F1 2012 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton bids for Suzuka pole position

PUBLISHED: 00:21 06 October 2012 | UPDATED: 19:33 06 October 2012

Lewis Hamilton during practice for the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Lewis Hamilton during practice for the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

HOCH ZWEI

FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton bids for pole position in qualifying for the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit this morning (Saturday).

2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

* Race distance: 53 laps (191.054 miles/307.471km)

* Start time* 15.00 (local)/07:00 BST

* Circuit length: 3.608 miles/5.807km

* 2011 winner: Jenson Button (McLarens) 53 laps in 1hr 30m 53.427s (202.972km/h)

* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m30.466s (231.083km/h)

* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-20) 1m 31.540s (228.372km/h)

The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes motor racer from Hertfordshire was second fastest in both of Friday’s free practice sessions in Japan.

He clocked a lap of 1m 34.740s around the famous track in FP1 and then clocked 1m 32.707s in second practice, as Mark Webber set the day’s pace for Red Bull.

And the battle for pole looks to be between McLaren and rivals Red Bull.

Hamilton, who is quitting McLaren for Mercedes GP at the end of the season, loved driving around the Suzuka figure-of-eight circuit and is looking for a good result in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton factfile

* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)

* GPs: 104

* Wins: 20

* Poles: 24

* Fasest Laps: 11

* 2012 points: 142 (4th)

“The first lap out of the pits felt great,” said Stevenage-born F1 driver Hamilton after practice.

“Just driving through the first couple of corners and feeling the acceleration, it takes a few laps to get warmed up, but you keep getting faster and faster as you push the limits.”

He added: “As always, we’ll be fine-tuning the car tonight [Friday] ahead of tomorrow’s sessions, but it looks very close between ourselves and Red Bull.

“I feel comfortable with our car – it’s the best that it’s ever been around here – and I think I could have matched Mark’s [Webber] fastest time with an optimal lap.

“It’s going to be very close in qualifying tomorrow [Saturday].”

Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button, who faces a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change between races, was quickest in first practice but then slipped to seventh in P2.

The 2009 F1 world champion said: “I didn’t do too many laps in FP2: the balance wasn’t quite right and we knew we couldn’t go back on the changes we’d made until after the session, so there wasn’t any point doing too much running.

“Still, we know how to dial the car in for FP3 tomorrow, and that’s the important thing. The car felt good this morning, so we’ll go back to something similar with just a few detail changes.

McLaren at the Japanese Grand Prix

* Wins: 9 (1977, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2011)

* Poles: 6 (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 2007, 2008)

* Fastest Laps: 8 (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2011)

“Overall, the car is working well here. Qualifying will be very competitive, but I think we’ll be up there.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh expects to challenge for strong grid positions in qualifying – and then the chequered flag on race day.

He said: “Both Jenson and Lewis were happy with their cars today. Of course, Jenson’s five-place grid penalty is unfortunate, but, while it puts us on the back-foot, I’m still convinced that he, along with Lewis, will be able to fight for victory on Sunday.”

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