Japanese F1 Grand Prix 2013: Results, Times for Practice and Qualifying
Back-to-back races in Asia see the drivers follow up the Korean Grand Prix with the iconic Japanese race at Suzuka.
Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel has a remote chance of wrapping up his title this weekend, but behind him there is still plenty to play for with five rounds of the championship still to go.
Practice sessions for the race take place on Friday and Saturday ahead of qualifying, with the race set for Sunday.
Bleacher Report Race Weekend Essentials
Your comprehensive Japanese GP preview by Neil James.
Key storylines to watch at Suzuka by Fraser Masefield.
Looking at the race weekend odds.
Qualifying: Webber Spearheads Red Bull 1-2
Mark Webber ended Sebastian Vettel's four year streak of pole positions at Suzuka by posting the quickest time in Saturday morning's qualifying session. Vettel will start in second place on the grid, completing a Red Bull front-row lockout, whilst Lewis Hamilton will slot in behind them in third place.
Fernando Alonso, the only man who can stop Vettel claiming a fourth consecutive world title, will begin eighth on the grid, whilst next season's teammate Kimi Raikkonen will be disappointed to start one place behind him in ninth place. Especially with teammate Roman Grosjean up in fourth place.
For long parts of the weekend, it looked as though this was set to be another cake-walk for Vettel, but the problems he suffered in FP3 dragged on into the qualifying sessions. The German didn't have KERS available to him, and as such a spot on the front row must be viewed as a pretty decent effort.
Webber, who out-qualified his teammate for the first time this season, said that problems suffered by the World Champion did make this one a something of a hollow pole (from Sky Sports F1):
Sebastian had a problem so it's a bit of a hollow pole position and he still did a phenomeonal lap. But you've got to take them when you can and it's not like they hand them out
Naturally, with the world championship there for the taking in tomorrow's race, questions have already been asked in regards to team orders. When pressed on the issue, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner certainly didn't rule it out, claiming that both drivers "will do the best they can for the team" (from BBC Sport)
Fernando Alonso spoke of the tragic death of Maria De Villota's after today's qualifying, and how it has been hard for him to focus on his driving this weekend (from BBC Sport):
Yesterday was such a shock. You take the helmet off and they tell you this terrible news. It's hard to understand and you never expect it. She fought so much in the last year and she was full of life, it's tough.
Will Webber step aside and allow his teammate an easy world title win? Or will Red Bull allow the Aussie an opportunity to pick up another victory before he walks away from the sport at the end of the season?
It should be a fascinating contest. It always is at Suzuka. Stick with Bleacher Report for full race coverage tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here are the classified results from Satruday's qualifying sessions:
FP3: Webber Leads the Way
Mark Webber usurped the two Mercedes drivers to finish top of the pile in the final free practice session, with teammate Sebastian Vettel only managing to post the ninth fasted time overall. The German suffered reliability issues which prevented him from carrying out an option tyre run, aimed at simulating the qualification process
The battle for pole looks as though it will be fought out between the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers once again, which could spell bad news for Vettel's closest title rival Fernando Alonso; the Spaniard must finish eighth place at worst in Sunday's race if he is to keep his slim title hopes alive.
Lotus' Sebastian Grosjean posted the fourth quickest time of the session, with teammate Kimi Raikonnen loitering way down in eight place. Much more will be expected of the Lotus team come qualifying.
The session was not without incident, of course. Force India's Adrian Sutil completely lost the back end on his way out of spoon curve. That was before ploughing into the barrier and tearing off his front wing. Needless to say, that but a swift end to his session.
Should be an intriguing qualifying session, stick with us for full coverage! In the meantime, here are your final classifications from FP3:
FP2: Vettel Top of Session
Sebastian Vettel returned to his familiar place on the top of the timesheets in second free practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
The German set the session's quickest time, but it was his long-run pace which will once again have his rivals scratching their heads.
He was a clear second a lap and more on average ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was third in the session.
There were plenty of incidents, with Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Hamilton amongst the men to leave the track.
However, Sergio Perez's shunt was perhaps the biggest—his car stepping out after his tyre hit the astroturf at Spoon.
Here are the session times (also reported on the Eurosport website):
FP1: Hamilton Leads Mercedes 1-2
Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in the first free practice session ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Nico Rosberg was second ahead of Sebastian Vettel, as the top four constructors finished in pairs.
Behind the Mercedes duo and the Red Bulls were the two Ferraris, followed by the Lotus drivers.
There were plenty of incidents.
Pastor Maldonado lost a rear wheel. Jules Bianchi hit the wall and was forced to sit out the second session while his car was repaired. Guido van der Garde also had a heavy shunt.
Here are the session times (you can find them here on the Eurosport website):