Lewis Hamilton grabs career pole number 80 as Sebastian Vettel struggles starting ninth
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News October 6, 2018 Updated: 4:01 AM PT
SUZUKA, Japan — After having a dominant Friday practice, Lewis Hamilton continued that dominance while reaching another career milestone after taking his 80th pole position in Saturday's qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.
“It’s really an amazing journey to be on with this team and I don’t think 80 pole positions is the end – but it’s a milestone and I’m very proud. The last six years with this team have been incredible and I’m so proud of everyone and so grateful for everyone’s hard work which has enabled me to go out and exploit my own abilities,” said Hamilton.
It was a Mercedes front row lockout for the fifth consecutive time in Japan after teammate Valtteri Bottas finished second ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
The struggle seems to continue for Ferrari with Kimi Raikkonen, who will start fourth, and teammate Sebastian Vettel, who ran into trouble after running wide at Turn 14 on his opening lap.
Vettel attempted a second run but as conditions worsened and the minutes ticked away, he was not able to improve on his time and will start ninth but will move up one place after Esteban Ocon was hit with a three place grid penalty for failing to slow down during the red flag period.
“At the beginning of Q3, I was asked if it was ok for me to go out on Inters and I said yes. Obviously, it was the wrong decision and now it’s easy to say, but it could have been the other way around. We thought there could have been more rain, but in the end it didn’t come. If it had rained five minutes before, it would have been a different story. However, it wasn’t our session in terms of timing and we’ve been through similar situations a couple of time so far. We are a team, so now we accept together the consequences. Tomorrow is another day, it won’t be easy as we start from the back, but it’s not impossible.” Vettel said.
Raikkonen added: “It was a tricky qualifying with mixed conditions. In Q3 we thought that the rain would come earlier, so we decided to go out on Intermediate tires. Unfortunately it did not happen and then we were a bit off with the timing. We came in to fit the Supersoft , but in turn 14 I touched a wet kerb, ran a bit wide and lost some time. Obviously fourth place is not ideal, but at least we were able to put a lap together despite the mistake. Third position could have been easily possible. It’s a pity we did not get it today; the feeling with the car was getting better and better in qualifying. For sure tomorrow is going to be tricky, but we will do our best.”
That red flag was triggered when Sauber ’s Marcus Ericsson lost his car at Turn 7, sliding across the gravel and slamming his car into the wall. Romain Grosjean qualified fifth for Haas ahead of Toro Rosso drivers Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly in sixth and seventh.
With Sebastian Vettel’s move to eighth after Ocon’s penalty, Ocon’s teammate Sergio Pérez will move to ninth followed by Charles Leclerc, who will start tenth after qualifying 11th but had a wild 360 spin when he lost control of his car at Turn 8.
Eleventh placed Ocon will start ahead of Kevin Magnussen who was also a victim of the wet conditions and will start 12th in the second Haas.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz qualified 13th ahead of Williams driver Lance Stroll who pulled an impressive lap to advance into Q2 and start 14th.
Daniel Ricciardo will have some work to do tomorrow after his Red Bull encountered a loss of power forcing him to lump his car back to the pits at the start of Q2. The team felt it would be pointless to attempt a lap as conditions worsen leaving him to start 15th.
Nico Hulkenberg finished 16th in the second Renault ahead of Stroll’s Williams teammate Sergey Sirotkin in 17th. McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne will start 18th and 19th with the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson in 20th.