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.

Q1

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

Q2

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

Q3

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

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115 comments on Vettel claims pole by tiny margin at Suzuka

  1. florida mike (@florida-mike) said on 9th October 2011, 3:25

    It seemed to me that on his pole lap, Vettel used more road than he (or anyone) had previously used, kicking up dust and dirt that other cars had not touched. It’s like he knew that that usable road was there and saved it for that lap, not even sharing the idea with his teammate. I think he knew that the McLarens had equal or superior pace, and kept this stratagy for the last minute. His outbust of success on the radio was as great as any I’d seen this year. It’s definitely a much tighter competition for pace than a month ago, and I think he knows that he no longer has a significantly superior car. Which maybe made this pole so much sweeter!

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