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. The Mercedes man took the pole after setting a fast first flying lap in Q3. He was able to get back onto the track and continue.
Most cars are expected to make two pit stops tomorrow if it stays dry.
Mercedes’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton was fifth and third fastest in the two sessions, while team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg was third and second, but times were meaningless.
This was borne out by Merc’s second run on the hard tyres. Barring mechanical problems or botched getaways at the start, the fight for the win should be a duel between Rosberg and Hamilton. Button had to slow down under the subsequent yellow flags and qualified only 16th. Kvyat himself was thankfully safe and walked away from the crash unscathed, if a little shaken.
“I’m sure the track was surely not as good, not much rubber down there, and beyond that I’m not sure what the reasons are”, he said.
Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer, replacing Romain Grosjean for the session, managed only an installation lap.
Max Verstappen was the first to put in a meaningful effort, posting a lap of 1:51.741 just before the hour mark on wet tires and steadily improved to a time of 1:51.640. Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado completed the top 10. He was asked to move over to let Carlos Sainz through due to him being the faster vehicle.
And it was this red flag that probably saved Nico Rosberg’s time, preserving it at the head of the order. The Briton was just a tenth of a second off the pace of his German teammate. Valtteri Bottas popped himself into P3 with his first run, lapping 0.4 seconds off the Merc pace.
Kvyat’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo was fourth followed by the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
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. Rosberg’s timing of 1min 32.584sec ensured him his second pole position of 2015.
Kvyat told the team over the radio that he was OK, but he was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks, as is mandatory in the event of a heavy crash.
Kvyat suffered a massive shut in qualifying at Suzuka after losing control of the auto as he turned into the right hand kink before the hairpin, the Russian driver impacting the barriers at speed and rolling over before coming to rest on his wheels.