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Qualifying - Webber grabs first pole of the season in Japan 12 Oct 2013

(L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, pole sitter Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 12 October 2013 There is another fire on track as the rear brakes of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso catch light, red-flagging Q1 Esteban Gutierrez leaps out of his Sauber after a fire sparks at the rear of his car in the first phase of qualifying Sebastian Vettel asserts his dominance with a very quick lap of 1m 31.290 for Red Bull Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 12 October 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mark Webber claimed his first pole position of the season - and his first since Korea last year - with a superb performance in qualifying in Japan on Saturday afternoon. The Australian got the better of Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel, who suffered from intermittent KERS issues in Q3.

Webber had set the pace in Q1 at Suzuka with 1m 32.271s as he took the honours away from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who in turn had displaced Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. But with only a few minutes remaining the session was temporarily red-flagged when Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso rolled to a smoky halt at the Degner Curve with its rear brakes on fire.

After the STR8 had been liberally doused in fire extinguishant the session resumed briefly, giving those who wanted another run just enough time to complete one more timed lap. There was another fire, this time when Esteban Gutierrez got back to his pit and the rear end of his Sauber was briefly set ablaze.

Several runners, notably Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, opted for the medium compound Pirellis and as they jumped to the top of the times with 1m 31.824s and 1m 31.994s respectively, Adrian Sutil paid the price for his FP3 crash and was the first man who failed to get through, with 1m 32.890s.

Vergne was a sitting duck and dropped to 18th, while Max Chilton did a great job to outqualify the Caterhams. The Englishman lapped his Marussia in 1m 34.320s to Charles Pic’s 1m 34.556s and Giedo van der Garde’s 1m 34.879s. Jules Bianchi did a great job to bang in a lap of 1m 34.958s in his rebuilt Marussia, making the fight between the rival teams closer than it’s been all season.

In Q2 Vettel shaded Webber as he topped the times with 1m 31.290s, while further back McLaren’s Sergio Perez was pipped to a Q3 place as Massa staged a late improvement to sixth place. That left the Mexican on 1m 31.989s just ahead of Paul di Resta on 1m 31.992s for Force India. Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado were 13th and 15th for Williams with 1m 32.013s and 1m 32.093s respectively, sandwiching Gutierrez on 1m 32.063s. Daniel Ricciardo was 16th on 1m 32.485s in the remaining Toro Rosso.

Webber actually set two times that were quick enough for pole position in Q3; his first lap of 1m 30.975s quicker than Vettel’s two efforts of 1m 31.312s and 1m 31.089s, and his second an improved 1m 30.915s.

As the Red Bulls wrapped up the front row, Hamilton improved from 10th place to third with his last-gasp lap of 1m 31.253s, moving Grosjean across to the outside of the second row on 1m 31.365s.

Massa once again outgunned Ferrari team mate Alonso, as the Brazilian set the fifth-best time of 1m 31.378s and the Spaniard could only manage 1m 31.665s for eighth. In between them came Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes on 1m 31.397s and Sauber’s impressive Nico Hulkenberg on 1m 31.644s.

On the fifth row, Kimi Raikkonen recorded 1m 31.684s in the second Lotus to edge ahead of Jenson Button’s 1m 31.827s in the lead McLaren.

Sutil, Pic and Bianchi all have grid penalties; Sutil five places for changing his gearbox after his FP3 crash, and the two Frenchman 10-place penalties apiece for picking up their third reprimands of the season in Korea. That means that the last six drivers on the grid will line up in this order: Vergne, Chilton, Van der Garde, Sutil, Pic and Bianchi.

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