Japanese Grand Prix 2012: Sebastian Vettel storms to pole at Suzuka
Japanese Grand Prix 2012: Red Bull's in form driver Sebastian Vettel take his fourth consecutive pole position at Suzuka
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel stormed to his fourth consecutive pole position in a commanding performance ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The defending world champion, who has been in a league of his own all weekend as he finished fastest in final practice and Q2, set a time of 1:30.839 early in the final session.
The German, who is chasing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ championship, improved on his pole-winning pace, before a spin from Kimi Raikkonen made the Red Bull’s lap time untouchable under yellow flag conditions.
It is Vettel’s 34th career pole, putting him third on the all-time list, behind Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65).
Mark Webber will start alongside his team-mate, marking the first Red Bull front row lockout of the season, as he finished 0.2 seconds down on his team-mate.
Despite qualifying third fastest, McLaren’s Jenson Button will begin eighth due to a grid penalty for a gearbox change after Singapore, moving home favourite Kamui Kobayashi just behind the Red Bulls in third.
“I’m very, very happy with today’s result,” said Vettel.
“We had a very good qualifying session and it was very smooth, almost perfect.
“We didn’t have the best start yesterday but we seem to get better every time we go out. The car feels fantastic so all in all it came together nicely and we hope for a good race tomorrow.
“It’s nice to see the support we get at Suzuka and it’s great to come here and drive the circuit the way that I did.”
Both Ferrari drivers struggled to find pace, with current championship leader Fernando Alonso qualifying in seventh and team-mate Felipe Massa in 11th.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton will have a fight to pick up significant points from Sunday’s race as he starts down in ninth after being hit by the yellow flags in the final session.
Mercedes, who have hit the headlines this week with the acquisition of Hamilton and the retirement of Schumacher, were disappointing on the track.
Only scraping through in the final seconds of Q1, the seven-time champion, who took a big crash in Friday practice, qualified in 13th but has been given a 10-place grid drop after his shunt in Singapore. Team-mate Nico Rosberg will start from 15th.
Japanese Grand Prix: Starting grid
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1m 30.839
2. Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:31.090
3. Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:31.294
4. Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber 1:31.700
5. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus 1:31.898
6. Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber 1:32.022
7. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:32.114
8. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus 1:32.208
9. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:32.327
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India No Time
11. Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:32.293
12. Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 1:32.327
13. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes 1:32.469
14. Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:32.512
15. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:32.625
16. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia Toro-Rosso 1:32.954
17. Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Scuderia Toro-Rosso 1:33.368
18. Bruno Senna (Bra) Williams 1:33.405
19. Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Caterham 1:34.657
20. Timo Glock (Ger) Marussia 1:35.213
21. Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) HRT-F1 1:35.385
22. Charles Pic (Fra) Marussia 1:35.429
23. Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Caterham 1:35.432
24. Narain Kathikeyan (Ind) HRT-F1 1:36.734