Vettel claims pole by tiny margin at Suzuka

2011 Japanese GP qualifying

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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115 comments on Vettel claims pole by tiny margin at Suzuka

  1. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 8th October 2011, 7:47

    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.

  2. Rib khalifa (@) said on 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.

  3. CarolinaBlue704 (@carolinablue704) said on 8th October 2011, 8:03

    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.

  4. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 8th October 2011, 8:22

    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.

  5. chaostheory said on 8th October 2011, 8:50

    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.

  6. Abuelo Paul (@abuello-paul) said on 8th October 2011, 8:52

    Anyway… above all the controversial rubbish about who did what to whom and why.. how about a very big thumbs up and round of applause for Kobayashi.
    What a way to honour your country after such a devastatingly tragic year.

    I stand up and take my hat off to a great sport and, in my opinion, driver of the day.

    I hope his drive tomorrow is as successful.

  7. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 8th October 2011, 10:19

    Again it’s a small mistake (and I’d mostly blame McLaren for sending him out so late) that might make Hamilton’s life difficult.

    Lewis had a good shot at pole, and from there a decent chance to lead the race. Now he starts third, just in front of two very fast starting Ferraris, one of which is very angry with him (and both with a top speed advantage). Fifth after the first lap, and he’ll have his work cut out just to reach the podium.

  8. Hairs (@hairs) said on 8th October 2011, 10:50

    This strikes me as another case where an understandable error is being turned into more than it is. McLaren cut it very fine with both their drivers – F1 teams regularly make very “skin of the teeth” judgements on all sorts of things in order to get the maximum out of everything. In this case, the team could have given their drivers a bit more slack to accommodate the unexpected, and Lewis should have paced himself better. Two mis-judgements, not the end of the world, and if Lewis had squeaked across the line with a second to spare, and got pole position as the last man on the track, then armchair pundits would have been lauding a return to the Lewis of old, and blabbering, like they did two weeks ago when Vettel was the last man over the line to get pole, at how the team got everything right and maximised their opportunities.

    What the team did wasn’t unreasonable, and what Lewis did wasn’t a massive error either. In this case, it *possibly* cost him pole. As it is, he starts third, and the man directly ahead of him hasn’t started as well as the McLarens this year. That’s hardly an awful position to be in, nor has it ruined the weekend of a driver who can overtake and is one of the fastest men on the grid.

    In all this kerfuffle, of course, two things will be overlooked:

    Webber is 4th, while his teammate is on Pole, and Hamilton (for all the critics about his mental state, instability, impulsiveness, and lack of control) didn’t throw a massively childish hysterical fit about being passed during a warmup quali lap, like Massa did in Singapore. He made a mistake, he was clearly annoyed, but he’ll get on with it and more than likely score well tomorrow.

    • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 8th October 2011, 11:32

      Let’s see … WEB beat HAM in the points in 2010 and 2009 and and is ahead of him this year as well. I’m yet to see a championship won on good intentions.

    • @Hairs how did Massa have a childish fit? Hamilton nearly hit him during qualifying and that is all he said about it.

      • Hairs (@hairs) said on 8th October 2011, 14:28

        Compare Lewis’ “That was a bit dangerous but I was going too slow” having just been barged by not one, but two drivers, without which he would probably have made the line, and therefore had a direct effect on his qualifying with Massa’s bug eyed hyperbolic interview after Sing. qualifying where he claimed Hamilton was trying to kill him, when he was passed for dawdling and it had no effect on his quali at all. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Massa. It seems very clear that the dam has broken he hates the position he’s in within Ferrari but as he can’t do anything about it, he’s lashing out elsewhere .

    • Mads (@mads) said on 8th October 2011, 14:25

      You are right that the distance between hero and zero in F1 is tiny, and everyone will from time to time look like a fool because they get it wrong. Sadly Hamilton has only been hero a few times this year, and most of the time he has looked like a fool.
      I agree a lot can be put down to bad luck and minor misjudgements, and that happens, but it has just become a pattern for Hamilton this year, and that is why every incident and mistake he makes has, arguably, been blown out of proportion.

    • Hairs (@hairs) said on 8th October 2011, 15:35

      Still don’t have an edit post button, sadly. Still. Webber is 6th, not 4th. Which is even worse, almost a full second off pole and beaten by the two Ferraris, who have been nowhere near Red Bull’s pace all weekend. He’s going to have to hope things improve next year, or hang up the boots.

  9. bob80 said on 8th October 2011, 10:53

    Why Petrov is behind Senna despite being faster in Q2? Both didn’t run in Q3. Isn’t it stupid rule?

  10. hope mr hamilton will triumph tomorrow

  11. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 8th October 2011, 13:33

    What I found interesting was the discrepancy between Lewis and Jenson in the speedtraps – with Lewis running possibly more wing. I wonder if this would hamper his race pace over Jenson

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 8th October 2011, 14:17

      Possibly, I think they set up Hamilton for pole (too keep him out of trouble?), or he just prefers that setup. I take it you are thinking more wing negated by DRS in qualifying = disadvantage for race pace (most of the time without DRS)

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 8th October 2011, 15:17

        Having more wing doesn’t mean hampering race pace; as you do still gain from more wing (faster in the aero corners; better braking/traction in slow speed).

        However; if you could change setup between qualifying and the race I would suspect having more wing would be advantageous. As you pile downforce and drag on the rear wing; you reduce more drag when you deploy DRS.

        It’s not as easy as “less wing is bad for race pace” but in the world of DRS; less wing means there’s more difference between race and qualifying pace.

        • BBT (@bbt) said on 8th October 2011, 20:37

          Rightly or wrongly I look at it this way;

          You can screw as much wing as you like in Qualifying, you just us the DRS on ever straight or slight bend, you are not penalised at all, that is fine when you can use DRS anywhere as in qualifying, but in the race, you can only use DRS once and only if you are within one second, its a compromise, so although you can do the corners you are massively disadvantaged on the low downforce sections, (straights and long corners)

          • BBT (@bbt) said on 8th October 2011, 20:39

            Edit* in this case DRS twice, maybe that’s why they have done it, but the same basic principal still stands, quicker lap in qualifying but in the race with less use of DRS a big disadvantage the extra drag.

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 8th October 2011, 20:45

            Yes that’s correct. In qualifying, the DRS means that when you add wing, you add downforce; but you add less drag than you do downforce (because of the DRS effect being bigger).

            I wouldn’t call 130R a low-downforce thing though. Kink is a more appropriate word; however mighty the corner is and however degrading the term seems

  12. UKFan (@) said on 8th October 2011, 14:48

    When you look at that picture you will immediately spot whats wrong with Lewis. Obviously he is disappointed after a “stupid” incident nontheless it is Hamiltons personality that makes me dislike him, I support all Brits but I cant support someone that thinks he is always right, sometimes he is over polite sounding fake and other times we have to watch this pics, just act natural, and respect your opponents he may be mad with himself but it isnt Buttons or Vettels fault.

  13. jessmatos said on 8th October 2011, 18:10

    Can anyone explain me why Senna is ahead of Petrov, if in Q2 PET was faster and neither of them set a time in Q3?

  14. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 8th October 2011, 19:26

    I said it earlier today but maybe i’m still missing something. I didn’t think Vettel’s lap was really that special at all. I can’t see how he was on the limit. From what I remember he had a pretty dire S1 and S2 only went green for him. He must have had a brilliant S3. Can someone please enlighten me as to why the majority think it was a good lap? I’m paranoid i’m missing something!

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 8th October 2011, 20:13

      A lap being “special” is when you can see it’s absolutely on the ragged edge; not necessarily about lap time. Like Alonso’s laps in Singapore and in Barcelona; absolute hero laps.

      You could see Vettel was cutting as many corners as he could; and using as much kerbs on the exit. He was absolutely wringing that car for all it was worth; and basically out qualifying 2 McLarens that clearly had the legs on him in qualifying

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 8th October 2011, 20:43

      I thought he was purple s2, but could be wrong.
      Anyway, he was using all the track and more, not seen that before this season, he new there was no way he should be on pole, great lap but he was kind of handed it, respect for maxing what he had when others couldn’t.

  15. 7 hrs to find out now

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