F1: Hamilton dominates Japanese GP qualifying for first Suzuka pole

Lewis Hamilton surged to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix with a dominant display in Saturday’s Formula 1 qualifying session, setting a new track record en route to his first Suzuka pole position. Hamilton arrived in Japan having taken pole at all 19 of the other circuits on the current F1 calendar, and completed the set by finishing three-tenths of a second clear of the field in qualifying at Suzuka.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas qualified second after recovering from a crash earlier in the day, but will drop five places on the grid due to a gearbox penalty, lifting Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel from third onto the front row of the grid.

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen took P4 and P5 respectively for Red Bull ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who has also been hit with a five-place gearbox penalty, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez taking seventh and eighth for Force India. Felipe Massa took ninth for Williams, while Fernando Alonso led McLaren into the top 10 in qualifying at Honda’s home race. The Spaniard will start last, though, due to a 35-place grid drop.

Stoffel Vandoorne was unfortunate to be knocked out by McLaren teammate Alonso in Q2 despite the Spaniard having a grid penalty, qualifying 11th and just 0.029 seconds off a spot in the final session.

Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer finished 12th and 14th respectively for Renault, split by Haas racer Kevin Magnussen, while Carlos Sainz Jr. struggled to P15 as Toro Rosso continued to lack pace after a disappointing showing in Friday practice.

 Romain Grosjean saw his qualifying come to an early end after spinning off heading through the esses, slamming into the barrier and causing a large amount of damage to the front-end of his Haas car. The shunt led to Q1 being red-flagged with one minute remaining, leaving Grosjean 16th and eliminating the cars behind in the process.

On his second F1 qualifying appearance, Pierre Gasly failed to make it through to Q2 for Toro Rosso, finishing P17 ahead of Lance Stroll, who was aggrieved after allegedly being blocked by Perez. Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein propped up the grid in P19 and P20 respectively.

Source: Story and photo: CRASH