Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vettel, Red Bull Ruled in Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying

Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service

At one time the finale on the Formula 1 calendar, the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit is now immersed into a 20-race schedule as the 6th race remaining of the season. A popular trip for Formula 1 based strong fan base and  for many drivers sharing bonds with the country of Japan through their junior motorsport years, the 5.807-kilometer Suzuka track is known to be a challenge. Testing drivers, teams and cars through high braking as well as some speedy portions of the course, Saturday's qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix is an important momentum build-up for the 53-lap main event on Sunday.

In Friday's second practice session, the Red Bull-Renaults began a claim to the top of the time charts at Suzuka. With Mark Webber setting the pace in Friday, teammate Sebastian Vettel topped Webber the next day in the final practice ahead of qualifying. Winning the past two Formula 1 World Championship, Sebastian Vettel has has stubbornly fighting from a so-so start of the 2012 season to close to 29 points of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Prevailing in Saturday's qualifying, Vettel mounted a 1-minute, 30.839-second time mid-way through the Q3 session to capture pole for the Japanese Grand Prix. Driving for Red Bull Racing, Vettel won the 2009 and 2010 editions of the competition at the Suzuka Circuit. With two victories in the Japanese Grand Prix, the only driver who has scored more than a pair of wins at Suzuka is Michael Schumacher who recorded six in his career up to this weekend.

Setting the next fastest time in qualifying roughly a quarter of a second slower than Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber is looking for third win for the 2012 season coming into the Grand Prix of Japan with two consecutive non-point scoring finishes.

Photo Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

Jenson Button was third fastest in qualifying but will face a five-grid position penalty as a result of an unapproved gearbox change on his McLaren-Mercedes. Nico Hulkenberg, driving a Mercedes-Benz engined Force India will also be dropped from 10th to 15th place for a similar gearbox change. Certain to delight the Japanese audience in Suzuka, Kamui Kobayashi driving in his home country for Sauber F1 will start behind Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull-Renault. In post-qualifying, Kobayashi commented, "From where I am starting I should have a chance to fight for a podium finish, and it would be a dream come true if I could achieve my first podium in Formula One in front of my home crowd." Kobayashi will be joined by the Lotus-Renault race car piloted by Romain Grosjean on the second row. Grosjean's teammate Kimi Raikkonen encountered difficulties through the last minutes of qualifying resulting in his Lotus-Renault qualifying 7th after the grid spot demotion of Jenson Button.

The Sauber-Ferrari of Sergio Perez will start in third row of the Japanese Grand Prix alongside Fernando Alonso's Scuderia Ferrari. Winner of the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix during the brief time if was run at Fiji Speedway, Lewis Hamilton will start 9th behind teammate Button. Alonso's teammate in Ferrari Felipe Massa starts in tenth place for Sunday's race.

It was a difficult qualifying session in Japan for the Mercedes GP cars. Nico Rosberg is starting 13th for Sunday's main event at Suzuka while Michael Schumacher is placed in 23rd on the grid serving a 10-grid position penalty for a collision with Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso-Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix. "It was a shame that we couldn´t do more today, after things hadn´t looked too bad this morning, but we simply didn´t get the performance together. Although we should also say that, knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn´t necessarily expect to look in great shape here." Michael Schumacher admitted after qualifying.

A Formula 1 grand prix starting at 3 PM local time in Japan, the race broadcast in the Eastern time zone in North American will be 2 AM.

2012 Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos # Car #/ Driver/ Constructor
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
3 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
4 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
5 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
6 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
7 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
8 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
9 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
10 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
11 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes
12 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
13 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
14 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
18 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
19 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
20 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT F1
21 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
22 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
23 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1

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