Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on Saturday further strengthened his hold on the 2017 F1 drivers’ title with a late charge in Q3 to clinch his 71st career pole at the iconic Suzuka Circuit while championship rival Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari will start second on Sunday’s race.
A Mercedes one-two was not on the cards despite the Silver Arrows dominating the latter stages of the final qualifying session as Valtteri Bottas – who came second- was penalised for a gearbox change and will start in the second row with Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo.
There was plenty of drama on Saturday, as Romain Grosjean lost control of his Haas in Q1 and suffered a spectacular crash. Thankfully, the French driver emerged unscathed from the wreck, but his participation for the day was done.
Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez put in creditable showing to place seventh and eight, respectively but Fernando Alonso’s (10th) strong showing across all sessions was an encouraging sight for all fans.
In his orange McLaren-Honda, Alonso edged his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne to make Q3 and while he was unable to push further up, their late season form has been a pleasant sight for all involved with the sport.
Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen started brightly but were unable to nab a front-row spot and had to make do with fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Vettel’s Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, didn’t have the best Q3 as well and the Finn will start being the Red Bull duo and ahead of the Force India team while veteran Felipe Massa proved there is fight in him still with a 9th place spot for Sunday’s race.
1. Lewis Hamilton-Mercedes
2. Sebastian Vettel-Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas-Mercedes
4. Daniel Ricciardo-Red Bull
5. Max Verstappen-Red Bull
6. Kimi Raikkonen-Ferrari
7. Esteban Ocon-Force India
8. Sergio Perez-Force India
9. Felipe Massa-Williams
10. Fernando Alonso-McLaren