Hamilton takes first Suzuka pole position as he dominates qualifying

2017 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton took his tenth pole position of the season and his first ever at Suzuka after dominating qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver led a one-two for his team, though Valtteri Bottas has to take a grid penalty which will drop him off the front row.

That means Sebastian Vettel, who originally qualified third, will start tomorrow’s race alongside his championshiop rival.


A heavy crash for Romain Grosjean brought an early end to Q1 and thwarted several drivers’ attempts to progress to Q2. The Haas driver got out of shape after touching the kerb at turn three, ran wide at the next corner and then spun into the barriers, finally coming to a stop at turn five.

Haas had noted Grosjean’s car was running too low on his previous run. He was also one of several drivers to complain about being held up by a rival.

Among those was Lance Stroll, who believed both his laps were compromised by traffic. That left him in the drop zone, and Grosjean’s crash left him unable to improve further, ending his session.

Pierre Gasly, one of the drivers Stroll blamed for his delay, also failed to progress beyond Q1, as did the Sauber pair.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’30.849
17Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Renault1’31.317
18Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’31.409
19Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’31.597
20Pascal WehrleinSauber-Ferrari1’31.885


As Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas both have five-second grid penalties for the race, Ferrari and Mercedes sent them our on soft tyres to put them at a strategic advantage. Both drivers made the cut on their softs.

That meant the contest for fastest time was between their team mates, and it was a fairly one-sided fight. Hamilton’s 1’27.819 was six-tenths of a second quicker than anything Vettel could manage.

The Red Bulls and Force Indias claimed their places in Q3, as did the sole Williams of Felipe Massa. The last car to join them was Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, which narrowly edged the team’s other car out of a place in the final ten.

Both Renaults dropped out too, Jolyon Palmer making a small mistake at the chicane. Nico Hulkenberg complained of growing understeer in his car.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Honda1’29.778
12Nico HulkenbergRenault1’29.879
13Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’29.972
14Jolyon PalmerRenault1’30.022
15Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso-Renault1’30.413


Hamilton continued to assert his supremacy at the beginning of Q3. A lap of 1’27.345 was six-tenths quicker than his team mate could manage.

Bottas, who’d gone off at Degner earlier in the session, continued to look uncomfortable on his first run. However his second effort looked more assured and he halved the gap to his team mate.

That proved significant as Vettel was unable to get any closer to Hamilton, leaving him third, which will become second after penalties have been applied. Bottas will start seventh.

Raikkonen made a mistake at Degner on his first run and headed for the pits afterwards. His final run was only good enough for sixth behind the Red Bulls.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’27.319
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’27.651
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’27.791
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’28.306
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’28.332
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’28.498
7Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’29.111
8Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’29.260
9Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1’29.480
10Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Honda1’30.687

2017 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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58 comments on “Hamilton takes first Suzuka pole position as he dominates qualifying”

  1. Hey FIA… The pit straight seemed empty. Can we get some free tickets to Suzuka? Because there are die hard fans to watch F1 there like me…

    1. It’s not FIA, not even FOM, but the race promoter who you should ask ;)

  2. Again I was expecting much more improvement on last season. only around 3.3 seconds on more or less the ultimate aero circuit of F1. I was expecting it to be around 4.5 at the very least.

    1. But the whole of sector 3 is mainly straights, i’d be interested to see the difference delta in sectors 1 and 2 only. And it’s not the longest lap, either way the cars looked mighty in the S curves uft.

      1. great point @offdutyrockstar, let’s compare the Q sector times of 2016 and 2017:
        S1: 32.233 -> 30.625 = -1.608
        S2: 40.719 -> 39.394 = -1.325
        S3: 17.545 -> 17.211 = -0.334

        yes, S3 had less of a reduction. Probably half due to more straights (incl. 130R), and the rest because this sector is a very short one.

      2. @offdutyrockstar Yeah, but in Shanghai the improvement on last season was close to 4 seconds despite that circuit sharing similar characteristics (similar type of corner + the 3rd sector there is primarily about straight-line speed as well) to Suzuka, and it also took place at the beginning of the season when the cars were much less developed than they’re now and yet that circuit still saw more significant improvement in ultimate lap time than this weekend’s venue. Its lap length is also very similar to Suzuka.

        1. @jerejj ‘similar type of corners’

    2. @jerejj

      Keep in mind they’ve made the tyres harder than last year to be conservative for the additional load being put through them by the added downforce and mass of the cars.

  3. So much for the Ferrari being the faster car.

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      8th October 2017, 1:57

      It’s entirely track and temperature dependent.

      Tracks with high speed corners and long straights will favour Mercedes. Those that are low speed and require more mechanical grip/agility will favour the Ferrari.

      Hotter conditions favour the Ferrari, while cooler conditions favour the Mercedes.

  4. Blastermaster
    7th October 2017, 8:22

    Well done HAM in his first pole at Suzuka.
    Congrats also to RIC getting one up on the Dutch wonder kid. He needed that.
    It will definitely be an interesting run up to the first few corners with the two title contenders alongside each other. VET really has nothing to lose.
    Lastly, the penalty system yet again proving to be a bit of a joke. At least it provides us with the chance for a few overtakes.

    1. Actually, if SV tries to push LH off track at cnr 1 and it all goes wrong and they are both DNFs LH maintains his point lead and there is 1 less race for SV to catch up, he should be careful and be more worried about being taken out by MV.

      1. I agree. It has the potential to be a very exciting start. RIC could end up being the one to gain the most if the others lock horns. We know how good he is at capitalizing when there’s a sniff of opportunity.

      2. Was it 1990 when Senna pushed Prost off to clinch the WDC? @hohum

        If Hamilton does the same as his hero, then he only needs 2nd places to win the WDC.
        And he can ask Nico (who happens to be in Suzuka) how to do that ;)

      3. “…and it’s happened immediately, this is fantastic!”

    2. If he gets a good start, Hamilton will be cautious and let him go, knowing he has a good chance of passing him during the race, or taking the 7 points dropped. If Hamilton gets away quicker, he should control and win the race, bar pit stop incidents or car issues. So I can’t see them really fighting it out. Any deliberate move by Vettel to risk a collision would probably be counterproductive, as @hohum suggested, and would damage is reputation still further this season. Though he seems fairly deluded about what he’s been responsible for.

  5. Diva was on a good mood today :) did MERC run the old or new aero package?

    1. did MERC run the old or new aero package?

      I wondered the same?

      1. They ran the new aero package.

    2. @Boudi Mercedes runs the old spec.

        1. Free m what I’ve heard it’s the new aero

        2. Actually @noname, both cars have been using the new aero package all weekend.

      1. No, they both ran the new spec aero upgrades

    3. Actually @noname, both cars have used the new aero package all weekend.

    4. @Boudi your hate for Ham and repetitive schmuck name calling only shows your lack of intellect… Now go back to your armchair and write further useful analysis…

      1. @mysticus
        @boudi was referring to the car, not a driver. Mercedes 2017 F1 car a “diva”, says Wolff

  6. Still fairly matched cars, uh?! Ferrari may have been the fastest car overall in Singapore and Malaysia, but not by almost 0.5sec. Mercedes bounced back and even stronger than Ferrari did in Singapore and Malaysia. The only ”good” news is that BOT is going to drop from 2nd and tomorrow, hopefully, it’ll be just a HAM/VET battle, at least in the 1st part of the race.

    Good job by RIC. And what the heck is RAI still doing in F1? Really… time to go and raise his kid.

    1. Actually @mg1982 in Singapore Ferrari were .4 faster than Redbull and .9 faster than Mercedes given that Vettel usually has a few tenths on Kimi they had the pace to be .2 – .5 faster in Malaysia. In the race Vettel was consistently lapping .7 – 1.2 faster than Hamilton. So its wrong to say that they haven’t had this advantage.

      1. I was reffering indeed at the gap to the next best car, so (as you said) almost 0.4sec is worse than almost 0.5sec. Then, Mercedes managed to beat the next best car with this kind of gap more times than Ferrari did. Also, you’re making some wild guess regarding Ferrari’s performance in those particular races. They didn’t race in Singapore, while in Malaysia RAI didn’t race at all again. So, we cannot say for sure how fast they could have been. Yeah, VET was that much faster than HAM only in the last part of the race, when he was on SS while HAM was on Softs. And that speed ”worked” only until he got behind a RBR. The rest is history.

        1. It’s not wild at all @mg1982 ! Ferrari got pole by that margin in Singapore and they showed that race pace in Malaysia.

          In Malaysia Vettel was lapping faster than Hamilton throughout the race. He obviously had some slower laps due to overtaking other cars, but he was still consistently quicker when in clear air during both stints. Even when Hamilton had pitted for new softs and Vettel was on his old ones he started the race with he was lapping faster than Hamilton.

    2. @mg1982 In Malaysia the long run pace showed a 0.8 of a second advantage to Ferrari, we’ll never know! however if you look at Bottas vs Vettel, Vettel caught Bottas and then pulled out a 20 sec gap in 20 laps (1 sec a lap pace advantage), Ferrari would have dominated the Mercedes if they had been leading the race.

      Both Merc and Ferrari have a Q3 boost mode this year, with Merc gaining more at the moment. Mark Hughes (well respected F1 journalist) indicated this is roughly a 0.15sec qualifying mode lap advantage around Suzuka vs the Ferrari, and Red Bull with the Renault would need a 0.5 sec advantage over Mercedes in qualifying to offset the Mercs magic power boost mode!

      1. In Malaysia, Vet jumped Bottas in the pitstop and he was on brand new SS, so the actual advantage they had over Merc was misleading given he ran a contra tyre strategy, less fuel and was using a brand new engine.

        Seb’s fastest lap of the race was only 0.3 faster than Lewis and he was on S and did his time 7 laps later. Yes Ferrari were indeed faster, but by what margin, we truly don’t know.

    3. The horse is dead, you can stop kicking it. Really

  7. I think a Hamilton win tomorrow would be the end of Vettel’s title hopes. If Ferrari can’t beat Mercedes here than it probably can’t either at Austin or Mexico City.

    Plus, if Vettel finishes 2nd after Lewis the difference is 41 points after this race. There’s also always a realistic chance VER takes out VET at T1 of course, that would make it even more dire for Seb.

    1. @jeffreyj, You mean there is a realistic chance that VET takes himself out again? Indeed most likely on VER.

  8. Never looked in doubt, but race trim seems to be a concern for him. We’ll see tomorrow, pity about the gear box penalties for the flying Fin’s!

  9. Brilliant Lewis, so so Bottas, Vettlel will need a good start and Verstappen may come into the mix at the start as well.

  10. I am always intrigued when team-mates go for different set up options. Verstappen and Ricciardo chose totally different aero set-ups. Verstappen went for more downforce, Ricciardo for less. On that basis I think Ricciardo did very well putting it ahead of Verstappen, and might have some overtaking fun tomorrow, IF the tires last.

    Hamilton just romped to that, Vettel not bad either, I think on race pace the two will be evenly matches, could be exciting.

    1. @hahostolze I hope we see another chase to the flag as per Spa this year. Although there was no overtaking that was a masterclass in precision and speed from Hamilton and Vettel, breathtaking to watch.

      1. Privileged to watch those two fight, and also to watch some great interteam battles like the Red Bulls and the Force India’s.

  11. In anticipation of a clean getaway for the front two, Ferrari would surely be looking to bank on using Kimi to scupper Lewis’ race at the first round of pit-stops. Having said that, now that the Finn has to start further back, it should make it easier for Lewis to build up a big enough gap to Kimi in the first stint and come out in front.

    If Kimi is able to keep within a pit-stop of Lewis, it’ll be interesting to see what Ferrari do with Seb. Either wait for Lewis to pit first and back Kimi into him while Seb attempts the ‘overcut’, or pit Seb earlier than expected and force Lewis to pit early so that he comes out behind Kimi.

    Meanwhile you’ve got Mercedes who could also employ a similar strategy with the other Finn, with Valtteri starting further up the order it should be easier for him to compromise Vettel in the same way.

    Unless Lewis has a blinding first stint, I can see the Finns playing a huge part in the outcome tomorrow, bring on the number 2’s!

    1. Mercedes can use Bottas to do the same

  12. Biggest conclusion I’ve made so far this year? Rosberg is/was pretty good.

    Bottas doesn’t have an answer so far. At least he will have another year to at least match Rosberg’s performances

    1. I’ve always said this. Of course when Hamilton was beating him convincingly the haters tried to downplay it as Rosberg being mediocre as opposed to Hamilton having that final edge. Overall I respect Rosberg. He didn’t quite have the one lap speed of Hamilton, or the race craft (Bahrain 2014 the perfect example). But he maximised on Hamilton’s weaknesses last year- in particular the starts. The retirement in Malaysia was enough to push him over the line. I think Rosberg is better than some one time champs like Button. Heck I think he’s a better driver than his dad ever was.

    2. Rosberg’s efforts last year are an inspiration for young and old folk alike. Lots of natural talent but it was the hard work in every level that aided his fight for the WDC. No one is gifted a title unless your a German in a certain red car.

    3. Yeah, Roseberg never got the respect he deserved. But the performances were all their. Taking the initial pole trophy in the same car as Hamilton should have made it clear.

      It is possible the old formula flattered him as it made racing slightly less important since the cars couldn’t follow as well.

      I wonder too if his departure isn’t part of the reason the Merc has become more difficult to set up. I heard he had excellent mechanical skills. Perhaps he was critical to setting the car up. It is difficult to know from outside the garage.

      1. I think Rosberg was excellent at pieces the different elements together over a race weekend – car set-up and driving (copying Hamilton a lot of the time) – so that by qualifying he was able to get close to Hamilton’s times. Nothing wrong with that at all. I’m not sure how much that helped Hamilton, maybe sometimes with set-up. However it was a definite boost to the team and to Hamilton in terms of Mercedes dominating the front row and races more often. And of course giving them the championship with Rosberg last year. I think Ricciardo would be a good option in terms of compatibility with Hamilton. But if the reports are true that Mercedes are close to convincing Verstappen to sign, I’m not sure how that would pan out. Maybe if Hamilton wins this year, and even next year too, he’d leave Mercedes with Verstappen coming in. Personally I’d like to see that, with Hamilton looking to finish his career trying to win the championship with a third team. That would be something special.

        1. * piecing (not pieces)

      2. Well that kind of doesn’t really make sense since Lewis is still number 1 in the championship with a big margin to his teammate..And from what I remember Nico quite often went with Lewis’s setup, not really sure why you think that?
        But still Nico never really beat Lewis on any year they were teammates driving wise, Lewis won more races last year and only finished 3 points behind after a engine blowout whilst leading in 1st later that year. So that still would have been a 22 point lead if we’re going on how well each driver actually drove (not including other engine penalties).

        Bottas has suddenly ended up at Mercedes very suddenly and unexpectedly and Rosberg was apart of that team since they first started competing as Mercedes so I wouldn’t say Bottas is worse than Rosberg honestly..More Rosberg had a lot more time in the team and had the team grow around him where as Bottas has been thrown in as the new boy against someone completely comfortable with his position in the team.

  13. Hopefully it’ll be hot and Seb can take some points of Hamilton tomorrow.

  14. I suppose Freddie should be applauded for hauling that wreck into 10th place for Honda’s home race but putting things in perspective, that’s a massive 3.3 seconds a lap slower than pole.(Overnight PU change-upgrade from Van Doorne’s or just a replacement?) Surely worse than last year and the “GP2” engine. I was of the view that Mac should have stuck with Honda, but after this, no way. If they can’t get it right in front of their own people, there’s not a lot of hope.

    1. Where you expecting a giant leap in performance because they are in Japan?

    2. that’s a massive 3.3 seconds a lap slower than pole

      less massive 2.3s based on Q2; either made a mistake or knew that the time wouldn’t make a difference to grid position.

  15. I have to say great footage from that Hamilton pole lap. Finally you get some sense of speed when the cars go through the corners. Also good that they followed him the whole lap. Looked really amazing.

    ps Talking about speed (@keithcollantine), the site is agonizingly slow all of a sudden.

  16. New type of penalties there with five second grid penalties. They have to wait 5″ before starting. You beat the FIA on that one Keith.

  17. Among those was Lance Stroll, who believed both his laps were compromised by traffic. That left him in the drop zone, and Grosjean’s crash left him unable to improve further, ending his session.

    I’ve heard that a few times already, but wasn’t it the case that (for whatever reason) Stroll wasn’t even on the track when Grosjean crashed?
    If that’s the case (and I’m fairly confident it is), Grosjean’s accident had nothing to do with Stroll’s end of the qualifying. Grosjean crashed with less than 90 seconds left, so any car that was still in the pit lane at that stage had no chance whatsoever to start a flying lap before the chequered flag.

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