Vettel edges Webber for Japanese GP pole

Vettel edges Webber for Japanese GP pole

Sebastian Vettel scored his eighth pole position of the 2010 Formula One season in Sunday morning's delayed qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. The young German bettered his Red Bull teammate by 0.068 seconds, setting up ...

Sebastian Vettel scored his eighth pole position of the 2010 Formula One season in Sunday morning's delayed qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. The young German bettered his Red Bull teammate by 0.068 seconds, setting up another Red Bull front row for the grid.

Pole winner Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, second place Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing, third place Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Webber's final lap, after the chequered flag had come out, held promise and the championship leader was ahead of Vettel's provisional time after two sectors, but he lost enough time in the final sector to be eleven thousandths slower at the line. In any case, Vettel's final lap was a stonking one, and there was no question of who deserved pole position.

Lewis Hamilton set the third-best time for McLaren-Mercedes, albeit 0.384 seconds off Vettel's pace. Unfortunately for the Briton, he will drop to eighth on the starting grid, as McLaren changed his gearbox prior to qualifying, incurring the five-position grid penalty.

Robert Kubica had been quiet throughout qualifying, but when it counted, the Renault driver put in a lap that made a difference. Just 0.062 seconds off Hamilton's pace, he put a dent in Fernando Alonso's championship hopes by beating the Ferrari driver into fourth. However, with Hamilton's penalty, both drivers will start from the second row.

Jenson Button gambled by making his final qualifying run on the harder prime tires, but even three laps to heat them up were not enough to match Hamilton, Kubica and Alonso. It was 0.026 seconds that separated Alonso and Button at the end of the session.

Both Williams cars as well as the two Mercedes made it into the final segment, but the foursome could not challenge the top six runners. Nico Rosberg was seventh for Mercedes with a 1:31.494, just ahead of the Williams duo of Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg, while the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher was three tenths further back in tenth place.

The first segment of qualifying had started off with the sun shining but the track was still partly damp. Button actually experimented with intermediates on his first run, but quickly abandoned the idea as they proved to be well off the pace, losing seven seconds in the second sector alone.

Nico Hulkenberg, Williams F1 Team.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The two Williams were fastest until the midpoint of the segment, Hulkenberg leading with a 1:32.317 to Barrichello's 1:32.361, before Vettel shot to the top of the timesheets with a 1:32.168.

Sebastian Buemi made a valiant effort to squeeze into the top 17, but simply could not: his time of 1:33.568 was 0.097 seconds off the pace of his Toro Rosso teammate, Jaime Alguersuari, and so Buemi ended up parking his car for the rest of the qualifying.

Behind Buemi, Jarno Trulli nipped his teammate Heikki Kovalainen for the "new team" honours, setting a time of 1:35.346 on his final lap, a tenth faster than Kovalainen. The two Virgin cars were well off the Lotus pace this time, Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock setting times almost a second slower than the two Lotuses. Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto brought up the rear for HRT, as has been the case throughout the season.

In the second segment, Webber, Button, Vettel and Alonso were on top early, all within two tenths of a second. Hamilton was fifth -- but the Williams drivers were strong again, sixth and seventh until Rosberg squeezed past Hulkenberg.

Ferraris were first out for the final run, but Massa just missed 10th place by 0.007 seconds, with some tenths likely lost to dealing with traffic. A slow lap to find clean track gave Massa one last run at a top-ten time, but he still could not match Nick Heidfeld's time.

And in the event even that wouldn't have been enough, as Schumacher made a banzai last-gasp run to score a time of 1:32.073, 0.114 seconds faster than his fellow German.

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Alonso's time was much better than Massa's, a 1:31.819, but that was still 0.635 seconds off the segment-best time set by Vettel. Webber was close with a 1:31.241, with Hamilton, Button and Alonso further back. Barrichello continued to show the Williams strength at Suzuka, beating Rosberg into sixth, and his teammate, Hulkenberg, took eighth. Kubica was ninth, just ahead of Schumacher.

Besides Heidfeld and Massa, Vitaly Petrov, Kobayashi, Adrian Sutil, Alguersuari and Vitantonio Liuzzi all also failed to make the cut for the final segment.

So after a four-hour break, points leader Webber will take the start from second on the grid. However, his closest challengers will be further back on the grid: Alonso who is eleven points back will start fourth, and Hamilton, 20 points behind, will start even further back in eighth. Vettel can make up some ground with a victory, but he is currently 21 points behind his teammate.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Nick Heidfeld , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Lucas di Grassi , Sebastian Vettel , Bruno Senna , Sakon Yamamoto , Adrian Sutil , Vitaly Petrov , Nico Hulkenberg , Jaime Alguersuari
Teams Ferrari , Red Bull Racing , Mercedes , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams