Sunday, October 9, 2016

By A Narrow Margin, Rosberg Beats Hamilton for Japanese GP Pole

The remaining five races in the 2016 Formula 1 season has the promise to be a tight battle between Mercedes AMG drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Braking away from the remainder of the grand prix race grid in a similar way as happened in the previous two seasons, the Mercedes AMG team is all but guaranteed to clinch the manufacturers' championship. As for the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship, never before in the previous two championship seasons for the German factory organization has resulted in such a fierce battle into the latter stages. Following a bizarre Malaysian Grand Prix last week, Rosberg leads Hamilton by 23 points.

A week after the race where Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo won following Nico Rosberg's lap 1 contact from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton suffering a power unit failure while leading, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka presents a chance to add another chapter to the circuit's storied history for affecting world championships. For qualifying at the 18-turn, 5.807-kilometer track defined for requiring power, balance and durability from a race machine, Suzuka epitomized the uncertainty of this year's championship.

In the final stage of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, the difference between the Mercedes AMG race cars was just 0.013 seconds. At the end, it was Nico Rosberg that inched his way to a 8th pole position for the 2016 season. The third consecutive year that the German driver will be starting at the front of the race in Suzuka, Rosberg is still chasing his first victory on the track while teammate and front row starter Lewis Hamilton is hunting for this third victory in a row in the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Ferraris led the way in the Q1 session in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying with Sebastian Vettel claiming a slight 0.015-second advantage on teammate Kimi Raikkonen. At the conclusion of the time trials, the two drivers were the second fastest team. Raikkonen was slated to start third on the grid for Sunday's race but his team would need to make a late change of his Ferrari's gearbox resulting in an 8th place starting spot. The second Ferrari of Vettel will also not be able to assume the fourth place starting spot. Following the last race incident, Sebastian Vettel was assessed a three-place grid penalty starting 6th. Vettel is the most winning active Formula 1 driver at Suzuka with four event wins on the track.

Promoted to the second row for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix, the Red Bull Racing team continues to be floating on a wave of success and fortune following the 1-2 finish in Malaysia. The youngster Max Verstappen is starting third while Daniel Ricciardo will be fourth on the grid.

Aside from Mercedes AMG, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, two other teams have inserted their two drivers into the top-10 at Suzuka. Sergio Perez will lead the charge of Force India powered Mercedes-Benz race cars in Japan by grabbing the 5th spot. Nico Hulkenberg will launch from 9th place. Attempting to iron out some late season bugs in what has otherwise been a decent rookie season, Haas F1 Team ended up with both drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez in the top-10.

In addition to Scuderia Ferrari team cars, two other drivers have been demoted to the back of the Japanese Grand Prix due to penalties due to mechanical repairs. At the back of the field serving a grid penalty is the Manor Racing car for Pascal Wehrlein who's team switched the gearbox ahead of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix. Also announced hours before the race's start was news from McLaren Honda that Jenson Button would drop to the back of the grid field due to a engine change. Button's final race at Suzuka as a Formula 1 competitor, the 2011 winner of the Japanese Grand Prix starts in an unremarkable position for a track he fondly races.

Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix will be a 53-lap event set for 2:00 PM local time (1:00 AM Eastern time).

2016 Formula 1
Japanese Grand Prix
Starting Grid 

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
5 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
6 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
7 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
8 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
10 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
12 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
13 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
14 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
15 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
16 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
18 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
19 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
20 31 Esteban Ocon Manor Mercedes-Benz
21 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
22 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda

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