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Qualifying analysis - accidents and penalties shake up grid 03 Oct 2009

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 3 October 2009 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF109.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 3 October 2009 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 3 October 2009 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR4.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 3 October 2009 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 3 October 2009

Lack of dry road running time thanks to the rain on Friday, and the trickiness of several corners, notably Degner One and Two, conspired to make qualifying one of the most chaotic sessions in recent memory, with Toro Rosso team mates Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, Toyota’s Timo Glock and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen all suffering accidents and then Brawn GP’s Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Renault’s Fernando Alonso, all receiving five grid-place penalties for ignoring yellow flags.

Buemi got the same for getting in the way as he limped back to the pits after his second incident of the session, and Kovalainen gets a five-place penalty as his gearbox needed changing. With much confusion surrounding the starting order due to so many penalties, the FIA will issue the final grid on Sunday.

For the record, these were the top 10 fuel weights: Sebastian Vettel 658.5 kg, Jarno Trulli 655.5, Lewis Hamilton 656, Sutil 650, Barrichello 660.5, Nick Heidfeld 660, Button 658.5, Kimi Raikkonen 661, Kovalainen 675 and Buemi 665.4.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 32.160s, P1
Mark Webber, No time

Vettel kept his head and his concentration through all the chaos and said his Red Bull was perfect all through. Webber damaged the steering rack mountings on his RB5 during his Degner Two crash in morning practice, and as his car required a new chassis he did not participate in qualifying and will start from the pit lane.

Jarno Trulli, 1m 32.220s, P2
Timo Glock, No time, P14

Qualifying was bittersweet for Toyota after Glock’s nasty crash exiting the final corner in Q2, and then Trulli taking second place in the team’s home race. Trulli admits he is worried about the TF109’s starting performance, and heavy tyre degradation.

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 32.395s, P3
Heikki Kovalainen, No time, P9

Hamilton was quite happy with his MP4-24 after a mass of set-up changes transformed it from a beast in morning practice. Kovalainen spun at the start of Q1 and again in Q3, backing his car into the Degner Two wall and damaging the gearbox, hence a grid penalty for changing to a new unit.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 32.466s, P4
Vitantonio Liuzzi 1m 32.087s, P19

Sutil was in great form again, but lost a light-fuel fourth on the grid after his penalty was applied. Liuzzi had ’flu but matched him on hard tyres. But then he picked up serious understeer when he first tried the soft tyre in Q1, a gearbox problem in the morning having prevented him running them then. The gearbox needed changing so in any case he incurred a five grid-place penalty, and then a misunderstanding on tyre pressures ruined his chances of getting through Q1 in any case.

Rubens Barrichello, 1m 32.660s, P5
Jenson Button, 1m 32.962s, P7

Both drivers, like all the others in Q3, only got a single run in after Kovalainen’s off. Barrichello found his car better on race fuel in Q3 than it had been in the other two sessions. Button was very happy with his car in Q1 and Q2 but lost crucial rear-end grip in the first sector with race fuel, hence his relative loss of pace. The grid penalties seriously exacerbated their problems.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 32.945s, P6
Robert Kubica, 1m 32.341s, P13

Heidfeld wasn’t optimistic for qualifying after morning practice but said he got a great Q3 lap even though he lifted both his foot and one hand in the yellow flag area and lost a couple of tenths. Kubica was hugely disappointed to have all of his flying laps in qualifying ruined by red or yellow flags.

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 32.980s, P8
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 31.704s, P16

Raikkonen said the F60 was nice to drive but simply lacked downforce, as expected. He also had to use his last set of new soft Bridgestones to make sure of getting through Q2, so had no ace up his sleeve for Q3. Fisichella said his confidence in the car was improving, but a mistake cost him his chance of getting through Q1.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, No time, P10
Jaime Alguersuari, No time, P15

Buemi was in the wars, with a spin backwards into the wall at Degner Two in Q1, a recovery blast that got him through to Q2, then the crash exiting Spoon which took him into the barrier on the run to 130R and spread the debris which brought out the yellow flags that so many drivers ignored trying to get through to Q3. Ironically the Swiss driver got through, but his car was too badly damaged to participate. Alguersuari looked a lot more comfortable this weekend, until he slid off the road in Degner One and crashed heavily at Degner Two in Q2.

Nico Rosberg, 1m 31.482s, P11
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 31.718s, P17

Rosberg wasn’t happy with his qualifying performance and said he didn’t feel comfortable in the FW31 as the grip seemed to go away as qualifying progressed. He was more comfortable later, when other drivers’ penalties lifted him from 11th to a provisional sixth on the grid. Nakajima was very disappointed not to be able to emulate his Friday form in the wet.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 31.638s, P12
Romain Grosjean, 1m 32.073s, P18

Alonso’s excuse that he was blinded by Buemi’s dust and therefore didn’t see the yellow flags cut no mustard with the stewards, so he is consigned to a lowly grid position and a tough race. Grosjean struggled to 18th.