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2011 Japanese Grand Prix (Rd 15, Oct 9th, Qualifying, TV Notes)

October 9, 2011

Suzuka. © Creative Commons / Will Pittenger.

Sebastian Vettel claimed his twelfth pole position of 2011 at Suzuka on Saturday, just narrowing out McLaren’s Jenson Button.

Favour swung from McLaren to Red Bull following the morning’s third free practice session, although the British team incredibly aided Vettel in his quest for the top spot.

Red Bull also helped Vettel on the approach to qualifying. Having damaged his new front wing at the end of first practice on Friday morning, the squad flew a brand new version to the Japanese circuit, with the part fitted only twenty minutes prior to Q1.

While Button’s second run was a mere 0.009 seconds shy of Vettel’s marker (1:30.466), Lewis Hamilton never even started his final fast lap.
The 2008 Champion was on a slow outlap, when overtaken on either side by Mark Webber (Red Bull) and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, leaving Hamilton to potter through the last turn.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, the clocked ticked to zero before he crossed the line – an error that would leave him on the second row, facing Vettel’s rear end.

Behind the top three, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa (4th) out-qualified teammate Fernando Alonso (5th) for only the third time this season, while Webber – off-kilter from his Hamilton overtake – could not improve on his final run leaving him 6th, seven-tenths shy of his polesitting teammate.

Disappointingly, none of the final four in Q3 completed a fast lap; however Kamui Kobayashi obtained 7th by virtue of setting two sectors on a second lap.
Schumacher and both Renault’s completed outlaps before returning to the pits. It was something of a lucky gift from Senna – after crashing early in the morning, the Renault squad just got his R31 in Q1 with only five minutes to spare.

The sixth row was filled by the Force India pair, led by Adrian Sutil. The German was on his way to Q3, before being bumped by Senna in the final moments, while Paul di Resta’s single fast lap was enough for only 12th.

It was an all-Williams affair on row seven, with Rubens Barrichello nudging ahead of Pastor Maldonado; however the Venezuelan proved only just fast enough to beat Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso.
Buemi’s best of 1:33.227 came only three-thousandths shy of Maldonado, although the Swiss pilot had little fear of falling behind teammate, Jaime Alguersuari.
The Spaniard was two-tenths short of Buemi, but that was a bad as it would get – Sauber’s Sergio Perez never set a lap, rendering him 17th.

Perez will have the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen alongside him the eighth row. The Finn edged fellow-Lotus driver Jarno Trulli to 18th; however both were a clear one-second quicker than the Virgin Racing duo of Jerome d’Ambrosio (20th) and Timo Glock (21st).
Daniel Ricciardo put in the 22nd best time with only Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (HRTF1). Both completed outlaps, but returned the pits instantly with Rosberg stopping due to hydraulic problems and Liuzzi reporting an engine misfire.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap 
 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m30.466s           
 2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m30.475s  + 0.009  
 3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m30.617s  + 0.151  
 4.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m30.804s  + 0.338  
 5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m30.886s  + 0.420  
 6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m31.156s  + 0.690  
 7.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       no time
 8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             no time                
 9.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              no time                
10.  Bruno Senna           Renault              no time                
Q2 cut-off time: 1m32.380s Gap **
11.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m32.463s  + 1.997
12.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m32.746s  + 2.280
13.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m33.079s  + 2.613
14.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m33.224s  + 2.758
15.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.227s  + 2.761
16.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.427s  + 2.961
17.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       no time           
Q1 cut-off time: 1m35.111s Gap *
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m35.454s   + 4.988     
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m35.514s   + 5.048     
20.  Jerome D'Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.439s   + 5.973     
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.507s   + 6.041     
22.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m37.846s   + 7.380     
23.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             no time                 
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         no time                 
107% time: 1m39.109s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2
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