Rosberg on pole for Japanese Grand Prix | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Rosberg on pole for Japanese Grand Prix


Nico Rosberg took his second pole position of the season and his first since May beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top spot in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix by just under eight hundredths of a second.

Rosberg’s advantage was sealed in the first runs of Q3 and any chance of Hamilton fighting back was lost when Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat crashed heavily on the approach to the hairpin bring out the red flags as most drivers were on the final flying laps. The Russian driver emerged unscathed from his accident but with just 36 seconds on the clock the session would not be restarted.

Third place went to Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, with Sebastian Vettel third.

Q1 began with Max Verstappen setting the first time, a lap of 1:35.415, six tenths up on team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr, but it wasn’t long before the Mercedes drivers rose to the top of the order, with Hamilton in P1, four tenths ahead of Rosberg.

Williams’ Felipe Massa clambered to third place, 1.2s off the pace, with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo fourth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.

Midway through the segment the Ferrari drivers finally took to the track and Kimi Räikkönen claimed third, 0.6s behind Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, took sixth behind Bottas and ahead of Massa. The German was quickly on the radio asking if the time was good enough to forego another run but his race engineer informed him that he would need another run to be sure of progress.

As the final runs shook out the Mercedes drivers again improved, on hard tyres, and Hamilton progressed in P1 with a lap of 1:32.844, with Rosberg just over a tenth behind in second place. Räikkonen was third with a time of 1:34.171 set on hard tyres and he finished ahead of Grosjean who set his best time on the medium compound. Ricciardo, though, stuck with the prime tyres and finished sixth ahead of Vettel, who in the end remained in the garage and completed just a single run on hard tyres. The final laps were disrupted when Verstappen stopped at the hairpin with a loss of power that would see him sit out the rest of the session.

At the bottom of the order Manor’s Alexander Rossi was eliminated without having set a time within the 107 per cent required.

His team-mate Will Stevens was 19th behind Felipe Nasr, while his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson was knocked out in P18 and he radioed through to register his dismay at his final lap being hampered by Verstappen’s stop, which brought out the yellow flags

Jenson Button was the final driver to lose out on a Q2 spot, with McLaren team-mate Fernando Fernando Alonso beating the Briton to P15 by just under two tenths of a second.

Q2 saw the Mercedes drivers bolt on medium tyres for the time in the session and in the opening exchanges Rosberg was the quicker of two. Third was Räikkönen, with Massa fourth ahead of Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo.

When the final runs began the top six elected to stay in their garages and Ricciardo was the highest placed driver to feel he needed another run. However, as the final times flowed in the picture changed and midway through his lap he was told to abort and he cruised back to pit lane having done enough to make it through in P7 ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez.

Behind him, team-mate Dany Kvyat needed to find time, though. In 10th before the runs began his best lap put him in P8 and he made it through in P9, seven hundredths of a second ahead of Grosjean, who pipped Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to the final Q3 berth by 0.112s.

With Hulkenberg in P11, the drivers eliminated behind him were Sainz in P12, Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado in P13, Alonso in 14th and Verstappen who did not take part in the segment.

After the first run in Q3 it was Rosberg who held sway with a time of 1:32.584 just, under eight hundredths of a second clear of Hamilton in P2. Bottas, four tenths down on Rosberg, was in P3 ahead of Vettel, Massa and Räikkonen. Ricciardo was seventh ahead of Grosjean and Perez, while Kvyat chose to remain the garage for the first runs.

And that was how the order remained. With just over 30 seconds left in the session and with most of the top 10 on the their flying laps, Kvyat got onto the grass on the approach to the hairpin. He spun and went backwards into the barriers at high speed. His car barrel-rolled once coming to rest on its wheels though with massive damage to the left-hand side of his car. The session was immediately red-flagged and would not resume.

Thus Rosberg claimed his second pole position of the year, his first since the Spanish Grand Prix in May and his second consecutive start from the front of the grid in Japan.