Nico Rosberg will start tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix from pole position after topping the timesheets in the final stage of qualifying at Suzuka on Saturday.
Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:32.584 in Q3 to edge out teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.076 seconds, giving the German only his second pole of the season as Mercedes bounced back from its Singapore struggles in style.
Rosberg and Hamilton had ailed to P5 and P6 at Marina Bay seven days ago, but Mercedes once again resumed its dominance at the front of the field by locking out the front row of the grid.
With his first run in Q3, Rosberg edged out Hamilton by a narrow margin, setting the stage for a close fight between the two Silver Arrows in the final runs of the session.
However, a crash for Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat resulted in a red flag with just 36 seconds remaining in the session, preventing any of the drivers from completing a second run, thus handing pole to Rosberg.
Valtteri Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ for Williams, lapping four-tenths of a second further back in third place. Sebastian Vettel will start from fourth on Sunday as he bids to maintain his 100% podium record at Suzuka. The duo was followed by teammates Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in fifth and sixth place respectively.
Daniel Ricciardo was unable to convert Red Bull’s strong practice pace into a good qualifying result as he could only finish seventh. Romain Grosjean finished eighth for Lotus ahead of Perez and Kvyat, who both failed to post a time in Q3.
Coming through the left-hand kink on the run to the turn 11 hairpin, Kvyat touched the grass at the side of the track, causing his car to lose control and spear into the wall. Despite taking a heavy impact and rolling before coming to rest the right way up, Kvyat was unharmed, albeit a little winded.
The close battle in the midfield resulted in closely-run Q2 session that saw just three-tenths of as second separated P7 to P13. Nico Hulkenberg narrowly missed out on a place in Q3 after a late flying lap from Grosjean, leaving the German 11th. He will start 14th due to a grid penalty from Singapore.
Carlos Sainz Jr. was P12 ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso, who told McLaren that he “cannot do more than this” as he finished 2.1 seconds off Rosberg’s fastest Q2 time, making the team’s current struggles clear to see.
Max Verstappen was unable to take part in Q2 at Suzuka after suffering an electrical fault in the dying stages of Q1, causing his Toro Rosso to grind to a halt coming out of the hairpin at turn 11. The Dutchman had posted a lap time good enough for the top ten in Q1, but will start tomorrow’s race from P15 due to his Q2 absence.
Yellow flags in Q1 caused by Verstappen’s stoppage forced a number of drivers to back off and abandon their final flying laps. This left Jenson Button in 16th place and out of qualifying as he finished two-tenths of a second behind McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.
Marcus Ericsson managed to dodge the yellow flags and post a personal best with his final lap after spinning earlier on, but was only P17 ahead of Sauber teammate Felipe Nasr. Manor’s Will Stevens finished 19th ahead of Alexander Rossi, who failed to post a flying lap time in qualifying due to Verstappen’s parked car.
The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30am ET on Sunday.