Qualifying - Vettel snatches pole from Button by a whisker 08 Oct 2011
Although McLaren had dominated all sessions prior to the crucial final one, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel managed to clinch pole position by a mere nine-thousandths of a second at Suzuka on Saturday, just pipping Jenson Button to the top slot.
McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton also looked in with a shot at pole but a clumsy lead-up to his final flyer, as he tangled with Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and Red Bull's Mark Webber, meant he wasnt able to beat the chequered flag for a final run.
Hamilton had initially lapped in 1m 30.617s as Button and Vettel managed 1m 30.736s and 1m 30.825s on their first runs, but as Hamilton passed the chequered flag two seconds to the bad, Vettel was able to speed round in 1m 30.466s to snatch the honours. Button also improved, to 1m 30.475s, leaving Hamilton an unhappy third on the grid.
Behind them, Felipe Massa was fourth for Ferrari on 1m 30.804s, as team mate Fernando Alonso managed 1m 30.886s for fifth on his second run, having blown his first by sliding off the road in the Spoon Curve.
Mark Webber was a disappointed sixth for Red Bull on 1m 31.156s, his second run being slower, while Schumacher was left without a time after missing the chequered flag when he ran off track to avoid the slow-running Hamilton. Neither the Renaults of Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov nor Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi opted to do any Q3 laps, preferring to conserve tyres.
Although Schumacher was initially classified in seventh he has been demoted to eighth behind Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi but ahead of the Renaults of Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov. All four failed to set a time during Q3 but Kobayashi did start a qualifying lap before subsequently aborting it and, in line with the FA sporting regulations, is therefore positioned ahead of the other three on the grid.
Hamilton was fastest in Q2 with 1m 31.139s, as Vettel showed Red Bull's true colours for the first time with 1m 31.424s. The Force ndias lost out right at the end as they were bumped by Kobayashi and the Renaults, leaving Adrian Sutil 11th on 1m 32.463s and Paul di Resta 12th on 1m 32.746s.
The Williams duo were next, with Rubens Barrichello on 1m 33.079s and Pastor Maldonado on 1m 33.224s, then came the Toro Rossos. Both were in the top 10 until the closing moments, when the team elected to conserve tyres and not to defend their positions. Thus Sebastien Buemi (1m 33.227s) and Jaime Alguersuari (1m 33.427s) dropped to 15th and 16th. Sergio Perez didnt get a lap in because of mechanical problems at Sauber.
Q1 produced a surprise result as Sauber slapped a set of soft Pirellis on Kobayashi's car and he jumped to the top of the timesheets with 1m 32.626s ahead of the similarly-shod Sutil, leaving the medium tyre runners in the order behind them of Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Vettel, with soft-tyred interloper Petrov splitting the McLarens.
Further back, Heikki Kovalainen was 18th on 1m 35.454s ahead of Lotus partner Jarno Trulli on 1m 35.514s. Then Jerome d'Ambrosio aced Virgin team mate Timo Glock, 1m 36.439s to 1m 36.507s and Daniel Ricciardo was again HRT's faster runner with 1m 37.846s as Tonio Liuzzi yet again found his machine's engine wilting behind him and failed to record a time.
The talian wasn't alone, as hydraulic problems kept Nico Rosberg in the garage too. The German will thus line up 23rd, on the back of the grid with Liuzzi.
For the provisional grid, click here.
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.