Nico Rosberg claimed a fortuitous pole position ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton at the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday as Mercedes returned to its dominant form.
The Brackley-based outfit put the disappointing performance at Singapore behind them and once again dominated the field to take the front row of the grid for Sunday’s race.
Red Bull F1’s Daniil Kvyat was lucky to escape unhurt after a major crash that bought a premature end to qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Team-mate Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, finished a distant fourth behind eventual victor Sebastian Vettel, who raced to his third win of the season for Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Red Bull, ahead of Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Force India’s Sergio Perez.
Ahead of Saturday’s third practice, the world champion added: “I hope it’s dry”.
“I mainly feel sorry for them”.
“It is very good for us [to beat Ferrari], although obviously it a very different track to Singapore“, said Bottas. “My engineers did a fantastic job trying to get it set up in a nice place and it was an exciting qualifying with the [close] gap to Nico, a shame I didn’t get to do that last lap”. It’s fantastic after such a hard weekend in Singapore to be back to our usual strength. I was really comfortable with the way the auto handled today. “Great position for tomorrow”.
Despite drivers slipping and sliding their way around the 5.8km lap during P1, everyone managed to keep it out of the barriers, although Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen all had off-track moments.
Max Verstappen span coming out of the hairpin, blaming a problem with his engine, beaching his Toro Rosso.
Both McLarens were on their final laps at the time and Button was 0.1secs down on team-mate Fernando Alonso’s own final lap before both had to slow in the middle sector as a result of the caution flags around the stationary Toro Rosso.
“The position we are in, we can’t afford to make any mistakes”, the Englishman snapped at McLaren mechanics, frustrated by an earlier communication mix-up.
The session shook itself out and left Jenson Button, who considers Japan his second home race, in P16 and out, just behind teammate Alonso, who snuck through to the second session.
While Vettel praises his auto as being effective on any type of circuit he has remained reserved on his chances for this Sunday’s race against the Mercedes drivers.
Kvyat said he was more concerned about the disappointment of setting his team back than any immediate pain he was feeling.