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

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Flag   Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Car Icon 1:27.319
2 Flag   Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Car Icon 1:27.651 0.332
3 Flag   Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Car Icon 1:27.791 0.472
4 Flag   Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Car Icon 1:28.306 0.987
5 Flag   Max Verstappen Red Bull Car Icon 1:28.332 1.013
6 Flag   Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Car Icon 1:28.498 1.179
7 Flag   Esteban Ocon Force India Car Icon 1:29.111 1.792
8 Flag   Sergio Perez Force India Car Icon 1:29.260 1.941
9 Flag   Felipe Massa Williams Car Icon 1:29.480 2.161
10 Flag   Fernando Alonso McLaren Car Icon 1:30.687 3.368
11 Flag   Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Car Icon 1:29.778
12 Flag   Nico Hulkenberg Renault Car Icon 1:29.879
13 Flag   Kevin Magnussen Haas Car Icon 1:29.972
14 Flag   Jolyon Palmer Renault Car Icon 1:30.022
15 Flag   Carlos Sainz Renault Car Icon 1:30.413
16 Flag   Romain Grosjean Haas Car Icon 1:30.849
17 Flag   Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Car Icon 1:31.317
18 Flag   Lance Stroll Williams Car Icon 1:31.409
19 Flag   Marcus Ericsson Sauber Car Icon 1:31.597
20 Flag   Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Car Icon 1:31.885