• Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying

Vettel heads Red Bull lockout

ESPN Staff
October 6, 2012

Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as Red Bull locked out the front row at Suzuka.

Mark Webber was second quickest ahead of Jenson Button and Kamui Kobayashi as a spin for Kimi Raikkonen ruined the final runs for many of the top ten in Q3. Romain Grosjean was fifth quickest ahead of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso, with Lewis Hamilton the biggest loser as the yellow flags from Raikkonen's spin left him in ninth place.

Vettel and Webber both set their best times on their opening runs, with Webber making an error at the hairpin to hand the advantage to his team-mate. On the second runs, Raikkonen spun at Spoon to bring out the yellow flags and prevent most drivers improving, though Kobayashi still set his best sector time under yellows and will be anxiously awaiting what the stewards make of his lap.

Hamilton had not set a competitive time on his first run and was then unable to do so on his second due to yellow flags, with only Nico Hulkenberg behind him in Q3. That means when Button takes a grid penalty he will still line up ahead of his team-mate in eighth place. Hulkenberg, however, will start five places further back after having to change his gearbox following a crash in FP3.

The second session saw the track evolving throughout and drivers on later laps were benefitted. Felipe Massa had put in a solid lap but saw himself shuffled down to 11th place by the time the chequered flag came out, with Paul di Resta dropping out in 12th but just 0.05s slower than his team-mate Hulkenberg who got through in 10th place.

It was a poor session for both Mercedes cars, with Michael Schumacher doing one late lap to go 13th and his impending grid penalty relegating him to 23rd, while Nico Rosberg dropped out in 15th place ahead of the two Toro Rossos.

A busy Q1 session saw only Red Bull, McLaren and Schumacher not go out on soft tyres in order to get through the first part of qualifying. For Schumacher the move almost backfired, with errors on his laps leaving him needing to pull a time out on hards right at the end of the session, but he managed to sneak through thanks to a strong final sector.

Bruno Senna was the man to drop out alongside the Caterhams, Marussias and HRTs, and he was understandably frustrated after being blocked by Jean-Eric Vergne in the chicane at the end of his flying lap. Vergne eventually snuck through in 17th, 0.035s ahead of Senna. Heikki Kovalainen was 19th, but behind him was an unusual order as Timo Glock and Pedro de la Rosa were just ahead of Charles Pic, Vitaly Petrov and Narain Karthikeyan.