg’s benchmark but also, to impressive effect, half a second ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa.
Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth respectively, their team-best efforts carrying extra resonance by the cascade of off-track developments with Vettel poised to replace the Spaniard at Ferrari and Alonso's future clouded in uncertainty.
"I still have not decided completely," the two-time World Champion told Sky Sports F1. "I have a plan in my head, I have had my mind set for the last two or three months. I have the privileged position because more or less I can choose wherever I want to go in the moment that I want to go
Jenson Button, the expected fall-guy in the event of Alonso transferring to McLaren for 2015, was narrowly eclipsed by Kevin Magnussen in their battle for seventh, while Ferrari could have taken little consolation from the sight of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, their anticipated line-up next year, propping up the top ten.
Fernando Alonso is waiting until he has completely decided before telling us who he will be driving for in 2015
"I am leaving a very, very happy place which is why it is always difficult, but at some point in your life I think you feel that you want to do something new and something different," said Vettel. "That feeling has kept growing and lead me to decide to leave Red Bull and go and start a new chapter.”
An official announcement from Ferrari, confirming Vettel and Raikkonen for next season, is believed to be imminent, although, with their current line-up under contract and still keeping the rest of the field under the thumb, it's the scheduled arrival of Typhoon Phanfone which will be occupying Mercedes' minds on Sunday morning.
The 2014 Ja