Fresh from the exciting and historic night race in Singapore, F1 heads to Japan for the 10th round of the season.
McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton seeks to extend his lead over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who surely wants to perform well this weekend to keep his title hopes alive.
With Ferrari now trailing McLaren by just one point in the manufacturers’ championship, and the weight of a dismal result in Singapore for the team weighing on their shoulders, both he and Kimi Raikkonen should be pressed to finish in the points to reclaim the manufacturers' title lead.
As heavy rain proved to be the key factor in Japan last year, who will be fastest at Fuji? Here’s a recap of the qualifying action:
After a wet morning practice, a slightly damp track set the stage for the first qualifying round, but no immediate rain was expected.
Felipe Massa asserted himself early in Q1 to take the top time at the five-minute mark, but Lewis Hamilton answered back moments later with his own quick lap to bump Massa and ensure his passage into Q2.
Ample sunshine prevailed throughout Q1, and the track continued to dry out. Timo Glock in the factory Toyota showed good pace, completing more laps than any other driver and continually posting quick times.
Knocked out after Q1: Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil, and Giancarlo Fisichella.
As the track went green for the 15-minute qualifying session, a clean dry line had emerged, though some damp spots remained. Many drivers chose to start off Q2 with the softer option tires, and faster times resulted.
Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa quickly took the top times early in the session, showing the determination of the boys in red. Hamilton and Kovalainen split the Ferraris to take second and third fastest times.
The top of the time chart was occupied by the Ferraris and McLarens for the majority of Q2. Knocked out after Q2: David Coulthard, Nelson Piquet, Mark Webber, Kazuki Nakajima, and Nico Rosberg.
The final 10-minute qualifying session started off with little on-track action, fuel and tire strategies no doubt still being hammered out. As the first cars left pit lane, only eight minutes were left on the clock.
On their first hot laps, Kimi Raikkonen was the first to set the fastest time, closely followed by teammate Felipe Massa. Lewis Hamilton claimed the third spot five minutes into the session, while teammate Heikki Kovalainen took fourth.
With just 15 seconds left on the clock, Hamilton deposed Raikkonen to claim pole, bumping the Finn to second.
Surprisingly, Fernando Alonso bumped Felipe Massa in the final stages of the session, while Kovalainen kept the pace to claim third.
The grid for race day is:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Heikki Kovalainen
- Fernando Alonso
- Felipe Massa
- Robert Kubica
- Jarno Trulli
- Timo Glock
- Sebastian Vettel
- Sebastien Bourdais
- David Coulthard
- Nelson Piquet
- Mark Webber
- Kazuki Nakajima
- Nico Rosberg
- Nick Heidfeld
- Rubens Barrichello
- Jenson Button
- Adrian Sutil
- Giancarlo Fisichella
The championship heats up with more unexpected qualifying performances. Seemingly out of nowhere, Kimi Raikkonen out-qualifies teammate Felipe Massa, who was also outdone by the winner of the last GP, former world champion Fernando Alonso.
Lewis Hamilton looks ready to increase and solidify his championship lead, and teammate Heikki Kovalainen is well-placed to support him.
The Japan Grand Prix is shaping up to be full of some great action!