Nico Rosberg beat his Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team-mate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
The German set a best lap time of 1:32.506s in the final part of qualifying to better the Brit by 0.197s, with Hamilton slightly on the back foot after crashing during his qualifying simulation run in the morning practice session.
Valterri Bottas was the only other driver to be within one second of top spot in third for Williams Martini Racing ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, while Fernando Alonso, who put all the rumours about his future to the back of his mind, qualified fifth for Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo was sixth as the Infiniti Red Bull Racing squad struggled, with his current team-mate Sebastian Vettel only ninth on the day it was announced he would be leaving the team at the end of the season.
In-between the two Red Bull’s were the two McLaren drivers, with Kevin Magnussen just ahead of Jenson Button, while Kimi Raikkonen completed the top ten in the second Ferrari.
Jean-Eric Vergne was the first of the drivers to be eliminated in the second part of qualifying, but a ten-place grid penalty for an engine change on his Toro Rosso sees him fall to twenty-first.
Sergio Perez inherits eleventh for Force India as a result, alongside Daniil Kvyat in the second Toro Rosso, who was earlier announced as Vettel’s replacement at Red Bull in 2015 while Nico Hulkenberg will start thirteenth for Force India ahead of the two Sauber’s of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.
Pastor Maldonado was knocked out in the first part of qualifying by a last gasp quick lap from Sutil, but will start at the back of the grid after his engine change penalty from earlier in the weekend. His Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean therefore starts sixteenth.
Marcus Ericsson got the better of the Marussia–Caterham battle at the back, and moves up to seventeenth for Caterham after the penalties for Vergne and Maldonado. Jules Bianchi will start eighteenth for Marussia ahead of Kamui Kobayashi and Max Chilton.
But no one was able to get close to the Mercedes duo all day, and unless they run into trouble, it is hard to see anyone getting involved in the battle for the win with them.
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:35.593||1:34.466||1:34.075||17|
|9||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:35.517||1:34.784||1:34.432||17|
|11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.439||1:35.089||13|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1:35.000||1:35.099||13|