Rosberg snatches pole from Hamilton by tiny margin

2016 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying

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A thrilling qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix saw Nico Rosberg beat his team mate to pole position by a tiny margin.

Lewis Hamilton looked on course to spring a surprise on his team mate when he set the quickest time at the beginning of Q3. But Rosberg, who’d been the quicker of the pair throughout qualifying and practice, hit back with his final effort.


Mercedes marched though to Q2 without touching their stack of soft tyres. The Ferrari pair headed the times as they did use the soft tyres to proceed.

Red Bull hedged their bets. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo both ventured out on medium tyres and set times which proved quick enough for them to get through. But with the track improving quickly they couldn’t take it for granted. Both cars were duly sent back out on soft tyres, but they backed out of setting times when it became clear they would progress safely.

This was despite the chasing pack setting very close times. The McLaren drivers straddled the Q1/Q2 divide, Fernando Alonso making it through at the expense of team mate Jenson Button by just 32 thousandths of a second.

Having displayed top ten pace in final practice only one of the Renault drivers made it through. This was Jolyon Palmer, after Kevin Magnussen locked up at the chicane on his last lap.

Both Saubers and Manors also dropped out, Esteban Ocon beating Pascal Wehrlein for the second weekend running. However Wehrlein’s gearbox change penalty meant he was always likely to start last.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

17 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1’32.851
18 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1’33.023
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1’33.222
20 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1’33.332
21 Esteban Ocon Manor-Mercedes 1’33.353
22 Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes 1’33.561


As is traditional, the second phase of qualifying saw Mercedes turn their engines up and blow the opposition away. Rosberg delivered another committed and clean lap, lowering the fastest time of the weekend to a 1’30.714.

Hamilton slithered wide at Degner and crossed the line four-tenths of a second slower than his team mate. Sebastian Vettel got within a tenth of his time as both Ferrari drivers out-paced the Red Bulls.

The symmetry continued behind them but it was the Haas drivers next. Romain Grosjean survived a dramatic scare at the final corner when he dropped a wheel off the track and nearly lost it.

The two Force India drivers eliminated their championship rivals Williams with their final efforts, Sergio Perez the final driver to claim a place inside the top ten. The Williams drivers matched each other to within a tenth of a second, suggesting there was little more in the car.

The Toro Rosso pair also dropped out, Carlos Sainz Jnr spinning at Spoon on his final lap.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’32.315
12 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’32.380
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’32.623
14 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’32.685
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1’32.689
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’32.807


Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were the only teams to do an initial run in Q3 – and the times closed up dramatically. All six were covered by half a second, and the battle to be bet-of-the-rest behind Mercedes was astonishingly tight. Just 56 thousandths of a second covered third-placed Kimi Raikkonen to sixth-placed Daniel Ricciardo after the first runs.

The other development after the first runs was a change in the balance of power between the Mercedes drivers. Hamilton, after a slightly slower out-lap than Rosberg, edged almost a tenth of a second from his team mate in the first sector and added to that advantage by the end of the lap. A 1’30.758 put him ahead by 0.195 seconds with the final runs remaining.

There was almost nothing to choose between the two Mercedes drivers throughout their final laps. Hamilton was quicker through the first sector by eight-thousandths of a second, but by the finishing line the initiative had swung back to his team mate. The margin was incredibly fine, however: Rosberg took his eighth pole position of the year by 13 thousandths of a second.

The gap grew between the Ferraris and Red Bulls, but Vettel’s grid penalty will drop him behind both of his former team’s cars. Verstappen out-qualified Ricciardo mostly thanks to a better run through the chicane, where he’d also been quicker in practice.

Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean set identical times to within one thousandth of a second. However Perez set his first and therefore takes the leading position, and will gain another place from Vettel’s penalty.

Top ten in Q3

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’30.647
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’30.660
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’30.949
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’31.028
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’31.178
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’31.240
7 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’31.961
8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1’31.961
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’32.142
10 Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari 1’32.547

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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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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76 comments on “Rosberg snatches pole from Hamilton by tiny margin”

  1. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
    8th October 2016, 8:14

    I hope Rosberg carries his weekend long advantage throughout the race to grab another win

  2. Dam… anyone saw the differences between them when Ant was comparing? The only difference besides the chicane, was at the hairpin where Lewis lost time. Other than that, it seemed like they got on the throttle at exactly the same time and moment. Is it me, or does it seem hard to find time on this track? I play f1 2015 and 2016 and when I drive suzuka, though games are incomparable to real life, but it just seems so hard to gain time…

    1. I can relate to it.
      I agree.

      I play time pole laps on real racing 3 and I had the best world time for quite a while and it was just impossible to find time.

      Although, at each corner I could gain a 100th!

    2. can confirm, i’m 2 seconds off the pace with an mercedes there

      1. @gp2chassis Well, that’s just errr…. maybe you should just dail the difficulty down a notch or two then?

  3. Lewis must hit his head for that tiny little margin, but who knows what can happen come race day.

  4. Very impressed by Rosberg’s efforts this weekend so far. It feels like he’s peaking at the absolute perfect time in the season.

    1. Totally agreed!

  5. Hamilton should be faster. He is an all time great wheras Rosberg is just average. Could this be another sabotage by Mercedes?

    1. I did see Rosberg’s mechanics blowing at Hamilton’s car on the straight


      1. Hahaha COTD

      2. Hahahaha Cotd

      3. @phylyp But then to neutralize that I saw Hamilton’s mechanics blow Rosberg’s.

        1. I saw one of the swappies in Hamilton’s team blow the other way. And that can only mean one thing, unaccounted ineptitude.

    2. Lewis has been poor in Singapore and again here this weekend. Rosberg is an above average driver around jenson level but Lewis should be beating him when it counts.

      1. How is the time difference between the two merc’s proof of Hamilton being “poor again”?! There’s virtually nothing between them man.

        We already know Rosberg is exceptional over 1 lap and dominating from the lead. Every bit as good as Hamilton, if not better.

        It’s when in wheel to wheel situations (overtaking and defending for that matter) where ROS hasn’t impressed. He has been to submissive at times in the past and more recently has been getting his elbows out more, collecting penalties on almost every occasion.

        However, this year is his best chance to win a world championship. He hás to do it now because his reliability advantage over Hamilton isn’t going to stay next year (law of avarages dictates it can’t, unless the conspiracies áre true of course haha) and RedBull is coming on strong with the 2017 rule changes.

    3. Remember buddy … considering Nico’s engine is 5 or 6 races older (can anyone give me an accurate figure) and slower than hams new engine, this was mighty impressive of Nico!

      1. “can anyone give me an accurate figure”

        Pretty sure they said on the sky coverage it is one race older

        1. Also, I believe they said that Hamilton is using his Singapore engine this weekend.

          There isn’t much difference in engine life at all.

    4. Rosberg tops FP1, FP2, FP3 and Quali and Hamilton has never had a pole around here but no I’m sure it’s just sabotage on Merc’s part indeed :)

    5. Hamilton is by no means an all time great. He’s a good driver, better than Rosberg yes, but he’s only ever been a car which is capable of winning, in seasons with more races in them. He’s not near the top drivers at all, he’s not even the best of this generation.
      You Hamilton fans are honestly so deluded. I bet you said it was a masterful race from Hamilton in Belgium, where he just followed Alonso through the crash and ended up in 5th at the end of the first lap, and only made it up to 3rd in the remaining 43 laps, but didn’t think twice about Rosberg coming from the back at the end of the first to finish 3rd in Malaysia as you were too busy complaining about sabotage, which is an insult to all the Mercedes team members for all the work they put into making the car.

      1. You never see a driver win in a car incapable of winning @hugh11
        Your premise being wrong, I don’t know what to do with your reasoning.

  6. Gp2 engine, gp2, aaah!

    1. This is a good point actually. Mclaren in qualification had the same gap to the pole setter as last year (2 seconds), same starting grid positions (actually worse) in a track that should favor better chasis.

      1. This tracklayout really punishes Hondas ERS which is ironic since its the Honda track.

        1. Are we really sure that chassis is any good though?

          I mean, sure the Honda package is lacking but this is also very much a chassis track with the fast flowing (downforce) and technical corners (mechanical grip) having more baring relative to the powertrain than usual.

          In 2014 (first year of hybrids) McLaren had Merc power but were behind other Merc’ powerd teams like Force India and Williams. From the years before that they often times started the season on the backfoot, only to then throw a rediculous amount of resources at in season development, copying stuff from other teams, to get to front again. 2013 was the first year where they didn’t manage to that and were the McLaren downfall really started to get real imho.

  7. Wow, looking forward to tomorrow’s race. All close together and with the cars on the third row stronger on race pace tomorrow will be absolutely fascinating. Dare I hope for a few spots of rain?

  8. Williams fortunes are going from bad to worse

    1. Quite true. I expected them to perform poorly in the rain. But in the dry today, they were beaten by Haas. Barring incidents, Force India are going to clearly move ahead of them. Williams can’t wait for 2017 to come quickly enough.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        8th October 2016, 8:55

        I’m not totally convinced yet Force India will beat Williams this year yet. Remember how well Bottas did from 11th last race when he had tyre choice? If Massa doesn’t have problems like he did last race, I think he’s got a decent chance of some points as well as Bottas. I also feel that Williams will be a little stronger in Mexico than Force India as it is a really high speed track.

        1. @thegianthogweed – Mmm, good point about P11. And yes, Haas are the ones at highest risk of dropping out of the points, so Williams are best placed to capitalize on that.

          I missed watching Mexico last year, so I look forward to this year’s race.

        2. On Williams part they haven’t been that efficient when compared to force India at times and their decision making has not been top notch at times. The main difference between the two teams had been tyre management this season. They made it up last race with bottas doing a brilliant one stop, maybe their import from Ferrari is working.

        3. Same. Williams and Force India do look even and i fear Bottas could make one less pit stop tomorrow. Of the remaining tracks Mexico will be where they need to be ahead of Force India. It will go down to the wire

      2. ITs just been a steady decline. The Merc power unit isnt as dominant as it was 2 years ago and Williams chassis was never great, there strength was on power tracks like the A1 Ring and Monza. As the power unit advantage has diminished Williams have been shown up. It’s disappointing and maybe thats why there are rumours about James Key going there.

        1. Williams need James Key or James Allison to get more out of that chassis/aero package with the limited resources they have. They also need better strategy people ánd better drivers imho. They do have an awesome pit crew, great livery and a female team principle which is awesome imho, but yeah that doesn’t win you races.

  9. The speed trap figures ( show the McLarens at the bottom. Their first sector times were also quite poor. So – not a great engine, and no great aero either :-(

    1. LovelyLovelyLuffield
      8th October 2016, 9:39

      Right at their home track. I’d be surprised to see them alive next week.

    2. I think both Fernando and Jenson were saying that the balance was not right…and its pretty damn obvious!

      Its gonna be a hard slog for them to get point tomorrow!

      1. The balance is never right when youre not on pole….. That means nothing.

    3. They have great aero, lots if down force – that adds to lower top speed. . Honda are 1 year behind, but check there lap times compared to Mercedes last year, they are very comparable. Next year they will be better placed.

      1. Good aero would have shown itself with good sector 1 times, which we aren’t seeing. I think what @jaymenon10 said is right – its something to do with their setup that has compromised their aero situation too.

    4. It surprises me, because in Malaysia no one expected Mclaren to be good and they were.
      Now they have another corner track and they are not good all at once.

      I think it has to do with temperature. Better hope for rain for Mclaren and RBR.

      1. It surprises me too. But I don’t think we can say McLaren are back to where they were last year.
        From track to track, Ferrari swings from behind Red Bull to right on the tail of Mercedes.

  10. Kimi in a Good Position and Vettel for Once Far enough Behind to not crash into him-unless he does a Malaysia. Dare i have some Hope afterall?

  11. Pole means nothing at all. In 2014 Rosberg was leading the wet race before he found himself with a “strangely” slower set of tyres after the pitstop and had to let Lewis pass and go away. In 2015 Lewis pushed him off the track at the first corner, causing him to lose several places, with no attention from stewards. Those who are now talking of “conspiracy” should remember last two seasons.

    1. Strangely slower set of tyres? Must’ve been sabotage…

      1. Nope,in this instance it was ‘natural talent’

  12. Arnoud van Houwelingen
    8th October 2016, 10:26

    From Silverstone the quali battle between Ric and Max is 4-4 and last 5 races it’s 3-2 for Max. It’s obvious it took him some time to get settled in for quali runs because first 5 races it was 0-5

    1. VES was very strong after the summer break last year too. He was down on Sainz in the qualy battle innitially and then outqualified him towards the end of the season more often than not (and put together a string of strong points finishes)

      I don’t know if it just a learning curve thing as the season progresses or that he just simply likes those tracks after the break.

  13. OK, maybe it’s just me, but I see some bias towards HAM. I mean… “Rosberg snatches…”! Snatches?! Exagerrating, the title sounds kinda rude, like it’s meant to minimize ROS’ achievement. He beat HAM all weekend long so far, so he didn’t snatch anything. HAM was the one about to snatch something ( something = the pole). Anyway, I hope ROS gets the title this year.

    1. It’s definietly not just you! This site has always been like this, the brittish drivers always get more positive feedback and appraisal. If Hamilton would have got pole the title would be something like “Hamiltons amazing lap gets him pole”

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        8th October 2016, 11:25

        I saw something saying something like Hamilton was nearly as fast as Rosberg in all 3 sectors in one of the practice sessions. That seems to try and make it sound like it is Hamilton who is doing well. Actually, I think it should say that it wasn’t just a faster lap by Rosberg, but he was faster in all 3 sectors too. If Rosberg was Hamilton, that is more like the way it will have been said I think.

        I know this is a British site and I myslef am British but I don’t always like the way things are written when other drivers beat Hamilton.

      2. Eh? What about the article that hammered Hamilton about his “Higher power doesnt want him to win” by poiting out his cars are still by far the most reliable out of all champions?

        1. You can’t argue facts. Those were facts. No way to spin those.

          1. He didnt have to make that article at all, for me it was a great observation that i would not think of myself

    2. I think the point was Hamilton had provisional pole after the first q3 runs, and Rosberg then took it (by 13 thousands of a second). I think snatched is a fair description and I don’t see it as diminishing his achievement at all.

    3. @corrado-dub @thegianthogweed I can assure that there is no such intent.

      The headline is purely a reflection of the manner in which Rosberg took pole this time around – beating Hamilton’s laptime by 0.013s after Hamilton had been ahead after the first runs in Q3. Nothing more to it than that.

    4. STOP it, and @alex too. This is one of the most fair websites, and I agree, by .013, rosberg did snatch it :)

    5. @corrado-dub @thegianthogweed @hahostolze @willwood I definitely didn’t intend to imply Rosberg had undeservingly taken it away from Hamilton by using the word “snatches”. I didn’t take that word to mean he was doing anything improper.

      I’ve just checked the definition in the dictionary and am surprised to see “steal” is listed as a secondary definition. However I was going for the primary: “seize quickly, eagerly or unexpectedly”. I’ll keep that in mind for the future though. There are other definitions too but this is a family website.

      Incidentally, I never like it when I see people writing “X steals pole from Y” precisely for the reason you bring up.

      1. I’ve always found this site to be studiously and meticulously even-handed. Of course, the search for bias never goes unrewarded. Ad hominem argument never dies.

        1. Sorry, apparently there are two Martins here. My apologies to the other one (above, at 11:41).

          1. “Sorry, apparently there are two Martins here. My apologies to the other one (above, at 11:41).”

            Well this is awkward

  14. What a great climax to qualifying! The side by side comparison of Hamilton and Rosberg was incredible! Awesome session. Exciting to see the top 6 so close, hopefully the race can deliver on such promise

    1. Let’s hope for some midrace rain!

  15. Hopefully there’s enough distance from Seb’s front left to Nico’s rear right tomorrow.

    1. 6 grid places. Should be fine. It’s Lewis’s touchy front I’d be worrying about in Rosberg’s place.

  16. With the variable starts and P2 having the inside line to turn 1, first corner is going to be interesting tomorrow.

  17. It’s interesting that rosberg now has 3 poles in a row at this driver’s track. Hamilton doesn’t have a good record at Monaco, sukuza or spa, the 3 great driver tracks.

  18. All the nr 2 drivers of the top teams beat the nr1 drivers.

    1. Arnoud van Houwelingen
      8th October 2016, 22:11

      So u think Perez and Verstappen are nr2 drivers???

      1. Arnoud van Houwelingen
        8th October 2016, 22:13

        ah u said top teams .. funny though because Raikkonen and Rosberg are leading there teammates so bad year for nr 1 drivers then …

  19. Two fighting Mercs at front. a very start capable Ferrari for an after the Red Bulls..
    exciting times tomorrow .
    The first corner could again define the race to follow.

  20. This is funny. Well known Aero track and Ferrari are infront of RBR….

    1. Yeah, I was surprissed at that too. Very intresting.

  21. Nice to see the top 6 cars within half a second of each other for a change. Should prove interesting tomorrow, whatever the weather.

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