Qualy: Hamilton’s dominance continues with Suzuka pole

Qualy: Hamilton's dominance continues with Suzuka pole

Qualy: Hamilton's dominance continues with Suzuka pole

Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s Japanese GP from pole position ahead of Valtteri Bottas as another strategy mistake cost his title rival Sebastian Vettel.

Facing a tailwind through the corners, the conditions caught out several drivers with Marcus Ericsson putting his Sauber into the wall when he ran out of road at the Dunlop Curve. “It’s over,” he told his team.

As a result, Q1 was red-flagged for several minutes while the marshals removed his Sauber, which had sustained damage to the front and rear.

Hamilton finished the opening segment P1, 0.3s ahead of  Vettel.

With a few drops of rain falling, Nico Hulkenberg, racing new “rear wing, floor, crash structure and various suspension components” after his FP3 crash, Sergey Sirotkin, Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne and Ericsson dropped out.

Q2 took place began on a dry track with Mercedes again at the fore, only this time it was Bottas with a 1:27.987. Hamilton was P2, 0.030s down with both using the soft tyres to their rivals’ supersofts.

Daniel Ricciardo’s chances of making it into the pole position shoot-out were undone when he reported a “loss of power”. He let out a scream as he walked away from the Red Bull garage.

The Aussie, missing out on Q3 for the fifth time in seven races, dropped out along with Charles Leclerc, who spun on his final attempt, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll as rain again began to fall.

Both Toro Rossos were into Q3 at Honda’s home race.

Q3 began with a strategy error from Ferrari as they sent their drivers out on the intermediate tyres. Vettel responded almost immediately by saying it is “quite dry” for the inters, adding that he’s “coming in straight away”. Mercedes left the pits on the slicks.

Hamilton went quickest with a 1:27.760, 0.3s up on Bottas, as the rain began to fall. Ferrari, having pitted for slicks, had the worst of the track conditions with both drivers struggling to keep it on the track. Raikkonen was fourth, Vettel ninth.

With more rain falling, Hamilton was not able to improve on his P1 time, neither was Bottas who went off the track, handing Hamilton a fourth Japanese GP pole.

In fact none of the top ten could improve with Max Verstappen qualifying P3 ahead of Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean and the Toro Rossos of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly.

Esteban Ocon was P8 ahead of Vettel and Sergio Perez.

P9 has since become P8 for Vettel after Esteban Ocon was given a three-place grid drop for failing to slow sufficiently during red flags  in FP2. The Frenchman now starts P11.

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.760
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.299s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1.297s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1.761s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas 2.001s
6 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 2.263s
7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 2.333s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 2.366s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 4.432s
10 Sergio Perez Force India 9.469s
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:29.864
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.226
13 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:30.490
14 Lance Stroll Williams 1:30.714
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull no times
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:30.361
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:30.372
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:20.573
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:31.041
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:31.213