It shows how exciting this season has been that even now, at the fifteenth of nineteen races, pundits and fans alike can be surprised at a turn of events and that was the case this afternoon. It's no surprise that Fernando Alonso qualified fifth today at Suzuka, given it is his most repeated result of the season, but this time, his team-mate Felipe Massa did one better to start tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix from fourth place, so that Scuderia Ferrari has one car on the second row of the grid and the other on the third.
Maybe it's no surprise that Sebastian Vettel will start what could be his championship winning race from pole position: after all it will be the twelfth time this year he has claimed the top slot on the grid for his Red Bull. However, it was at least slightly surprising given that McLaren had dominated the free practice sessions. In the end, the German beat his only theoretical rival for the title, Jenson Button, by nine thousandths of a second.
Lewis Hamilton took the third spot and it's certainly not surprising that after events in Singapore and other races this season, the press is already speculating about what it means to have Felipe and the Englishman so close to one another, sharing the second row at the start. The Brazilian Ferrari man has wisely stated that it is of no importance. Sharing the third row with Fernando is the second Red Bull, driven by Mark Webber.
After this, the situation for the remaining four drivers who took part in Q3 and complete the top ten is currently a bit confusing: local hero Kamui Kobayashi was the first of the quartet to go out in Q3 and therefore it seems he should be promoted to seventh ahead of the other three, which would certainly prove popular with the home crowd. At the time of writing, the matter is still being debated by the authorities.
Not up for debate is that, in terms of lap time, the two 150º Italias are not far off the Red Bulls and McLarens and over 53 laps of one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar, a podium is not an unrealistic target: anything better than that would require some more surprises.
Ferrari fans, check out our new sister site FerrariCircuit.com