Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Suzuka, 2011

Vettel claims pole by tiny margin at Suzuka

2011 Japanese GP qualifyingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Suzuka, 2011
Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Suzuka, 2011

Sebastian Vettel is on pole position once again after beating Jenson Button by nine-thousandths of a second.

McLaren squandered an opportunity to beat the Red Bull driver as Lewis Hamilton failed to get across the line in time to start his final lap.

He starts third alongside Felipe Massa.


Renault faced a race against time to finish repairs on Bruno Senna’s car following his crash in the final practice session. They made it – just – and Senna duly set a time good enough to reach Q2.

But Mercedes ran out of time to correct a technical fault on Nico Rosberg’s car. He was unable to set a time and was eliminated, failing to reach Q3 for the first time this year.

So was Vitantonio Liuzzi who did not set a time in his HRT after doing just 12 laps in practice.

Kamui Kobayashi raised a cheer from the crowd by setting the fastest time on soft tyres late in the session. Adrian Sutil, also on the soft tyres, was second.

Fernando Alonso was quickest of those who only ran on mediums. Behind him was Lewis Hamilton, who had a minor off at Spoon during the first 20 minutes.

The usual three teams joined Rosberg in elimination. The last driver across the line was Jerome d’Ambrosio, pinching 20th place off team mate Timo Glock.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1’35.454
19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1’35.514
20 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1’36.439
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’36.507
22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1’37.846
23 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth


The front-runners needed only a single run to get through to Q3 and the top seven runners stayed in the pits as the rest fought over the final three places.

But Sergio Perez wasn’t part of the contest as he was stuck in the pits with an hydraulic problem.

The Toro Rosso pair chose not to do an extra run. This cost them their places in Q3, as Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were relegated to 15th and 16th.

Paul di Resta did a single run and could only manage 11th. That became 12th as Senna grabbed himself a place in the top ten with his final effort.

That knocked out Adrian Sutil but Kobayashi survived, taking the final top ten place by less than a tenth of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’32.463
12 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’32.746
13 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’33.079
14 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1’33.224
15 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’33.227
16 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’33.427
17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari


Kobayashi was the first driver out of the pits as Q3 began. Having used several sets of soft tyres to reach the final ten, he started the session on medium tyres, but didn’t set a time. Fernando Alonso also abandoned his effort as he went off at Spoon curve.

The McLarens set the fastest times to begin with and neither of the Red Bulls could beat them: Hamilton led Button, Vettel and Webber.

But Hamilton failed to get across the line early enough to start a final lap. The McLaren driver was passed by Webber and Schumacher at the chicane prior to the start of his lap – Schumacher driving through the run-off at the corner.

Vettel had no such dramas and his final lap was enough to snatch his 12th pole position of 2011 – by just nine-thousandths of a second from Button.

Hamilton slipped to third ahead of Massa, who out-qualified Alonso, and Webber. Schumacher, Senna, Petrov and Kobayashi all failed to set times.

Top ten in Q3

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’30.466
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’30.475
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’30.617
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’30.804
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’30.886
6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’31.156
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes
8 Bruno Senna Renault
9 Vitaly Petrov Renault
10 Kamui Kobyaashi Sauber-Ferrari

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images

115 comments on “Vettel claims pole by tiny margin at Suzuka”

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  1. Stunning lap from Vettel, never saw it coming.

    1. Yes, indeed, incredible perfomance. As I published my report someone laughed at me, but I really think Vettel showed extremely high performance today.

    2. @lachie – sarcasm detected :)
      Its more of one more squandered opportunity by McLaren rather than a not-so-surprise pole position for RedBull. All in all a very good lap by SV after almost losing the car in sector 2. Special mention to Jenson, who went green in sectors 1 and 2 and still finished 2nd.

  2. Keith, I don’t know how you do it, I’m still watching the coverage on tv, and yet you already have this posted.

    Almost as quick as Vettel ;)

  3. Vettel had no such dramas and his final lap was enough to snatch his 14th pole position of 2011

    You mean 12th. He still has a ways to go before he can match Mansell’s record.

    1. I think you both mean his 12th pole position.

  4. Shame to hear Whitmarsh have a go at Hamilton. Not what you want to hear after a tough season.

    Didn’t Hamilton have to ease off or he’d have been blocked on his lap by Button?

    1. I don’t think he was having a go, Mclaren told him to not back off as he was close on time, and what did he do… back off.

      Down the straight before 130R, through 130R and the short stretch after it, Hamilton was backing off.

      Sometimes, Lewis really doesn’t help himself.

      1. It just seems that Lewis doen’t have the same amount of trust and belief in Mclaren, as Mclaren have in him. All teams make strategic screw ups from time to time, but they also make exceptional calls to help the driver from time to time. Lewis has to learn to take the lows in his stride, as most drivers on the grid do these days.

        I couldn’t imagine Jenson getting all furious about his wheel nut mishap earlier on in the year, and then constantly disregarding his team’s advice and blaming them for everything. I think it takes a certain level of maturity from drivers in these kinds of situations, and Lewis just hasn’t matured enough yet.

        1. @todfod I agree, in fact I would suggest that by cutting himself away from his father his maturity has in fact gone in reverse, there doesn’t seem to be anybody keeping him grounded at the moment, and even though he maybe trying to say the right things, his actions are showing that his head is definatley not in the right place.

      2. @cduk_mugello Thing is, Hamilton get’s penalised for being too aggressive but then criticised for being too conservative. Recent example being Monza, where he could have had Schumacher earlier but I fear he still had Spa and other mistakes fresh in his mind.

        He should have put his foot down sooner after coming out of the chicane after 130R.

    2. Could you let us know what he said? i didn’t see that part.

      1. You could see Button right in front of him as he went into the chicane.

        In my opinion McLaren left it way to late but were quite happy to blame it on Lewis when it went wrong for him.

        1. They were cutting it really close (same for Webber and Schu though. But as Webber was able to make it and Schu might have as well if not for losing time on the runoff, it should have been enough).

          But yeah, Vettel got out in time to set a good lap. At that moment I already thought the rest would stay in the pits and not do a run (camera not showing much of them didn’t help much there)

      2. Good job I still had it on sky+

        Martin Whitmarsh said

        “He was told not to back off, he was told to push.. but he got overtaken by Mark at the final corner, and no accusation of Mark, he did a good job to get by, obviously Michael missed it as well.. it was tight for all of them. And, Lewis had been told don’t let cars by, and obviously by letting cars by he missed that chance briefly.”

        Word for word interview with Ted Kravitz

        1. You can tell a driver to push and push but it the situation doesn’t allow it then that message is of no use

          1. @DT yes but you can’t blame the team for makiing poor judgement AND then disregard their advice, because then you are left in no-mans land as Lewis is right now! He can’t make decisions entirely on his own and expect somebody else to carry the can for him. I think maybe this is whats Martin Whitmarsh maybe trying to teach Lewis in a practical life experience kind of way.

    3. @tommyb89 Will have an article up on this shortly.

    4. Yes, Button was only just up the road. However as it played out Button was so fast on his lap it probably wouldn’t of effected Hamiltons. If Button had of been 0.4 off Vettel then Hamilton’s lap would of compromised.
      Button really is on form at the moment.
      I’m still think a DNF for Vettel and maybe the Mclaren swapping, we’d see a face on Hamilton then.

      1. * would have been compromised

    5. That was a bit strange, but I got the impression the team were really telling Hamilton to get on with it there (probably not wanting to see headlines about McLaren ruining another qualli session through bad communication? Or even avoid a possible penalty for blocking?)

      I do think Hamilton was slowing down too much, maybe too early as well there. Webber was immediately next to him there.

    6. Indeed. I don’t understand MW. What was Hamilton meant to do, push and get under Jenson’s rear wing? Very poor team management. And why do they leave it so late anyway, this I’ll never understand. Mclaren are to blame, not Lewis Hamilton, but its there loss if they don’t want pole.

      1. Agree with that assessment John, a team error after seeing the replays again.

    7. i agree with you Button fault is for this mess….Schumacher said that some car in fron of Hamilton realy slow down before 130R and that car was Button’s…not very smart move by Button but than he is not Hamilton

      1. Massa was ahead of button, and at that time button was making a gap for a clean lap

        1. On the radio, Smedley to Massa (Fantasy)” Slow down, you’ve got the McLarens behind you, don’t let them past, destroy their qualifying.”

      2. Your really going to blame Button for all that nonsense? Christ that guy cannot catch a break, people will always lay into him for no bloody reason, its a joke.

    8. Yeah, Tommy. McLaren managed poorly again relising both guys very late.

      Anyway, interesting to see some here blaming Lewis and having a go on him without understand the facts right.

    9. Definitely wasn’t expecting Whitmarsh. That was just poor PR and team management. What did they expect Hamilton to do? Fight for position with webber and schumi. They should have sent him out early enough rather than put him in that situation which could have led to another incident.. blah blah blah!!

  5. Vettel really did something special here in my view. He seemed to be centimetres away from disaster at times but held it all together in the end. And the two Ferraris got ahead of a Red Bull so not a bad session in my view!

    1. he was definately right on the limit

  6. Why didn’t Kobayashi just cruise round? He’d have saved his tyres and even if he did a 2 minute lap-time whilst waving to the crowd he’d have got into P7.

    1. 2 laps are fairly insignificant on the hards

    2. It looked smart only until the Renaults did exactly the same, just a tad quicker!
      Was nice to see him on track though, at least we had something to look at in a session that had maybe 3-5 minutes of exitement all hour.

    3. If he’d completed the lap, he’d be forced to start on the harder compound. By coming straight back into the pits, he gets to choose between the two compounds for the start of tomorrow’s race.

    4. beacuse now he will chose what tire to start….if he make lap time he will start with that tire

    5. @tommyb89 he would’ve had to start on those tyres.

  7. Funny enough once again I found myself cursing for Vettel to take the pole by 9/1000 but had Button taken pole by that margin I’d be dancing on the table singing (not really, but you get the picture). I acknowledge Vettel doing a great job I’m just so sick of it (especially due to the media coverage here in Germany).

    1. i can’t imagine how swelled people are there in Germany over Vettel. Must be really annoying :D

      1. i guess its the same as ITV 2007-2008, just in German

  8. based on red bulls long run pace on friday im expecting vettel to run away.

    watching the incar shot from lewis’s car it looked like he was looking right watching webber & actively jinked to the right to try & block webber & that was what cost him his final run.
    dont know why he was cruising around since the team were telling him to push, another mistakes from lewis in 2011.

    1. Because he didn’t want to be right behind his teammate through the flying lap.

    2. Do not judge until we hear the or read the main reason!! I believe McLaren used him to shield Button and it backfired on them….. Another prove Button has the team behind him now and a bigger pay package :-(

      1. How exactly did Lewis “shield” Button again?

    3. “Jinked Right” trying to block Mark.
      Did you not notice the right turn he had to take, if he had carried on straight over the chicane, he would have taken out Schuii.
      Very unfortunate last lap, Lewis was making a bit of space to Jenson, after all he did have sight of the car in front, not just number on a timing screen.
      I think all three did well not to touch.
      Looking forward to the race.
      I am more concerned about Massa’s starting position, let hope he is not in a vengeful mood, but then if there is contact between Lewis and Massa, maybe it would be that Massa is a “Man Magnet”.
      Did you see that interview with Lee Mackenzie..

      1. ““Jinked Right” trying to block Mark.
        Did you not notice the right turn he had to take, if he had carried on straight over the chicane, he would have taken out Schuii.”

        it was just before they got to the chicane while they were still going straght, he seemed to look in his mirrir, see mark & then take a sudden move to the right to discourage mark from trying the pass.

        in this 1st image you see him starting to turn the wheel left to move onto the racing line but he also looks in his right hand mirror & spots webber-

        then he takes a jink to the right to stop webber making the pass-

  9. Amazing. Todays qualifying really shows that it is Vettel the driver rather than the car.

    1. i beg to disagree. i still think it is both. not just the driver, and not just the car.

      1. Every result in F1 history comes as a result of car + driver.

  10. So in Singapore they had a fuel problem leading to a non final run, an just now they balls up He`s final run Again, shrug of the shoulders an a stiff upper lip I suppose

    1. But at least he knows he’s got the car to fight for pole now :-(

      1. Do you think they went for more a of a qualifying set-up to get Hamilton on pole and out of trouble?
        They are running more wing, which hurts less in Qualifying due to the DRS, but compromises race pace a bit, hopefully they still have the race pace for a win.

    2. There was enough time for Webber to make it. So that means there was enough space for Button + 1 and Hamilton didn’t make it. You could say the team should have sent them out a bit earlier but on the other hand you should expect a driver who thinks of himself as the best to execute a plan as laid out by his team, shouldn’t you ..

      1. That is a mute point, look at the lap Webber put in…. very slow, was that because he was behind Button? I think possibly so. ;-)

        1. because once again, have you ever thought if that was indeed webber’s pace? stop with your mindless defending of hamilton.

          1. I never said Webber was held up by Button, I said his lap was possibly affected.
            As for facts, Webber was purple in S1 on the lap behind Button and slow in S2, I’m asking why?
            Button backed up to give himself room, it compromised Hamilton, he backed up as well, Webber and Schumacher took advantage of a sleepy Hamilton, I’m not defending anyone. We can discuss it as much as we like but it was a team mistake, out too late and allot of teams don’t send there drivers out together and this is one of the reasons why. Please don’t make insults just state how you see, “mindless defending of Hamilton”, you mean you haven’t got a good counter statement that can be backed up.

          2. I rest my case:

            Mark Webber 32.111 (1) 41.312 (6) 17.648 (6)


        2. Seriously Button was flying all weekend, if anything Lewis would have got a tow by sticking behind him. Lewis and Mclaren both made poor decisions, but if Webber made it, Lewis should of made it and to suggest Webber had a slow lap because he was stuck behind Jenson suggests you need to review the stats, I’d start by checking out Buttons s1 and s2 times….fact is Hollywood has lost the plot this season, we can only hope next year is better.

          1. Hollywood

            …. that’s classic… LMAO… mind if I use it?

          2. Yeap, Button was flying all weekend, fully deserved P2, shame he couldn’t sneak P1.

          3. Webber was faster than Button in S1 but much slower in S2, hence my comment, was it a mistake or dirty air?

          4. Mark Webber 32.111 (1) 41.312 (6) 17.648 (6)

            I rest my case, please check your facts before making stupid comments.

      2. Exactly right.

  11. はい! 幸福な楽しい時間!!!

    Great job by Kamui and Sauber. Absolutely made my weekend! Nothing would please me more than if Kobayashi has another good race here and can score some good points. Especially for the Japanese fans who deserve something to cheer about.

    I was lucky enough to go to Japan earlier this year. I actually left two weeks before the earthquake and tsunami struck. The Japanese people are by far the most friendly, most humble and most polite people I’ve ever come across. They’re also massive motorsport fans with a massive Formula 1 heritage. I think it’s important that Japan remains a key part of the FOrmula 1 environment. Not only as a racing venue but in terms of either teams and engine manufactures and especially drivers as well. I think Kobayashi is the greatest F1 talent to have come out of Japan and I would love to see him have a good result here for himself, for his team and for his fans – like me! Him and Sauber really deserve it.

    1. @magnificient-geoffrey and right now its looking likely he will be able to start from 8th or even 7th!

  12. Nice to see Massa outqualifying Alonso again.

  13. First time we’ve seen Vettel using every mm and a bit more of the race track, today the car / car setup didn’t really have the pace for pole (and I think he knew it, hence using more track and looking more ragged) but from a great lap and with other events he get the P1 again.

  14. Very slow start to Q3, but it was spiced up with the HAM/MSC/WEB incident, and the close battle for pole. I really thought Button had it (would have been his first pole for over 2 years) but Vettel did it again, and he really had to push for it, using every inch of the track. Can’t wait for the onboard tomorrow.

    1. Brundle said he’d do a comparison of BUT/VET laps. Vettel lost about a tenth in S1, 0.002 in S2but gained a tenth in S3

  15. one of the highlights of this qualifying session for me was seeing d’ambrosio out-qualify glock. if both cars finish tomorrow, it’d be great to see jerome beat glock on race pace.

  16. Vettel nailed it – just. I feel so sorry for Button – ever since Hungary, he keeps his head down, transforming visible frustration into jokes on Vettel here and there, but most importantly into impeccable drives and undimmed concentration as well. He was so close today, couldn’t be closer frankly. Some 45 cm. He will handle it as he did with the whole season. This was only a battle eventually, the war is won on Sundays.

    I wonder what would Hamilton be capable of on his second run. Messed it up again. Of course it’s a team fault partly: they sent them out too late, if Hamilton hadn’t backed off, he would have got dirty air – but then again, here lies his fault: given the team failure, option 1 is to have dirty air on his run, but option 2 is either letting the hurrying Webber and Schumacher go thus having dirty air again, or don’t make it in time at all. Option 1 is the obvious choice, option 2 is risky. Of course Hamilton always takes any risk coming his way, but that was too much: he simply could have assumed Webber and Schumacher will be a sitting duck behind him against the clock running down.

    Hamilton and Alonso have the advantage of the clear side of the grid though, so I expect them to be ahead of their team mates respectively by Turn 1.

    1. Crucial mistake in my comment again: it was meant to be ‘COULDN’T have assumed’.

  17. Rib khalifa (@)
    8th October 2011, 7:59

    Is it bad luck or is he his own worst enemy at times? The debate goes on. One things for sure though. Sebastian Vettel is one step closer to becoming the youngestback-to-back champion in Formula 1 history. But with the McLarens lining up right behind him, Sunday could be compulsiveviewing.

  18. Fantastic lap by Vettel. Button was so close…

    And Kobayashi put on a great show for the fans. I hope Kamui and Sauber have a strong race tomorrow.

  19. Is I am the only one who has missed that incident of Q3 between Schumacher Hamilton & Webber?
    Good lap from Vettel as they were the only one used DRS through 130R.Good cheers from the home crowd,Kobayashi is in a good position to score some healthy points in tomorrow’s race.

    1. @wasiF1
      Kobayashi was using DRS there too.

      1. and Kovalainen, according to Mike Gascoyne

    2. No you weren’t alone, it was not shown in the US on speedtv.

  20. McLarens were really close to PP but they screw it up; Vettel was really on the edge on his PP winning lap, so – if he needed to push so hard to win pole by .9 tenth or something, it means RedBulls dominance is slowly (very slowly) disappearing, and rivals should spit into their faces for not taking such opportunities.
    But overall the quaification session was quite interesting, which is unusual this year.

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