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Motorsport | Formula 1

Japanese GP: Exclusive Qualifying Report



Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) took pole position for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix where he needs only a single point to clinch the world championship.

Vettel set the fastest time with a minute remaining in Saturday's qualifying session as he qualified one hundredth of a second ahead of Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes), who is the only man with a chance to prevent the young German from taking back-to-back titles. Vettel needs only one point from this race, and needs Button not to win, to become the youngest-ever F1 double world champion.

Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) had been fastest throughout the afternoon but was unable to participate in the final shoot-out after failing to begin his lap before time ran out. He will start from third on the grid alongside Felipe Massa (Ferrari). The third row will be made up of Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault).

Button had been fastest in all three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, showing that McLaren could be competitive with the all-conquering Red Bulls at Suzuka.

As qualifying got under way, Jarno Trulli (Lotus-Renault) was the first out onto the track, setting a 1'36.571, followed by Russian Vitaly Petrov (Renault) with a 1'36,571 as they were joined by 14 other cars.

Bruno Senna had crashed his Renault coming out of Spoon corner in the morning practice, ripping off the front suspension, but he was expected to be able to take part in qualifying after a great effort by his mechanics to get the car repaired.

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault), who needs only one point to clinch back-to-back championships, was the first to set a competitive time with a 1'33.051. Vettel can only be stopped if he fails to score a point at Suzuka and Button wins.

Button went second fastest with a 1'33.018 with ten minutes of the session remaining.

Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) went faster with a 1'32.817 as it became obvious that the drivers were nursing their limited supply of tyres.

Hamilton set a 1'32.843 to go second behind Alonso and ahead of Button as Senna, Rosberg and Liuzzi remained in their pits without having set times and six minutes remaining on the clock. Two minutes later, Rosberg and Senna went out for a single flying lap.

Senna decided to use the softer option tyre compound and set the fastest time of all in the first sector but dropped half a second in the second, but was still good for an eighth place, while Rosberg completed only one lap before returning to the pits without a time being recorded. He will start the race from the back of the grid.

Liuzzi's engine had apparently expired and he had completed just 12 laps so far all weekend.

Meanwhile, Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari) gave his fans lots to cheer about when he set the fastest time with a 1'32.626 ahead of Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes), Alonso, Hamilton and Petrov.

First Session Drop-Outs

18 Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus 1'35.454
19 Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus 1'35.514
20 Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Virgin 1'36.439
21 Timo Glock GER Virgin 1'36.507
22 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Hispania 1'37.846
23 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes No time
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Hispania No time

Sutil, buoyed by his second-best time in Q1, was first out in Q2, setting a slow 1'34.384 before Vettel went quickest with a 1'31.424 followed by Button, just two hundredths slower. Hamilton beat them both with a 1'31.139. All the top runners were using the softer option tyres.

Paul di Resta (Force India-Mercedes) was stuck in the garage with a technical problem, but finally got going with barely enough time to record a single flying lap, finishing 12th.

Sergio Perez (Sauber-Ferrari) elected not to set a time and save his tyres.

Hamilton got the fastest time followed by Vettel, Button, Webber and Alonso.

Second Session Drop-Outs

11 Adrian Sutil GER Force India 1'32.463
12 Paul di Resta GBR Force India 1'32.746
13 Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams 1'33.079
14 Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams 1'33.224
15 Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso 1'33.227
16 Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso 1'33.427
17 Sergio Perez MEX Sauber No time

Kobayashi was eager to get back out into the sunshine as thousands of Japanese fans cheered him on. He was on the medium tyre but opted out of completing the lap.

Meanwhile Alonso set a quick time in the middle sector before running off the track and rejoining and returning to the pits.

Hamilton, on the softer option, set the fastest lap of the weekend - 1'30.617 - followed by team mate Button, 0.120 behind.

With three minutes remaining on the clock, there were no cars out on the track, Alonso, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Senna and Petrov all having not yet completed a timed lap.

With two minutes remaining, seven of the cars went out for a final shoot-out.

Vettel pushed hard, running off the track, but still did enough to go fastest. Button was a hundredth of a second behind.

2011 Japanese F1 Grand Prix Qualifying Times
Pos Driver Nat Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel GER Red Bull 1'30.466
2 Jenson Button GBR McLaren 1'30.475
3 Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren 1'30.617
4 Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari 1'30.804
5 Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari 1'30.866
6 Mark Webber AUS Red Bull 1'31.156
7 Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes No time
8 Bruno Senna BRA Renault No time
9 Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault No time
10 Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber No time
11 Adrian Sutil GER Force India 1'32.463
12 Paul di Resta GBR Force India 1'32.746
13 Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams 1'33.079
14 Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams 1'33.224
15 Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso 1'33.227
16 Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso 1'33.427
17 Sergio Perez MEX Sauber No time
18 Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus 1'35.454
19 Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus 1'35.514
20 Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Virgin 1'36.439
21 Timo Glock GER Virgin 1'36.507
22 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Hispania 1'37.846
23 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes No time
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Hispania No time

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