October 11th, 2013 - Mark Webber has taken his first pole position of 2013 at Suzuka in Japan. Sebastian Vettel completed the front row for Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton was third fastest for Mercedes.
Not only is this Webber's first pole position of the season, it's also the first time he's outqualified Vettel in 2013, which is a testament to Vettel's astonishing qualfiying form in the first 14 races of this year. And even today, Vettel would likely have had the upper hand if not for a KERS failure on his car that cost him somewhere in the region of 4 tenths of a second per lap.
Romain Grosjean qualified fourth for Lotus, well clear of his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who could only manage the ninth fastest time. Massa was fifth fastest, three tenths faster than Alonso in the second Ferrari who was donwn in eighth place.
Nico Rosberg qualified sixth for Mercedes and was visibly disappointed after the session. He was followed by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg, who continued his impressive run of form with seventh on the grid for tomorrow's race.
Jenson Button rounded out the top ten for McLaren.
Q1 got off to a fiery start. Esteban Gutierrez had a small fire on his Sauber, perhaps caused by fuel making contact with his KERS unit. The team swiftly took care of the fire, however and Gutierrez was able to take part in qualifying, making it through to Q2 before qualifying 14th.
With about 3 minutes to go in Q1, Jean-Eric Vergne came to a halt on the exit of the hairpin with flames streaming off both of his rear brake discs. It looked like the brakes had perhaps been binding and consequently built up enough temperature to burn. The marshals sprayed liberal quantities of fire extinguisher on the rear of Vergne's Toro Rosso before moving it off the track.
In all of the action around Vergne's car, the Q1 session was red-flagged. When the track went green again, there were just under 3 minutes remaining in the session. All drivers except the top five at the time (Webber, Hamilton, Alonso,Vettel and Button) and Vergne streamed out onto the track to attempt to secure their place in Q2.
The big surprise of the session came right at the end, when Max Chilton set a time quick enough to put him ahead of not only his own team-mate Jules Bianchi, but the Caterham pair of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde as well. Chilton has been generally outpaced by Bianchi this season, but his performance in Japan so far is a sign that his confidence is growing through the year.
The drivers eliminated in Q1 were: Sutil, Vergne, Chilton, Pic, Van der Garde and Bianchi
Q2 proceeded without major incident and saw Sergio Perez miss out on a place in Q3 by just a tenth of a second. He was joined in being eliminated in Q2 by Paul Di Resta, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez, Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo.
If Vettel and Alonso finish the Japanese Grand Prix in their starting positions (2nd and 8th), the battle for the 2013 Drivers' Championship will continue until at least the next race in India. If Vettel gains one place and Alonso loses one place, then Vettel will be World Champion tomorrow.
Full results from Japanese Grand Prix qualifying:
|1||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.271||1:31.513||1:30.915||13|
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.397||1:31.290||1:31.089||13|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.286||1:31.992||15|
|17||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.890||10|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:34.879||9|
|Q1 107% Time||1:38.251|