Sebastian Vettel secured a stunning pole position for the Japanese GP in Sunday’s delayed qualifying, as Ferrari turned the tables on favourites Mercedes to seal a surprise front-row lockout.
In a session which was pushed back by 19 hours because of the Super Typhoon Hagibis, Vettel aced Q3 with two superb laps – which were both quicker than anything his rivals managed – to claim his first pole since the Canadian GP and, Ferrari’s fifth in a row.
Charles Leclerc, who had taken the previous four poles for the Scuderia, was second and two-tenths slower than his teammate – but crucially edged out Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.
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“This Ferrari since the summer break is unreal with the pace it’s got,” said Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta. “It is epic, absolutely spot on.”
Mercedes dominated Friday, the only other day of running in Suzuka due to the weather, but were shocked by Ferrari in the final shootout and Bottas and Hamilton could only manage third and fourth.
It is the first time the Silver Arrows have failed to seal a one-two in Japanese GP qualifying in the hybrid-era, while nobody has ever won from the second row in Suzuka.
Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull and 0.787s off pole as the Honda-powered team struggled in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, while Alex Albon impressed by matching his teammate’s time.
Both McLarens made it through to Q3, with Carlos Sainz once again ahead of Lando Norris, while Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean will also be happy to start in the top-10 in the race, which they only have three hours to prepare for.
Although the typhoon passed overnight in Suzuka and the sun was shining, there were still blustery conditions and those extreme winds caught Robert Kubica and Kevin Magnussen out at the start of the session.
Both drivers crashed into the barriers at the final corner as Q1 was twice red-flagged in the opening minutes.
Williams and Haas have a big job on their hands to get their cars ready for the race with a short turnaround.
Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo was left upset with his team as he delivered a frosty message to the pitlane following his disappointing exit in Q1, meaning he will start this afternoon’s Japanese Grand Prix in 16th position.
The Aussie favourite was knocked out behind his teammate Nico Hulkenberg as the Renault struggled to deal with the high winds in Suzuka following the passing of the typhoon which cancelled P3 and qualifying on Saturday.
After being told he had missed out on a spot in q2, Ricciardo gave the stern message back to his engineer, saying: “I’ll give my feedback once I get back”.
This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission.