Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2019

Vettel storms to record-breaking pole at windy Suzuka

2019 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying

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Sebastian Vettel set a new track record as he beat team mate Charles Leclerc to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari drivers relegated their Mercedes rivals to the second row of the grid a windy Suzuka in the aftermath of Super Typhoom Hagibis, which passed through the area yesterday. The conditions caught out several drivers and contributed to two crashes within minutes of the session beginning


The rain may have spared Suzuka on Saturday by the wind did not. Strong gusts throughout Q1 made conditions hazardous for drivers and caused two further delays due to crashes.

Robert Kubica as the first driver into the wall, understeering wide at the exit of the final corner. “It’s a fucking joke” he muttered as he climbed unhurt from his wrecked Williams, which the team had withdrawn from the last race due to concerns over crash damage.

Following an eight-minute delay the session resumed. But only a handful of midfield drivers had completed laps by the time Kevin Magnussen found the barriers at the same spot as Kubica.

The Haas driver also appeared to be taken out by the powerful and shifting blasts of wind. His VF-19 snapped into oversteer at the same point of the track and went into the barrier backwards. Unlike Kubica, Magnussen was able to drive back to the pits, but his car was too badly damaged for him to continue in the session.

When Q1 resumed again a queue of drivers were ready at the pit exit waiting to set their times in the 11 minutes left. All of them managed to, but the tight timings produced a few surprises. Among them was Daniel Ricciardo, after a sub-par run through the first and final sectors, failing to make the cut, while Sergio Perez was unusually out-qualified by team mate Lance Stroll.

Less surprisingly, George Russell’s Williams also progressed no further, despite having briefly held 15th. According to Russell, the gusts of wind felt so strong it was as his car’s DRS was opening.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Daniel RicciardoRenault1’29.822
17Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’30.344
18George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’30.364
19Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes

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All the front-runners opted for the soft compound tyres in Q2, and Hamilton led the way with a 1’27.826. Bottas was almost half a second slower than his team mate, which allowed the Ferrari drivers to separate them, led by Vettel. Bottas improved to second with his final run while Alexander Albon also moved ahead of the Ferraris at the end of Q2.

Both Renault drivers were doomed not to reach Q3. Nico Hulkenberg was told he had a “major problem” on his car after suffering a loss of hydraulic pressure on his second run. He headed for the pits just as the remaining runners came past to start their final runs.

Kimi Raikkonen’s first effort had been good enough for the top 10 but team mate Antonio Giovinazzi beat him on the final runs. Neither were quick enough to make the cut.

An excellent run by Pierre Gasly meant one of the Toro Rossos accompanied the two similarly Honda-powered Red Bulls into Q3 at the Japanese manufacturer’s home race. Stroll has one of the last to slip out of the top 10, the Racing Point driver losing out to Romain Grosjean, who brought some cheer to Haas with his Q3-making effort.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’29.254
12Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’29.345
13Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’29.358
14Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’29.563
15Nico HulkenbergRenault1’30.112

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Bottas regained the initiative over Hamilton with their first runs in Q3. Despite a slight error at the chicane, he edged Hamilton off the top spot by a tenth of a second.

Then Ferrari showed their hand. First Leclerc hit the top of the times, sliding the back of his car through the final corner which caught out several of his rivals at the beginning of the session. Next Vettel stepped up, and a superb run through the first sector put him on course for a track record-breaking run of 1’27.22, three tenths of a second faster than his team mate.

Leclerc began his final run strongly, beating Vettel’s first sector time. But his team mate, running a few seconds behind him on the track, was unlocking even more speed from the Ferrari. Revelling in the headwind through the Esses, the ultra-committed Vettel beat Leclerc’s first sector run by a tenth of a second.

In sector two Leclerc found more time again, and here Vettel couldn’t quite match him. But Leclerc lost the initiative in the final sector, and fell short of beating Vettel’s first effort by four-hundredths of a second. Vettel, meanwhile, carried his advantage through to the end of the lap. “He was quite a bit quicker,” Leclerc reflected on the way in, “almost two tenths”.

In the final reckoning, Ferrari decisively eclipsed Mercedes. Bottas had the beating of Hamilton, by a mere nine-thousandths of a second.

It was even closer between the Red Bull drivers, who set identical times to within one thousandth of a second. Max Verstappen, who qualified ahead by dint of setting his 1’27.851 before Alexander Albon, complained the balance of his car was changing on every lap.

The McLaren pair continued the symmetry at the front, Carlos Sainz Jnr qualifying ahead of Lando Norris, followed by Gasly and Grosjean.

Top ten in Q3

1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’27.064
2Charles LeclercFerrari1’27.253
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’27.293
4Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’27.302
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’27.851
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’27.851
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’28.304
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’28.464
9Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’28.836
10Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’29.341

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2019 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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18 comments on “Vettel storms to record-breaking pole at windy Suzuka”

  1. I called it on friday, visually the car had a great front end on s1, enough for pole? didn’t predict that as the mercs are really good on the slow speed, hairpin and chicanes.
    A morning for a brave driver, many imperfect laps and lots of improvements through q3. I hope Albon’s lap is real and not a max issue, I also called that one, Albon is following the leader contrary to Gasly, who to be fair had a great Q.
    Now lets just wait for inaki rueda to give excitement to the race.

  2. Once again Albon is very close to Verstappen in qualifying.

  3. Kvyat fans very quiet RedBull Absoloute made right choice, Albon was beating Kvyat or he was atleast level in terms of qually and now a guy with no confidence is 4-1 vs Kvyat in qually. I wonder if Kvyat will be impressed today and i wonder if he is impressed with his own performances. Also super news Ferrari are the fastest yet again, everyone went really quiet after criticising the season early on it has had one of the best seasons in years interms of individual races.

    So many classics this year. If Ferrari keep racking poles up Lewis looks even better what a points gap he has and he has won like 9 races no one else has 3 i think what a driver he is not even the most poles and has 9 wins. 2018 2019 huge missed chances for Ferrari but it is hard going against Hamilton so i can see why they lose.

  4. I would much rather see a Leclerc vs. Vettel title battle in 2020 than Hamilton vs. Bottas again. But who knows, could be even more one-sided.

  5. Idk, HAM’s pace seemed so solid today I really thought he would easily make 1st row. He ended up behind BOT, who drove decently, but still, I wonder what happened.
    Great effort by ALB, btw!
    Savage 1st sector from VET. Though, both Ferraris had a weak 3rd sector. Could this be Merc’s chance?
    Renault: just go home.

  6. Really great laps by Vettel in Q3. Can’t help feeling this is not going to be a Ferrari 1-2, though, seems set up for a very close race with a high chance of some incident involving one or both Ferraris, nothing to lose in terms of the WDC but both drivers fighting to be the dominant force at Ferrari next year. Vettel has made a come back the last few races and now in qualifying. If Leclerc want that no 1 place, it’s slipping.

    1. @david-br – yeah, good assessment about the situation at Ferrari.

    2. It wont take much for them implode.

    3. It really depends on if Vettel remains as confident in the car as he was in quali. This is exactly the kind of scenario in which he is so good at popping off into the distance never to be bothered again. In any case, it’s nice to see the the calm, precise Vettel again instead of the desperate, overdriving one.

      1. Haha, so much for that!

  7. Ricciardo is very overrated he as been better overall than Hulkenberg hardly any margin though was giving a huge beating in his last season by Max aswell am i missing something? He lives off of 2013, his biggest fan @carlosmedrano wants him at Merc aswell what makes you think he could beat Hamilton lol. I have not seen Riccardo once absoloute outclass his teammate in a long time. Hulkenberg being in F1 should be way more secure than Ricciardo getting a top drive imo

    1. That should mean 2014 of course.

    2. I think Ricciardo’s a great driver, especially overtaking, but he was unnerved by Verstappen’s pace and aggressive skill. I don’t think leaving RBR was the right move, he needed to just go away over winter and think how he was going to respond. And now Albon looks like he could be set to replace him at RBR just fine.

  8. Get in there Lewis, I mean Vettel

  9. Hopefully Torro Rosso takes on Hulkenberg instead of Kvyat he is never going to get the RedBull drive so what is the point. I know it won’t happen but if Albon was to be not good enough even though i think he will RedBull have someone very close to Ricciardo’s pace to slot in behind Max.

  10. Great Qualifying by Vettel, Albon, Sainz and Stroll in particular. Nice to see Gio on Form as well. Leclerc had a scruffy lap but he didn’t seem to have any pace advantage over Seb in all sessions in Suzuka.

    Disappointing by Ricciardo especially. His 1st sector was really bad even compared to Hulk’s.

  11. If you erased Gasly’s time with Red Bull from memory, people would be touting him as the “next big Red Bull academy graduate”. He really is showing Kvyat the way, so much so that it’s genuinely confusing how he is only a few tenths quicker in the Red Bull than the Toro Rosso.

  12. Amazing by Albon – he is the real deal!

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