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
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|
|15||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’33.227|
|16||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’33.427|
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|
|6||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’31.156|
2011 Japanese Grand Prix
- Rate the race result: 2011 Japanese GP
- Kobayashi greets the fans, Vettel does doughnuts: Suzuka videos
- Hamilton did not have a puncture at Suzuka
- 2011 Japanese Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vote for your Japanese Grand Prix driver of the weekend
- Red Bull: Conservative approach delivers Vettel’s title
- McLaren: Button pleased to win on ‘Red Bull track’
- Ferrari: Alonso edges Vettel for second
- Mercedes: Schumacher closes on Rosberg’s tally
- Renault: Petrov makes progress, Senna slips back
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images