Lewis Hamilton has claimed his first pole position at Suzuka after setting a lap time of . It's the Briton's seventy-first career pole position, acquired by outclassing the rest of the field. Hamilton closest competitor was over three-tenths down on the Mercedes driver.
That closest competitor was Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas, who managed to salvage a good performance after struggling all weekend. However, with the Finn being handed a five-place grid penalty before the weekend got underway, he will drop down into seventh for the start of tomorrow's Grand Prix.
Bottas' penalty means that Hamilton will be joined on the front row by title rival Sebastian Vettel. The German's fastest time was almost half a second down on Hamilton, as it appears the Silver Arrows have got their mojo back after two pace-worrying weekends.
Daniel Ricciardo managed to out-qualify teammate Max Verstappen for only the fifth time this season. Just two-hundredths of a second separated the pair, qualifying in the fourth and fifth positions respectively.
Kimi Raikkonen could only get his Ferrari into sixth, over a second down on pole-sitter Hamilton. The Finn's day will not be any easier tomorrow, as a gearbox change before qualifying meant he too received a five-place grid penalty.
The two Force India's produced a modest performance, with Esteban Ocon getting the better of Sergio Perez. They filled out seventh and eighth on the grid while completing the top ten was former Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
The two Sauber's and Hamilton were the first to come out of the pitlane and take to the track, with Hamilton's rival Vettel following the trio. Hamilton was the first to set a lap time on the soft tyre, a 1:29.5.
Vettel's lap was two tenths slower than Hamilton, with the German also equipped with the soft tyre, Bottas decided to set his lap on the super soft tyre, but had a very scary moment, running through the gravel at the second Degner corner.
After his collision in the final practice session, Raikkonen exited the pitlane and was able to set a lap, but carries a five-place grid penalty with him into tomorrow's race. The times at the top improved, with Hamilton and Verstappen trading fastest times.
The two Renault's were late to set a lap, but both comfortably made it into the second stage of qualifying. Stroll had his fast lap hampered by Perez who is now under investigation by the stewards. The session ended under a red flag, as Romain Grosjean crashed heavily while driving through the Esses.
Drivers out in Q1: Grosjean, Gasly, Stroll, Ericsson & Wehrlein
After the debris was cleared from Grosjean's hefty collision in Q1, the track went green and it was Hamilton who was first out. Raikkonen emerged on the soft tyres, with the intention of starting tomorrow's race on the harder compound.
Hamilton's first time was a devastating 1:27.8. which was six-tenths faster than Vettel who ended up in P2. Raikkonen set a 1:29.0, while compatriot Bottas, who also set a time on the super soft, was over half a second quicker.
As the Red Bull's slipped into P3 and P4, the session lulled down as the midfield runners prepared for the final runs. Despite all the laps set, Alonso was the only driver to escape the drop-zone, pushing teammate Stoffel Vandoorne out. However, with Alonso's penalty coming into effect tomorrow, Vandoorne will start from inside the top 10.
Drivers out in Q2: Vandoorne, Hulkenberg, Magnussen Palmer & Sainz
The two Mercedes' were the first to exit their garage, with the intent of getting free air and a chance to take pole position. The rest of the Q3 competitors followed, except Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, who only had one run at the end.
Bottas was the first to set a time, a 1:27.9, but Hamilton then smashed it by putting in a 1:27.3. Vettel was just under half a second down, while Ricciardo and Verstappen slotted into P4 and P5. On the final runs, Raikkonen couldn't get the better of the Red Bulls.
Hamilton improved on his final lap by two-hundredths of a second, and with nobody else able to touch his time, he took his first ever pole position at the Suzuka Circuit. Championship rival Vettel will start alongside the 32-year-old, in what is shaping up to be a titanic fight for the victory.
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing
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