Hamilton misses best pole position chance yet

2011 Japanese GP qualifying analysis

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Suzuka, 2011

Lewis Hamilton was provisionally on pole position – before missing out on his final timed lap at the end of Q3.

Given the gains Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button made with their last efforts, Hamilton may well have missed out on his best chance for pole position so far this the year.

Here’s all the data from qualifying.

Qualifying times in full

  • Both Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel found nearly a second between their Q2 and Q3 runs thanks to the track gaining grip as it cleaned up and more rubber went down.
  • But Hamilton gained just half a second as he failed to set a time when the track conditions were at their best – and he was only two-tenths of a second away from pole.
  • Hamilton said the result shows McLaren have made progress with their car: “We’ve definitely shown an improvement: to be so close at a high-speed circuit like this means we’re doing well. It’s very encouraging, because if we’d had this car at the beginning of the season, I think the championship could have been a different story.”
  • Nico Rosberg failed to reach Q3 for the first time this year. Now only the McLaren and Ferrari drivers, plus Sebastian Vettel, have done so in all 15 events.

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’33.0511’31.424 (-1.627)1’30.466 (-0.958)
2Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’32.9471’31.434 (-1.513)1’30.475 (-0.959)
3Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’32.8431’31.139 (-1.704)1’30.617 (-0.522)
4Felipe MassaFerrari1’33.2351’31.909 (-1.326)1’30.804 (-1.105)
5Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’32.8171’31.612 (-1.205)1’30.886 (-0.726)
6Mark WebberRed Bull1’33.1351’31.576 (-1.559)1’31.156 (-0.420)
7Kamui KobayashiSauber1’32.6261’32.380 (-0.246)
8Bruno SennaRenault1’33.3591’32.297 (-1.062)
9Vitaly PetrovRenault1’32.8771’32.245 (-0.632)
10Michael SchumacherMercedes1’33.7481’32.116 (-1.632)
11Adrian SutilForce India1’32.7611’32.463 (-0.298)
12Paul di RestaForce India1’33.4991’32.746 (-0.753)
13Rubens BarrichelloWilliams1’33.9211’33.079 (-0.842)
14Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’33.7811’33.224 (-0.557)
15Sebastien BuemiToro Rosso1’33.0641’33.227 (+0.163)
16Jaime AlguersuariToro Rosso1’35.1111’33.427 (-1.684)
17Sergio PerezSauber1’34.704
18Heikki KovalainenLotus1’35.454
19Jarno TrulliLotus1’35.514
20Jerome D’AmbrosioVirgin1’36.439
21Timo GlockVirgin1’36.507
22Daniel RicciardoHRT1’37.846
23Nico RosbergMercedes
24Vitantonio LiuzziHRT

Team mate comparisons

Compare the best times of each team’s drivers in the last part of qualifying in which they both set a time.

  • Felipe Massa out-qualified Fernando Alonso for the third time in 15 attempts this year.
  • Jerome d’Ambrosio did likewise to Timo Glock.
  • And the same happened at Mercedes with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg as well – though Schumacher was aided by Rosberg being unable to set a time.
TeamDriverLap timeGapLap timeDriverRound
Red BullSebastian Vettel1’30.466-0.6901’31.156Mark WebberQ3
McLarenLewis Hamilton1’30.617+0.1421’30.475Jenson ButtonQ3
FerrariFernando Alonso1’30.886+0.0821’30.804Felipe MassaQ3
RenaultBruno Senna1’32.297+0.0521’32.245Vitaly PetrovQ2
WilliamsRubens Barrichello1’33.079-0.1451’33.224Pastor MaldonadoQ2
Force IndiaAdrian Sutil1’32.463-0.2831’32.746Paul di RestaQ2
Toro RossoSebastien Buemi1’33.227-0.2001’33.427Jaime AlguersuariQ2
LotusHeikki Kovalainen1’35.454-0.0601’35.514Jarno TrulliQ1
VirginTimo Glock1’36.507+0.0681’36.439Jerome D’AmbrosioQ1

Sector times

Here are the drivers’ best times in each sector.

  • Unusually, Vettel took pole position despite not being the fastest driver in any of the three sectors.
DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel32.224 (4)40.697 (2)17.545 (2)
Jenson Button32.177 (3)40.695 (1)17.603 (4)
Lewis Hamilton32.149 (2)40.907 (4)17.561 (3)
Felipe Massa32.268 (5)40.905 (3)17.631 (5)
Fernando Alonso32.443 (6)40.975 (5)17.468 (1)
Mark Webber32.111 (1)41.312 (6)17.648 (6)
Kamui Kobayashi32.870 (9)41.611 (9)17.899 (11)
Michael Schumacher33.109 (12)41.341 (7)17.666 (7)
Bruno Senna32.660 (7)41.623 (10)18.014 (15)
Vitaly Petrov32.706 (8)41.697 (12)17.718 (8)
Adrian Sutil33.005 (11)41.556 (8)17.902 (12)
Paul di Resta33.176 (13)41.645 (11)17.925 (14)
Rubens Barrichello33.232 (15)41.977 (14)17.870 (10)
Pastor Maldonado33.325 (17)42.090 (16)17.809 (9)
Sebastien Buemi32.994 (10)41.994 (15)17.921 (13)
Jaime Alguersuari33.273 (16)41.968 (13)18.038 (16)
Sergio Perez33.199 (14)42.565 (17)18.351 (20)
Heikki Kovalainen34.329 (19)43.070 (18)18.055 (17)
Jarno Trulli34.124 (18)43.122 (19)18.268 (18)
Jerome D’Ambrosio34.658 (20)43.414 (21)18.351 (20)
Timo Glock34.780 (21)43.399 (20)18.328 (19)
Daniel Ricciardo35.205 (22)43.930 (22)18.583 (22)

Speed trap

Here are the drivers’ maximum speeds.

  • Fernando Alonso was the fastest driver by a clear 3kph, suggesting he may have picked up a tow on one of his laps.
PosDriverCarSpeed (kph)Gap
1Fernando AlonsoFerrari311.0
2Felipe MassaFerrari307.9-3.1
3Bruno SennaRenault307.6-3.4
4Vitaly PetrovRenault307.2-3.8
5Mark WebberRed Bull306.8-4.2
6Sebastian VettelRed Bull306.5-4.5
7Pastor MaldonadoWilliams306.2-4.8
8Jaime AlguersuariToro Rosso306.1-4.9
9Jenson ButtonMcLaren306.1-4.9
10Michael SchumacherMercedes305.6-5.4
11Kamui KobayashiSauber305.1-5.9
12Sebastien BuemiToro Rosso304.3-6.7
13Lewis HamiltonMcLaren302.8-8.2
14Jerome D’AmbrosioVirgin302.5-8.5
15Paul di RestaForce India302.1-8.9
16Timo GlockVirgin301.2-9.8
17Rubens BarrichelloWilliams300.9-10.1
18Sergio PerezSauber300.6-10.4
19Heikki KovalainenLotus300.0-11.0
20Adrian SutilForce India299.9-11.1
21Daniel RicciardoHRT295.8-15.2
22Jarno TrulliLotus294.3-16.7
23Nico RosbergMercedes291.8-19.2
24Vitantonio LiuzziHRT221.4-89.6

2011 Japanese Grand Prix

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    Image © McLaren

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    58 comments on “Hamilton misses best pole position chance yet”

    1. I guess it’s slightly disappointing for Petrov to be 10th on the grid behind Senna after he was faster the whole weekend so far…

    2. I would like to highlight Alonso’s approach to the race. Despite starting from only 5th on the grid – though on the clean side, which could help – he delivered the quickest Sector 3.

      He seems to run with the smallest wing possible, and good mechanical grip, which the Casio Triangle needs – which can help him defend his position (á lá Schumacher in Monza) if Ferrari will be unable to cope with the medium compound yet again in the dying stages of the Grand Prix.

      It means he will be right on the tail of the one he pursues by the time they reach Turn 1, catching up from way down after Spoon. DRS will help him there.

      Vettel is right, it’s going to be a sizzling race, if everybody at the front delivers and the race will not be destroyed by a Safety Car period as per the Belgian and the Singapore events.

      1. I was just about to mention that. His setup should help if he is racing cars on roughly the same pace. Sadly it looks like the Ferrari isn’t quite n the pace so unless he can do another rocket start this could become a lonely race for him. Then again more than once this season he surprised me by outdriving his car until the harder compound was being used so I hope he can do it again.
        It’ also be nice to see Massa in the mix. That was one solid lap he showed today.

        1. Yep, I’d very much like to see a trouble-free race for Massa. He was on par with the front runners in Monza and Singapore until his collisons.

          Nevertheless, I expect Alonso to beat him to Turn 1 aided by the clean side of the grid.

          I can’t wait for the race.

      2. I agree. If that Ferrari can hold on a bit to the harder compound towards the final stint, and if he’s still the top 5 by then, a podium should not be impossible.
        I have my money on Jenson for the top step in Suzuka and on a DNF for Vettel.

        Let’s see. :)

    3. Mark Webber 32.111 (1) 41.312 (6) 17.648 (6)

      What happened there?

      1. @fer-no65 Not sure. He was pretty vague in the press release:

        I’m very surprised to be sixth. I did my best, but it wasn’t quick enough and it was a bit of a surprise that I couldn’t go with the pace there at the end. Seb obviously did a massive lap for pole so he got on the front row just, which was a great effort. I’m disappointed to be on the third row. The car was pretty good yesterday on the long run – and it was good on short runs too, up until the end there – so clearly I didn’t get the most out of it today. I’ll wake up and push tomorrow.

        He may have given a better quote somewhere.

        1. @keithcollantine Apparently he left the Hamilton-incident with dirty tyres, then couldn’t open the DRS from the harpin up to Spoon, because he wasn’t going flat out… bit weird overall.

          Come on, Mark! Get on with it for once…!

          1. So another chapter in the history of weird things that can only happen to Mark Webber.

            Lets see how he’ll start tomorrow, but even if he has a normal one I don’t see him gaining much there. Interestingly, he could have started from 6th even without setting a laptime therefore saving tyres.

          2. Not sure that the grass on tyres could account for that though, as he then got the fastest 1st sector. Although it seems odd that he wasn’t going flat-out up to spoon, as I presume he had done previously?

            I am a massive fan of Webber, but I think the loss of the title last year when it was in his grasp and to lose it to Vettel/Vettel upping his game onto another plane has really flummoxed him

            1. @james_mc

              Agree. Last year’s title decider must’ve hit him hard. That, and Vettel seriously raising his game, destroyed MW for this year.

              Hope he has a good race. But first, he needs to get off the line properly, and that’s not going to happen IMO.

      2. Maybe he pushed too hard to be able to start his lap and then the usual Webber-effect kicked in: tyres went out.

    4. Would be interesting to see what the official time gap was between Jenson and Webber when they passed the finish line on the final lap to see whether Lewis’ was justified in leaving such a gap from Jenson and thus missing his timed lap. I did an timing via my recording and the gap was something like 4.11 secs. Webber was 0.710 slower than Vettel’s lap and 0.701 slower than Jenson. Even if Lewis was able to qualify a full second faster than anyone else he would’ve still had a gap of 2.4 secs behind Jenson – which I believe is more than enough gap for Lewis to do his final lap.

      1. I’d be more interested in seeing the gap between Button and Massa to see if Jenson was justified in slowing the field. I think Lewis would have stepped on it a bit more if he wasn’t closing on his team mate at the chicane.

        1. If Lewis got his timed lap in and let’s say he gain about 1 sec on his Q2 time he would’ve got a pole time of 1.30.139 – which is about 1 sec faster than Webber’s fastest and final lap. My unofficial timing gap between Jenson finishing and Webber finishing was about 4.11secs. Which would mean that if Lewis followed Jenson and still clocked the fastest lap he would still be 3 secs behind Jenson at the finish of Q3.

          Nevertheless, Lewis’ first objective is to ensure he gets his car across the line for a timed lap. No point going out for a final run and not getting the car across the line in time to get the final run in. It was just a poor decision to leave too much of a gap, he should’ve been focusing on getting his run in first and then worry about traffic.

          1. Did Webber worry about the traffic in front of him? – he was more worried about whether he’d get a lap in and couldn’t care who was in front, hence he was able to do his final lap.

        2. I don’t know what the finishing gap was between Massa and Jenson but Jenson had been consistently faster than Massa all weekend (half a second faster was the closest gap in FP2, but most of the time Jenson was inexcess of 1 sec faster than Massa), so if you know you’re that mush faster than the guy ahead you’d want a signifcant gap. Plus it not the guy up front that should be worried about whether the guy at the back can get their timed run in. Every driver should be responsible for getting their own timed run in. If they get caught in traffic it’s just bad luck, but to not even make the final run is poor judgement.

    5. What do you actually mean with ‘Lewis Hamilton was provisionally on pole position’? Because it rather annoys me a little bit that everyone on the BBC was speculating that Lewis might have got the pole if he didn’t delay his second Q3 run too much. I mean, Webber or Button could also have caugth pole, isn’t it? I think that Vettel genuinely captured pole and that’s it.

      1. He just meant that at that moment Lewis was P1.

    6. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. What’s up with Hamilton’s speed trap difference to Jenson? Setup?

      1. Setup. Lewis had more rear wing.

        1. Was that mentioned somewhere? Or maybe his wing was visibly steeper?

    7. I blame both the team and the driver. I mainly blame Hamilton for this as he was clearly instructed not to back off or let other cars through, which he did, if he didn’t back off so much he would’ve got his lap in.

    8. Short and sweet: Well done d’Ambrosio!

      1. @john-h Well said. Putting one over a much more experienced team mate at a proper driver’s track like Suzuka is impressive.

        1. Putting one over a much more experienced team mate at a proper driver’s track like Suzuka is impressive.

          @KeithCollantine I’m glad you praise Massa!

      2. @John-H He has been remarkably consistent this season.

    9. Full marks to Mclaren for messing Hamilton’s chances once again. Anyone who blames Hamilton for not leaving the pits earlier probably should be watching football.
      The funny thing about Schumacher was he had no intention to set a time, so he could have gone out much earlier like Kobayashi.
      Hamilton needs a new team, Withmarsh will always put him second even when he is ahead of his team mate. Mclaren’s priority has been Button since last year, unfortunately he can’t read the writing on the wall.

      1. I blame Lewis for not getting on the gas earlier. He left his gap to Jenson far too much – evident that Webber was about 4sec behind Jenson when they finished. And Webber came out for the final run behind Lewis and still managed to get his final run in. I wouldn’t be surprised that Lewis admits to his own fault in the press tomorrow once he sees the telemetry.

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised that Lewis admits to his own fault in the press tomorrow once he sees the telemetry.


          I rest my case.

      2. if anybody should be watching football, it should be you? Lewis was late out because McLaren were adjusting his front wing. As for the rest of your comment, its pure speculation.

        1. And who was out later than Lewis? Webber, and he made it to his final lap… and he finished with a 4 second gap to Jenson. It’s getting sad that some of Lewis’ fans are getting deluded as Lewis is making more mistakes.

          Good for Lewis is bringing new fans to F1 but unfortunately not all of them have any idea about the sport.

    10. Nigelstash (@)
      8th October 2011, 16:48

      The fact that there is debate about who is to blame tells us the real story, which is poor McLaren teamwork. All through the season we have seen team Red Bull outshine team McLaren. Why was Vettel out before Hamilton? Because the team – including the driver – are working as one. They make the right judgement and keep their chances alive. Vettel then delivers on track.
      Both Hamilton and the McLaren team have made mistakes this year and it has cost them. Hamilton could be 80 points or more closer to Vettel at this stage, but he isn’t because of poor teamwork.

      1. Both Hamilton and the McLaren team have made mistakes this year and it has cost them. Hamilton could be 80 points or more closer to Vettel at this stage, but he isn’t because of poor teamwork.

        What about Lewis’ DNFs (all crashes) and penalties for collisions? Surely that’s not the team’s fault but a result of Lewis’ driving. I agree with McLaren’s poor team work… look at Jenson’s DNF’s – lose wheel nut and hydraulics issue. And several poor qualifying decisions.

        1. Nigelstash (@)
          8th October 2011, 17:02

          Absolutely. But my point is that teamwork means everything that goes on before and after races, not just on the track. Mistakes have been made by Lewis, and by ‘the team’. What seems to be the case at Red Bull is that ‘the team’ includes the drivers (or at least one driver!!) and it is this that has made such a difference.

          1. RB’s pit stops have been insanely quick too.

          2. I agree Nigelstash, a lot of Lewis’s mistakes can be traced to earlier team errors (e.g. Monaco) or apparent communication failures between him and the team, including today over leaving a gap to Jenson (unless, as Webber suggested, Hamilton was trying to stop Shcumacher and himself from getting a final run).

        2. Perhaps this is why McLaren has hired Sam Michael to be their Sporting Director to help them better plan and strategise their racing meets.

    11. Hamilton is delusional, he says: “to be so close at a high-speed circuit like this means we’re doing well … if we’d had this car at the beginning of the season, I think the championship could have been a different story.”
      the mclaren has often been faster then the redbull in races this year, and a close match in qualifying in several races – but each time hamilton and mclaren have made errors. Todays speed is not just a sudden thing lewis – you should have driven better through out the year – then the championship would be a different story. the last part of the quote is the most annoyting “if we’d had this car at the beginning of the season, I think the championship could have been a different story” – lewis, your are more to blame for the championship deficit then any deficiency in the car.

    12. historically, hamilton has had a lot less time improvement throughout the qualifying sessions, compared to how much time vettel can find when it is most needed. hamilton missed his chance and that is that, even if he got a time in at the end, it may not have been better then the qualifying master vettel, who found a lot even from his first run in q3. its all hypothetical, but the records will show that it is another vettel pole, and another hamilton blunder.

      1. I like Lewis but I can’t find fault with what you say. The Red Bull has been the superior car but it hasn’t been as superior as the championship tables suggest.

        1. I agree also. This isn’t the first time it’s happened as well- at Hungary Hamilton the car for pole but made 2 errors on his lap. At Monza he was a tenth down on Vettel after his first run, but made an error on his second run instead of improving, meaning Vettel took pole by 3-4 tenths.

    13. “Nico Rosberg failed to reach Q3 for the first time this year. Now only the McLaren and Ferrari drivers, plus Sebastian Vettel, have done so in all 15 events.”

      I don’t want to sound picky but Jenson went out in Q2 at Spa.

      I feel like such a nerd now knowing those stats from memory.

      As a side note, what happened with your excellent stats & facts after every GP? Am i missing them, or were those articles discontinued?

      1. True Button missed Q3 in Spa. Didnt the BBC team say Rosberg was among the 5 who made it to Q3 all season. That is with Alonso, Massa, Hamilton and Vettel.

      2. They are still there for sure!

    14. On the BBC site Hamilton says he was late out of the pits because he asked for a wing change. But why was Webber late out? And Schumacher should have been out long before he did go because he hadn’t yet attempted to set a time.

      I’ve also just re-watched the video, several times, and my stopwatch says that Hamilton was less than 2 seconds behind Button going into that chicane, and most seem to think there needed to be a 3 second gap to the car in front.

      So what did Hamilton actually do that was wrong?
      He avoided Webber who lunged up the inside, and Schumacher took a short cut having arrived too quickly and found nowhere else to go, and tries to blame it on Hamilton.

      1. They all did something wrong- going out too late, and as it happened, Hamilton and Webber suffered most from the error.

      2. If they didn’t get to the start line in time they wouldn’t get to start another lap. Hamilton slowed, too much to make it to the line in time.

        You can not seriously expect Webber and Schumacher to wait patiently for Lewis as the clock ticks down.

        1. Hamilton admits he was late, because he requested wing adjustment. Whats Webbers and Schumachers excuse, and then both act like bully boys because Hamilton tries to get a reasonable gap to the driver in front.

          Looks to me like “Hey I went out too late, Oh its Hamilton in front, if something goes wrong with this o/take. He will get the blame”

          1. Schumacher and Webber went out late to use the maximum track evolution possible. This in hindsight was a mistake. However, any criticism on why they went out so late I would imagine should be directed at the teams. It is the teams who time these things.

            However if Lewis had not have slowed down, all three cars would have made it in time. When he did slow down, it put both Webber and Schumacher in a position where they either pass him, or not get to do a lap.

            Unless you expect Schumacher and Webber to just sit behind and wait while the clock ticks, then I don’t think you can criticize either of them on this one.

    15. “Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery believes the fans are being robbed of a show in qualifying with the current Formula 1 regulations.”

      Jesus, I made this point three months ago and people laughed at me, at least the penny has just dropped. :-) Eventually.

      1. @bbt Actually the vast majority of people on here wanted to bring back qualifying tyres to solve this problem, which is what Pirelli were suggesting:

        Is it time to bring back qualifying tyres?

        1. Yes I know and agree, I enjoyed reading that post / thread and I’m glad a majority think there is merit in Qualifying tyres (need to be rule changes for it to happen, the counter argument, by a few, was qualifying wasn’t broken even though is definitely is), However I’m referring to mentioning it a couple of months earlier than your excellent article.
          Love the new format by the way.

    16. I’m very confused about the grid order from 7th to 10th..the BBC have Schumacher ahead of the Renaults whereas you have Schumacher down as P10..and on top of that, when the results came up at the end of quali, on the TV it had Kobayashi as P10…Very confusing. Can somebody please clarify this.

      1. I’m not sure why the BBC put Schumacher ahead of Kobayashi, I presume as he had an out-lap and then an in-lap. Kobayashi was then put ahead as he had attempted a flying lap but apparently Schumacher had not

    17. He can’t catch a break can he, barring any mistakes pole was his, he is always 2 -3 tenths quicker than Button, I was livid, we could of finally had something other than a redbull on poll. We could be in for a legendary race though.

    18. Kind of strange, there has been quite a bit of confusion at Mclaren of late, but is seems to come down to a real lack of focus during event. or a change in communication style. the strange thing is, many on this site believe that the car has great pace for an entire race, and not just near the end. They could be right, but it has not shown up in the results. There is also a belief that Hamilton is out making mistakes for reasons other than trying to get more out of the car than what is there. And, if he just did things differently he could be on pole. Well, if the car is so great, and he is so bad with it, then Jenson should have easily been on pole by now, that is considering that he is doing such a fabulous job with the car.

      1. Jenson’s driven well, but that’s been flatteredd by the awful season Hamilton’s having. That car should have challenged for pole at Hungary, Belgium and Italy, as well as the win in the latter two, but errors, underperformance, and bad starts from both Mclaren drivers have seen them not beat Vettel, who’s outdriving them both.

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