F1 2016 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying result: Rosberg pips Hamilton to pole position

PUBLISHED: 20:43 08 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:06 09 October 2016

Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will start the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix from second place on the grid after Nico Rosberg snatched pole position in qualifying at Suzuka.

Drivers’ Championship leader Rosberg claimed his 30th F1 pole position today (Saturday) and his third in a row at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan.

He just edged out Mercedes colleague Hamilton by 0.013s – the equivalent of 82cm round the 5.807km circuit – as the Silver Arrows pair completed their 10th front row lockout of the season.

Kimi Raikkonen will start Sunday’s race from third on the grid for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest in qualifying but will start seventh after being penalised.

Rosberg snatched pole with a Q3 hot lap of 1m 30.647s. Hamilton’s best was 1m 30.660s.

Despite securing a front row grid position, three-time world champion Hamilton said: “This weekend has not been that easy.

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen after qualifying for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen after qualifying for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

“I’d been veering one way with the setup of the car and then had to shuffle back going into qualifying and it felt like I was in no-man’s-land as we approached Q1.

“With that in mind, I’m extremely happy that I was able to bring it back to that kind of gap.

“Of course, starting on pole is always a good thing but let’s hope the work we’ve been doing on the starts pays off.

“It’s also still hard to know at this stage what the weather is going to do but I’ll do the best I can tomorrow.”

After his eighth pole of the 2016 season so far, Rosberg said: “I’ve been feeling great all weekend, having felt incredibly comfortable in the car.

“It gave me the confidence to push even harder at the end of Q3 which meant I pulled out a great lap to recover pole from Lewis.”

The German Mercedes man added: “Suzuka is a really difficult circuit because of the varying corners which means it’s even more difficult to get the car set up just right.

“It’s great to start from P1, but as we’ve realised, it’s not the most important thing this year as you also need to get the start and the race strategy spot on.

“Lewis will push hard and so will the Ferraris and the Red Bulls. It’s clear that both these teams looked very strong on the high fuel.

“It will be an exciting race tomorrow, in front of Suzuka’s amazing fans. I’m definitely looking forward to it!”

Both Mercedes drivers completed a single run in Q1 (Medium), a single run in Q2 (Soft) and two runs in Q3 (Soft/Soft).

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said afterwards: “What an incredibly close qualifying, just 13-thousandths between our drivers after their final laps; it was a great showdown.

“Nico has looked strong all weekend but didn’t put the lap together in the first run of Q3, so he had to put everything on the line to claim pole.

“As for Lewis, he has been a fraction behind Nico in most sessions, so it was a fantastic performance to make such a fight of it in Q3 and come so close to pole.

“It was another session that shows what is so good about their rivalry: in Singapore, Nico was the one with the advantage; in Sepang, Lewis had the upper hand; and now it’s so closely matched.

“They just keep pushing each other to new heights every week and pushing the limits of what the car can do.”

Of Sunday’s Japanese GP, Wolff added: “Looking ahead to tomorrow, we know it will be a close race.

“The gaps are getting smaller at the end of the season, like we expected, and with Vettel’s grid penalty, both Red Bulls will be very close on track – as well as Kimi starting from P3.

“Their long runs were extremely competitive yesterday, so it will be a tough race and important to take our opportunities.

“The weather could also play its part, so we will need to prepare diligently and execute our race plan perfectly.”

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after qualifying for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after qualifying for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

Paddy Lowe, Mercedes’ executive technical director, was delighted to see the team claim another one-two in the qualifying results.

Lowe said: “It was a terrifically close competition for pole between Lewis and Nico. Just 0.013 splitting the two of them when it came down to the final run in Q3.

“Lewis had the initial advantage with the first run at the start of the final session but it was Nico who took pole position in the last few seconds.

“It was very tense because it was also very close with Red Bull and Ferrari, all six cars crossing within 0.400 seconds of each other.”

He added: “We’re very happy to claim a 10th front row lockout of the season at this track, one of the most iconic of the entire Formula One season.

“We’re looking forward to the race tomorrow, where the most difficult job still has to be done.”

While it was another one-two for Mercedes, it was a disappointing home qualifying session for the McLaren Honda team at the Suzuka International Racing Course.

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will start 15th and 17th respectively after a tough day at Suzuka.

Since the MP4-31 is less well-suited to the long straights and mid- to high-speed corners of the Japanese track, the team’s hopes for points tomorrow rest on wet or unpredictable weather during the race.

Alonso said: “After some strong weekends, where we made it into Q3 and were able to fight for points, qualifying 15th and 17th is not the best place to be starting Honda’s home grand prix.

“So far, we just haven’t been able to find the speed in the car this weekend. We’ve been struggling with high-speed and straight-line performance too, so it was difficult to know which way to go in terms of downforce and balance.

“It looks like our performance is changing from circuit to circuit, and we need to analyse exactly why we seem to be underperforming here.

“Unless it rains tomorrow, it’ll be difficult for us to recover enough positions in the race in order to score points. But I’ll be attacking tomorrow – I have nothing to lose.”

Button, who will start 17th overall, added: “It’s been a tough weekend so far. I switched over to Fernando’s set-up this morning after failing to find a balance on Friday – my car just wasn’t working.

“To be that close to Fernando – just three-hundredths off his best time in Q1 – after the weekend we’ve had so far, really wasn’t too horrific. Our lap-time today is simply a fair reflection of how fast our car is around here – and that meant I went out in Q1.

“Our package works best in lower-speed corners and under heavy braking; Suzuka has lots of mid- to high-speed corners and long bends – plus long straights – which are all trickier for us.”

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