Grand Prix of Japan – Qualifying

Some of the conspiracy theories around HAM’s engine failure in Malaysia are just ridiculous – there’s no way Mercedes would invest that much money in a driver and then sabotage him. I agree with HAM that it’s odd that it’s only his engines which have had issues this season, and Mercedes also provide engines to Williams and Force India, but “odd” doesn’t equate to “deliberately undermined”. Apparently Mercedes are no giving their customers new engines and are reviewing their own engines.

ROS left Malaysia with a 23 point lead over HAM, with just 5 races remaining this season.

Don’t forget that VET was given a 3-grid spot penalty for the Turn 1 incident with ROS. [F1]
And talking of penalties, the “Budgie Nine” walked free from court in Malaysia. [BBC]

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: ROS (1:32.431), HAM, VET, RAI, RIC
  2. FP2: ROS (1:32.250), HAM, RAI, VES, VET
  3. FP3: ROS (1:32.092), RIC, VET, VES, RAI

It’s a bit overcast; is there a chance of rain?
Air temperature 23°C; track 26°C; 89% humidity

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Green light; OCO is first out of the pit lane, followed by his Manor teammate WEH
Both Mercedes going out on medium compound tyres
OCO 1:33.992
ROS 1:31.858
HAM P2 by 0.360sec
BUT struggling with the McLaren rear end
RAI 1:31.674 on soft tyres
VET 1:31.659
5mins left of Q1; bottom 6 are SAI, BUT, WEH, OCO, PAL, ERI
HAM out of his car, confident he’s through to Q2
The two McLaren cars head back out, hoping to improve on P13 and P18
2mins left of Q1; only the top 5 plus PER (P9) remain in the pits
VES and RIC return to the pits
Chequered flag
BUT goes P13; relegates MAG to P17
ERI P16 – NAS P17
PAL P12! – ERI P17
SAI P12 – BOT P17
BOT P5 – BUT P17
OCO P20
MAG P18
Back of the grid: BUT, MAG, ERI, NAS, OCO, WEH

Qualifying session 2
ROS 1:30.714
HAM P2 after running a little wide in Degner-2
RIC P3, then RAI V3
Radio from VES complaining about traffic
Williams doing pit stop tyre changes for both BOT and MAS
3mins left of Q2; bottom 6 are SAI, ALO, KVY, PAL and no time yet from BOT or MAS
Top 6 stay in the pits
BOT P8
MAS P10
Chequered flag; bottom 6 are GUT, HUL, SAI, ALO, KVY, PAL
ALO can’t improve on P14
HUL P7; MAS to P11
SAI spins in Spoon; yellow flags as he recovers
GUT P7 – bumps PER to P11
PER P10 – BOT P11
Middle of the grid: BOT, MAS, KVY, SAI, ALO, PAL

Qualifying session 3
Looks like only 6 cars will do 2 runs in Q3
RIC 1:31.240
VES 1:31.229
RAI 1:31.184
ROS 1:30.953
HAM 1:30.758
VET P4
Radio from VES – “lost gear sync”; told to box
Order after first run: HAM, ROS, RAI, VET, VES, RIC; no time yet from GRO, GUT, HUL & PER
3:20 left of Q3; pits start to empty
Chequered flag; everyone on their last flying lap
VES P3
RAI P2
HUL P7
PER P7
ROS 1:30.647
HAM P2
GRO P8
GUT P10
VET P4
Front of the grid: ROS, HAM, RAI, VET*, VES, RIC, PER, GRO, HUL, GUT

Johnny Herbert (for Sky Sports) talks to ROS on his cool down lap
ROS’s 3rd consecutive pole for the Japanese GP
ROS jokes that talking to JH was the highlight of his weekend
Apparently the difference between ROS’ and HAM’s times is equivalent to 82cm on the track!
Interesting to watch VET being interviewed by Sky Italia with the interviewer asking questions in Italian and VET answering in English … and then cut to RAI and “mumble mumble it’s OK”.

Provisional grid: ROS, HAM, RAI, VET*, VES, RIC, PER, GRO, HUL, GUT; BOT, MAS, KVY, SAI, ALO, PAL; BUT, MAG, ERI, NAS, OCO, WEH
*VET will drop from P4 to P7 because of his penalty from Malaysia

Update: WEH has a 5-place grid penalty after a gearbox change, but he was already P22.

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