The qualifying session for the 44th edition of the Japanese Grand Prix finally got underway. With Suzuka Circuit being officially closed for the whole of Saturday due to Typhoon Hagibis, Free practice 3 was cancelled and the qualifying was moved to Sunday, 4 hours before the race.
Q1 – A red flag riddled session full of stoppages.
The drivers were eager to get out on the circuit and get some laps in, some maybe too eager with Williams’ Robert Kubica spinning out into a crash and bringing the session to a halt because of a red flag in the first minutes of Q1.
Ten minutes into the restart, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen made a carbon copy of Kubica’s crash in the same corner to bring out a second red flag.
With the third try being the lucky one, Q1 finished with no more crashes and major issues. Eliminated drivers are:
- Ricciardo – 1.29.822
- Perez – 1.30.344
- Russell – 1.30.364
- Magnussen – No Time
- Kubica – No Time
Q2 – Red Bull scare with lack of power for Verstappen.
The second qualifying session brought technical difficulties to the field. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen suffered from power loss which prevented him from fulfilling the potential of his car and seriously put a dent into his ambitions to get as high up the field as possible.
Further down the pack, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg suffered a power steering issue which took him out of any contention for Q3 and left him in P15.
No big surprises from the rest of the field, with the usual suspects making it through. Drivers that didn’t make it through include:
- Giovinazzi -1:29.254
- Stroll -1:29.345
- Raikkonen -1:29.358
- Kvyat -1:29.563
- Hulkenberg – 1:30.112
Q3 – Flying Ferrari take pole for the fifth Grand Prix in a row, Mercedes on the second row.
The final qualifying session finished with all cars setting a flying lap without any issues. Ferrari snatched the pole position again with an amazing front grid lock out and a track record lap for Sebastian Vettel. Team mate Charles Leclerc couldn’t quite match that pace but still managed to secure P2. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton takes 4th position behind his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas. It will be a hard race for the Mercedes duo, hopefully an action packed one for the fans.
The rest of top 10 line up like this:
- Vettel – 1:27.064
- Leclerc – +0.189
- Bottas – +0.229
- Hamilton – +0.238
- Verstappen – +0.787
- Albon – +0.787
- Sainz- +1.240
- Norris – +1.400
- Gasly – +1.772
- Grosjean – +2.277
(Picture by Takayuki Suzuki, under Creative Commons licence)