Suzuka, Japan – Formula One world champions Mercedes see resurgent Ferrari as a genuine threat and have done since early in the season, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg said at the Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday.
And with the Stevenage-born racer unable to complete his final hot lap, Hamilton’s Silver Arrows colleague will start from first place on the grid.
Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton to pole for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as Mercedes returned to form in qualifying. Rosberg grabbed the pole at one minute and 32.584 seconds while Hamilton trailed behind at 1:32.660.
Valtteri Bottas will therefore start third for Williams with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, victor last time out in Singapore, fourth on the grid.
Elsewhere, Max Verstappen was an impressive seventh for Toro Rosso with Vettel in eighth, Romain Grosjean ninth in his Lotus. and Carlos Sainz in the other Toro Rosso rounding out the top 10. Mercedes looking to fix their mysterious loss of pace in Singapore last weekend shot out to the quickest times in the second session before Kvyat backed up an impressive early display by edging ahead of Rosberg. He was later beaten by Hamilton in the actual race though, which was held in wet conditions. “I cannot do any more than this”, he said over the team radio. I nailed my laps today, and at times I had the ideal auto, so it was great to drive that here. “I am not as good at building the vehicle as they are but I will stay with them as long as I can because I feel sorry for them”. For the second race weekend in a row McLaren’s Jenson Button failed to make it to Q2.
“Happy birthday, mum!” Rosberg said in German after securing only his second pole of the year.
The Russian brought out the red flags at the end of Q3 when he crashed at the kink before the Suzuka hairpin, smashing into the tyre barrier and rolling over before his auto came to rest in the gravel trap. “Obviously he knew he was on the edge, but I don’t think he expected to be on the grass”.
An unhappy Dutchman told Sky Sports F1 that his vehicle just lost all power at the corner and complained it was the fourth or fifth time it had happened this season. “Nico (Rosberg) is driving well this weekend, but I felt good on this (first) lap”, said Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso had to wait for McLaren to switch his engine after Honda mechanics discovered a problem after the morning practice. He will have to ask the stewards for permission to start Sunday’s race.
The Mercedes look to be on a different planet in Japan, and barring any technical issues, it will be a battle between the two teammates for the first two positions, while Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull will fight it out for the final place on the podium.