Sebastian Vettel secured his eighth pole position of the season, with Red Bull taking their seventh front row lock out; however Vettel’s conversion rate to wins this season has been quite poor. Mark Webber found himself only 0.07 of-a-second shy of the German once the final ten minute session ran its course.
Lewis Hamilton set the third fastest time, but a penalty for a changed gearbox will leave the 2008 Champion getting off the grid in 8th place. It left Robert Kubica (Renault) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) on the second row of the grid, with the Pole just ahead.
Jenson Button was next up – the reigning Champion secured 5th, despite only having one run on the hard tyre; a strategy that could be advantageous during the race. Nico Rosberg took 6th in his Mercedes and Rubens Barrichello (Williams) was 7th, ahead of the penalised Hamilton. The second Williams of Nico Hulkenberg and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) secured an all-German row five.
Schumacher caused some controversy in the opening stint of qualifying – the German (apparently) raised the on track ire of Alonso with the former Champion blocking and weaving across the front of the Ferrari through Spoon and down toward the fast 130R corner.
Nick Heidfeld was the fastest of the drivers to drop out of Q2, but there was surprise when the Sauber beat the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. On the soft tyre, the Brazilian lost a huge amount of time on the opening lap of his final run as he it traffic, but was simply too slow on next lap lap around.
Vitaly Petrov took 13th in his Renault, not aided by an off a turn 1. The Russian just pipped local favourite Kamui Kobayashi – the Sauber driver had a lap good enough to get into final qualifying, but a mistake in the chicane left him in the drop zone.
Both Force India’s failed to make it into the final session, with Adrian Sutil (15th) heading Vitantonio Liuzzi (17th). They squeezed the leading Toro Rosso driven by Jaime Alguersuari (16th).
The second Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi also struggled with the Swiss driver not making it through the opening session, only just behind Alguersuari – once again, the Red Bull junior squad were slowest of the established teams.
Buemi was, rather predictably, joined by the six new cars, headed by the Lotus of Jarno Trulli. Heikki Kovalainen was next up with Lucas di Grassi out-qualifying Timo Glock – a rarity this season. Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto will make up the last row of the grid.
Japan, Qualifying (October 10th)
1 VETTEL Red Bull 1m30.785s
2 WEBBER Red Bull 1m30.853s
3 KUBICA Renault 1m31.231s
4 ALONSO Ferrari 1m31.352s
5 BUTTON McLaren 1m31.378s
6 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m31.494s
7 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m31.535s
8 HAMILTON McLaren 1m31.169s (* 5-place grid penalty)
9 HULKENBERG Williams 1m31.559s
10 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m31.846s
11 HEIDFELD Sauber 1m32.187s
12 MASSA Ferrari 1m32.321s
13 PETROV Renault 1m32.422s
14 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m32.427s
15 SUTIL Force India 1m32.659s
16 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m33.071s
17 LIUZZI Force India 1m33.154s
18 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m33.568s
19 TRULLI Lotus 1m35.346s
20 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m35.464s
21 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m36.265s
22 GLOCK Virgin 1m36.332s
23 SENNA HRT 1m37.270s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m37.365s