Vettel takes pole in Suzuka qualifying
Sebastian Vettel will start from pole position in tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix after an action-packed qualifying session at Suzuka this afternoon. The scheduled qualifying hour was delayed by three red flag periods courtesy of three separate crashes in Q2 and Q3, eventually ending half an hour late.
With Red Bull’s Mark Webber having been ruled out of qualifying after damaging his chassis in final practice, just four drivers would be eliminated in Q1. After a largely trouble-free session for most drivers, Giancarlo Fisichella (1m31.704s) dropped out at the first hurdle for the second successive time, followed closely by home hero Kazuki Nakajima (1m31.718s) who was unable to turn local knowledge into a Q2-worthy laptime.
Joining the pair were Renault’s Romain Grosjean (1m32.073s) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (1m32.087s). On-track, McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Toro Rosso’s Sébastien Buemi both spun during the session, and although Kovalainen escaped without damage, Buemi hit the barriers at Degner backwards, damaging his rear wing. Nevertheless, the Swiss was able to return to the pitlane for repairs, and posted a time to get him through to Q2.
The drama started early in Q2 when Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari went wide at the Degner complex, joining fellow Red Bull drivers Buemi and Webber in hitting the barriers. Unlike Buemi however, Alguersuari sustained serios front-end damage after going head-on into the barrier, spelling an end to his session. After a seven-minute stoppage, the session got back underway, but just three minutes later a similar crash involving Toyota’s Timo Glock brought the red flags swiftly back into action.
The German strangely ran wide on the exit of the final corner before the main straight before going head-on at high speed into the tyre barrier. A length stoppage followed, and he was slowly extracted from his car by the medical crew, reportedly after suffering a leg wound. He was then airlifted to hospital.
When the running got back underway 17 minutes later, Glock and Alguersuari’s crashes meant just three drivers would be knocked out from Q3, but a third major crash marred the end of the session, when Sébastien Buemi ran wide at the exit of the Spoon curve, baulking Kubica and Alonso’s laps, with both ultimately failing to progress. However, with both Brawns having not set a time, Button and Barrichello were forced to push through the yellow flag zone to progress through to Q3, and could yet attract the attention of the Stewards.
In the end, Rosberg (1m31.482s), Alonso (1m31.638s) and Kubica (1m32.341s) were knocked out, while Buemi’s earlier lap earned him the right of a top ten start, but the damage sustained in his shunt meant could take no further part in qualifying.
The serious running had just got underway in Q3 before Heikki Kovalainen added his name to the ever-growing list of crashed drivers, when he spun at the Degner complex, before slamming sideways into the barriers, bringing out the red flags for the third time. Following a short three-minute stoppage, the session got back underway for the final time, and it was Red Bull’s Vettel who clocked the quickest time.
The German set a 1m32.160s, beating Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1m32.220s) by less than a tenth of a second. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton took third on a 1m32.395s, less than a tenth clear of Force India’s Adrian Sutil (1m32.466s). Rubens Barrichello (1m32.660s) kept his championship hopes flickering by outqualifying team-mate Jenson Button (1m32.962s) who took seventh, but their position remain in doubt having disregarded the yellow flags in Q2.
Sixth place went to BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld (1m32.945s), while Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen (1m32.980s) was the final driver to post a Q3 time to take eighth place.
|4||20||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.386||1:31.222||1:32.466||20|
|6||6||Nick Heidfeld||BMW Sauber||1:31.501||1:31.260||1:32.945||19|
|9||2||Heikki Kovalainen||McLaren-Mercedes||1:31.499||1:31.223||No time||21|
|10||12||Sebastien Buemi||STR-Ferrari||1:31.196||1:31.103||No time||12|
|13||5||Robert Kubica||BMW Sauber||1:31.417||1:32.341||15|
|14||10||Timo Glock||Toyota||1:31.550||No time||13|
|15||11||Jaime Alguersuari||STR-Ferrari||1:31.571||No time||14|
|19||21||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.087||9|
|20||14||Mark Webber||RBR-Renault||Did not start||0|
Five Formula 1 drivers were given penalties for not lifting off during a yellow-flag period in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Championship leader Jenson Button, team-mate Rubens Barrichello, Renault driver Fernando Alonso, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi were given five-place grid penalties after the session.
The race stewards deemed the first four drivers had not lifted off sufficiently at the end of Q2, when Buemi had crashed, leaving debris on track.
Below is the weight of each car following qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, sorted by qualifying positions and given penalties.
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 658.5kg
2. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 655.5
3. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 656
4. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 660
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 661
6. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 684.5
7. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 686
8. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 650
9. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP, 660.5
10. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 682.5
11. Jenson Button, Brawn GP, 658.5
12. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 675
13. Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari, 661.5
14. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 665.4
15. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 695.7
16. Romain Grosjean, Renault, 691.8
17. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 689.5
18. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India, 682.5
19. Timo Glock, Toyota, n/a
20. Mark Webber, Red Bull, n/a