His vehicle hurtled into the barriers, was projected into a complete 360 degree spin and then somersaulted. The damage to the auto was severe, with half the vehicle missing.
Hamilton won last year’s race at Suzuka but Vettel has had the most success here of any current F1 driver, winning four times between 2009 and 2013.
Teams took to the track in droves in an attempt to continue gathering data after practice was condensed into a single session earlier on Saturday, and nearly every driver used the hard tyre as they felt their way through the session. The Ferrari man will have the wind behind him and the momentum to give Ferrari a win on an occasion which is dedicated to one of their extended family members.
Suzuka, a fast track with challenging corners, should be much more to Mercedes’ liking but both Hamilton and Rosberg had hoped for more reassurance than they were able to get from yesterday’s sessions.
Rosberg’s best lap of one minute and 33.995 seconds saw the German end the session 0.297 seconds faster than Hamilton, who he trails by 41 points in the championship with six races left.
Rosberg qualified on pole on Saturday with Hamilton alongside. In contrast, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas didn’t bother taking to the track at all.
Bottas had to catch his FW37 after hitting a puddle coming through Turn Two, before soon running off the road at 130R, while Massa briefly slid into the gravel at the second Degner.
“There was a yellow flag in the middle sector so obviously I had to lift and without that I probably would have got through”, Button explained. “On my first run I wasn’t told what engine setting to use”, Button said. “I’m not as good as they are rebuilding the auto but I’ll try to stay as long as I can tonight”.
“The vehicle didn’t feel too bad to drive”. “We can’t make these little mistakes”.
For McLaren and Honda it never rains but it pours. He will start the race from the pitlane after his 180kph shunt.
“The first two runs, I didn’t hook it up, so struggled a bit”, said Vettel. “Obviously he knew he was on the edge, but I don’t think he expected to be on the grass”. It’s a great day today.
“It’s fantastic after Singapore to be back to our usual strength”.
“As for me, I pretty much nailed my laps so really pleased with the way that it went”.
Lewis Hamilton was beaten to pole as qualifying in Japan was halted by a huge smash, writes Byron Young in Suzuka. “That is not what gives me joy and is not what excites me”.