Lewis Hamilton smashes Suzuka lap record to take 71st career pole
Lewis Hamilton claimed a 71st career pole as he smashed the Suzuka lap record with a time of 1:27.319, placing his Mercedes in the premium grid position for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
The pole marks Hamilton's first at Suzuka, having claimed two previous Japanese GP poles, both of which came at Fuji.
The Briton qualified ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, three-tenths back, but the Finn will start down in seventh when he serves his five-place grid penalty, promoting Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to the front-row.
Vettel was almost half a second slower than his title rival but will be eyeing the lead into Turn 1 in an attempt to close his championship deficit.
Daniel Ricciardo starts third with a Red Bull second row as he outqualified team-mate Max Verstappen by just 0.026s.
Kimi Räikkönen was sixth, but like Bottas, drops five-places to 11th, promoting several drivers behind him, including Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne – the McLaren driver gaining two places thanks to Räikkönen and his own team-mate Fernando Alonso who qualified tenth, but will start last due to an engine change.
Nico Hülkenberg was 12th quickest, starts 11th, with Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz lining up behind.
Romain Grosjean crashed out spectacularly in the opening sector, bringing out the red flags and ending Q1 prematurely. The Frenchman suffered heavy damage and will likely be forced to start from the pitlane on Sunday.
Japan - Qualifying Result
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:28.306||0.987|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:28.332||1.013|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:29.111||1.792|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:29.260||1.941|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:31.317|