Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber grabs the Japanese Grand Prix pole
Red Bull’s Mark Webber will surprisingly be at the front of the grid for tomorrow’s FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix after securing the pole position spot at the end of today’s qualifying. The Australian particularly impressed with his lap times in the latter part of Q3 and was rewarded with his 12th career pole position in the end and his first of this season.
On his way to taking first place to start tomorrow’s race, Webber out qualified his team mate, Sebastian Vettel, who is more often than not in the pole position spot.
“It’s a great track and we always enjoy driving here. The laps weren’t too bad today to be honest, but you always want a little bit more here and there,” said Webber. “Sebastian had a problem in qualifying, so it’s a little bit of a hollow pole position if you like; he still did a phenomenal lap,"
It was reported during Q3 that Vettel had KERS failure on his car and as the session came to a close, the reigning World Champion failed to match or even better the pace of his team mate when it mattered most and he qualified in second place instead.
"We had an issue in qualifying, but I’m not a big fan of thinking that without this, with this, if this, you know… it’s always unknown and we’re P2. I’m happy with the result," Vettel claimed.
Mercedes’ driver, Lewis Hamilton was another driver with his eyes on the prize of pinching pole position, but the Englishman also missed out on the opportunity like Vettel and had to settle for third place on the grid to start the race.
Hamilton was happy with his qualifying time. The Briton commented: "It seems to me that we have a better package here than we've had for a while and the car felt awesome to drive."
Lotus Renault driver Romain Grosjean’s steady run of results seems to be continuing into another race weekend, after he showed good form in Q3 and finished the final part of the session in fourth place for tomorrow’s line up to start the race. The French man beat Ferrari’s, Felipe Massa to a spot on the second row of the grid as a result of his performance. Massa’s final flying lap of Q3 led him to cross the line and qualify in fifth place.
Massa will share the third row of the grid with Hamilton’s team mate, Nico Rosberg who completed the Q3 session in sixth place.
Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg seems to be maintaining his good pace into another race weekend as he made it through to the all-important top 10 shootout of Q3 and the German qualified in seventh place. Hulkenberg’s team mate, Esteban Gutierrez had a shaky start to his qualifying session when he had to make a swift exit from his car in Q1 as it suddenly caught fire in the garage. Fortunately, the team worked quickly to put out the small blaze but he qualified outside of the top 10.
Massa’s team mate, Fernando Alonso, will certainly be under pressure to perform in the race tomorrow as the Spaniard’s race result could decide whether or not Vettel will secure his fourth consecutive Drivers’ title at the end of the Grand Prix. Alonso still stands in good stead to make Vettel wait a little longer though after qualifying in eighth place today.
Grosjean’s team mate, Kimi Raikkonen found himself slightly further down the line up for tomorrow’s grid as he could only do enough to secure ninth place at the end of Q3.
The Finnish driver will accompany McLaren’s Jenson Button on the fifth row of the grid after the Englishman took the 10th and final spot of the Q3 session.
Button’s team mate, Sergio Perez joined a few other drivers who failed to make the grade and qualify in the top 10 positions. The line up from 11th to 22nd place will include the Force India duo of Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta. Sutil in particular had a disappointing qualifying session as he fell at the first hurdle and failed to make it through to Q2.
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne also had an unfortunate end to his qualifying session, when a small fire broke out at the back of his car in Q1. The French man was forced to abandon his car at the side of the track and the session was temporarily red flagged, to allow the marshals to put the fire out and move Vergne’s car to safety. Vergne explained afterwards that the fire was thought to have started because the rear brakes got stuck on his car.
As well as the shakeup at the front of the field with Webber’s surprising pole position, towards the back of the pack, Caterham’s Charles Pic and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi both face 10 place grid penalties for collecting three stewards’ reprimands this season. Sutil will also have a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change, which will lead to a shuffle in positions at the tail end of the grid.
Following today’s unexpected outcome in qualifying for Webber, it has demonstrated how unpredictable the sport is and that not everything is set in stone. Webber’s achievement of grabbing the pole position spot, means that it is the fifth consecutive one for the team at the Suzuka circuit.
The 22 drivers have it all to play for when the lights go out to mark the start of the race tomorrow and it remains to be seen whether or not Vettel’s wish of obtaining his fourth consecutive Drivers’ title will come true as the chequered flag waves at the end. One thing is certain though, Alonso will have to finish in ninth place or lower within the top 10, in order to make the German wait another two weeks for the opportunity to be crowned the 2013 Formula One World Champion.