Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying: Rosberg takes second pole of season as Kvyat flips Red Bull

After a disappointing weekend last time out in Singapore, Mercedes were back on song today in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg will start Sunday’s race from pole position. Team-mate Lewis Hamilton shares the front row of the grid with Rosberg who took just his second pole position of the season. The session finished early following a red flag for Daniil Kvyat who was lucky to escape from a huge crash without injury.

Behind the Mercedes duo came the Williams of Valtteri Bottas who was narrowly faster than Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari.

Hamilton felt as if his second attempt would have been good enough to take yet another pole position, however due to the premature end to the session Hamilton was unable to improve his time. Kvyat dipped one wheel onto the grass which resulted in the accident at the exit of the Degner Curve. Due to the damage caused by the impact of the crash, the Russian will start the race from the pitlane. Despite starting at the back, points still could be possible at a circuit that rewards a good chassis and high downforce. 

The opening qualifying session was busy. Following yesterday’s rain in practice, the teams only had one session of dry running before the start of qualifying. The first driver to have a moment was Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber who entered the gravel trap on the exit of Spoon backwards after he dipped a wheel onto the grass. Ericsson lived to fight another day but failed to make it passed the first hurdle. 

Max Verstappen also ran into problems however it was not of his own doing. An electrical problem brought an early end to his day and stopped at the hairpin. The young Dutchman parked his car on the racing line and has been given a three-place penalty.

McLaren’s woes continued at Honda’s home race with Jenson Button also ending the session early after a breakdown in communication meaning Button, whose future is in doubt, started his last attempt in the wrong engine mode. Fernando Alonso described his effort in Q2 as one of the best laps of his career but for all his efforts he could only set the 12th fastest time of the day.

In what was a relatively quiet Q2 just four cars failed to progress any further. Nico Hulkenberg could only managed 11th place in front of Carlos Sainz, Pastor Maldonado, Alonso and Verstappen who did not set a time. Just three tenths of a second separated 11th place man Hulkenberg to fourteenth placed Alonso. Hulkenberg will go into the race with a three-place grid penalty after his collision with Felipe Massa at the Singapore Grand Prix.

All eyes were on the Mercedes duo as the green light appeare at the end of the pitlane with Rosberg and Hamilton matching each other sector for sector. Rosberg took the earlty initative with a time of 1:32.584, 0.076 faster than the championship leader Hamilton.

With a lock up at the hairpin for Hamilton on his attempt, it was clear that the Brit had more up his sleeve if he could just put it all together. Hamilton was slightly faster that Rosberg on his second attempt that was brought to a premature end for Kvyat’s red flag which then gave Rosberg the pole position.

1. Nico Rosberg

2. Lewis Hamilton

3. Valtteri Bottas

4. Sebastian Vettel 

5. Felipe Massa

6. Kimi Raikkonen

7. Daniel Ricciardo

8. Romain Grosjean

9. Sergio Perez

10. Carlos Sainz

11. Pastor Maldonado

12.  Fernando Alonso

13. Nico Hulkenberg

14. Jenson Button

15. Marcus Ericsson

16. Felipe Nasr

17. Max Verstappen

18. Will Stevens

19. Alexander Rossi

20. Daniil Kvyat