Mark Webber has claimed his first pole position of the 2013 Formula One season, after a stunning lap at Suzuka.
Webber took the initiative when team mate Sebastian Vettel had a KERS failure in the final part of the session. Nevertheless, the German driver was still able to line up on the front row.
His chances of claiming a four consecutive title were given a boost when title rival, Fernando Alonso, could only manage eighth place. The Ferrari man had shown good pace in the opening two segments of the qualifying hour, but faded when it really mattered. Felipe Massa was therefore able to out-qualify his team mate once again and will start tomorrow’s race from fifth place.
Vettel will seal the championship tomorrow if he wins the race and Alonso finishes no higher than ninth place.
Lewis Hamilton had a good session and will start third, while Romain Grosjean managed to get the better of his team mate once more to line up fourth. Raikkonen will start just one place behind Alonso in ninth. Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button were the other three drivers inside the top ten and will start in sixth, seventh and tenth place respectively tomorrow.
It was an eventful start to the qualifying hour with fire afflicting two drivers. Esteban Gutierrez suffered a flash fire in his pit garage that saw the Mexican quickly jumping out the car. Sauber was able to send the car back on track a few minutes later though, but he failed to progress beyond Q2 and starts fourteenth.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the other one to see his car go up in flames. His rear brakes were stuck on, but they soon overheated and caught fire, leaving him stranded out on circuit in Q1. With smoke billowing from his Toro Rosso, the session was red flagged, leaving just under three minutes on the clock when the session was eventually re-started.
The Frenchman was knocked out in Q1 however, along with Force India’s Adrian Sutil and the usual new team suspects. But there was joy for Briton’s Max Chilton as he set a time faster than team mate Jules Bianchi, and both Caterhams. The lap was good enough for eighteenth position, while a penalty for Adrian Sutil means he starts dead last on the grid.
Vergne’s team mate, Daniel Ricciardo, also suffered a difficult session and was knocked out in Q2. Sergio Perez just missed out on getting through, with Paul di Resta easily getting the better of Sutil in twelfth place. Valtteri Bottas starred and managed to outperform team mate Pastor Maldonado, the two Williams cars being split by Gutierrez’s Sauber.