Daniel and Max will line up on the second row of the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix after a grid penalty to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas boosted the duo from their fourth and fifth places in Qualifying at Suzuka.
Hamilton set the pace in Q1, rising to the top of the timesheet around 10 minutes into the session with a lap of 1:29.047 on soft tyres. He was followed by Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen, who was trying to claw his way back from a crash in final practice. The incident had led to an unscheduled gearbox change which means he is set for a five-place drop down the grid for tomorrow's race.
Max took a comfortable third place in the opening session ahead of Bottas, Vettel and sixth-placed Daniel. However, like Räikkönen, Bottas suffered an off in FP3 and an earlier gearbox change means he'll also take a five-place penalty. That fact would prove a boon for the Red Bulls.
Q1 was brought to an early end 1m18s from time when Haas' Romain Grosjean crashed heavily at the exit of the Esses and the red flags were immediately shown.
With just over a minute left on the clock there was not enough time available for any drivers to complete a warm-up lap and cross the line for a flying lap before the chequered flag, so the decision was taken to not restart the session. It meant that 16th-placed Grosjean, Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly, Williams' Lance Stroll and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein had no chance of improvement and they were dumped out of qualifying.
Hamilton seized an early advantage in Q2, claiming P1 with a time of 1:27.819. He was followed by Vettel, though the German was over six tenths adrift of his title rival. This time Bottas took third place on his opening run with a lap of 1:28.543 set on soft tyres. That proved to he his best time of the session and he will start on that set.
The Red Bulls were again comfortable, with Max fourth and Daniel fifth. Both set a safe time on their first run and therefore neither emerged for the final runs, thus they saved a set of tyres. Sixth place went to Räikkönen, who mirrored Bottas' strategy and he will start on soft tyres.
In the drop zone ahead of the final laps was 11th-placed Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard had been edged out of the top 10 by just five hundredths of a second by McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. Also in trouble ahead of the final runs were P12 man Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, followed by team-mate Jolyon Palmer, Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz.
Alonso was the only driver to escape the danger zone, with the McLaren driver displacing Vandoorne to take 10th place. It was something of a Pyrrhic victory, however, as Alonso is set to take a 35-place grid penalty for changed engine elements. Vandoorne will therefore get a choice of starting tyre but will move up into the top 10.
At the end of the first runs of Q3, Hamilton sat in provisional pole position with a time of 1:27.345. That put him a comfortable 0.452s ahead of second-placed Vettel, with Bottas third ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel and Max in P4 and P5 respectively.
The Briton proved to be untouchable in the final runs. He made a marginal improvement to 1:27.319 but it wasn't necessary. Vettel could only find six thousandths of a second over his opening time and that allowed Bottas to claim P2 with a lap of 1:27.651.
However, once Bottas' penalty is applied, Vettel will start on the front row. The Finn's grid drop will boost Daniel to P3 and Max to P4. Räikkönen was sixth in qualifying ahead of Force India's Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez. Felipe Massa was ninth for Williams while Fernando Alonso was tenth.
2017 Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying Stats:
- Max will make his second career row-two start in Suzuka. Last year he started from P3.
- This will be Daniel's best starting position in Suzuka. His previous best grid slot was P4 last year.
- This will be the team's second consecutive row two lockout after last weekend's Malaysian GP.