For once, Suzuka looked dry on Saturday morning. With a minuscule chance of rain disrupting the session, the green light went on on Q1.
Going into this weekend, Sebastien Vettel was given a 3 place grid penalty for his actions in the previous race at Sepang. He was quick to impress, however. With the first session topped by him and his Ferrari counterpart, Kimi Raikkonen. Another impressive result in the first session was young Brit, Jolyon Palmer, who out qualified his teammate and advanced into the second period of qualifying.At the bottom end of the field, it was unfortunately business as usual, for Manor. It was two years ago that the team had it’s darkest weekend, with the crash of Jules Bianchi at this circuit. It will be Pascal Wehrlein who will start in 22nd, with Ocon just ahead in 21st. The Sauber’s once again failed to impress, with their zero points looking to remain the same with Ericsson in 19th and Nasr in 20th. It will be Renault driver Kevin Magnussen who will start 18th, and heartbreak for McLaren Honda at their home race, with Jenson Button in 17th place.
Session two saw yet more surprises. Right up until the last few minutes, it was Bottas and Massa in P9 and P10, but they were both swiftly beaten by the Force India’s of Hulkenberg and Perez, pushing them down into 11th and 12th respectively. At the bottom end it was Jolyon Palmer, who failed to set a lap, clearly concentrating on the race strategy. Fernando Alonso completed a dismal Saturday for McLaren, even with a new floor in place. He will start in 15th. 13th and 14th was the Torro Rosso duo of Kvyat and Sainz, with Sainz’s qualifying cut short after a spin ruined his final attempt at a flying lap in the closing moments of the second session.
The final session took a similar layout as usual, with two sets of flying laps. The first set was topped by Lewis Hamilton, ahead of his teammate, Rosberg, who had set the pace throughout the session. A very impressive qualifying from the Haas’, with Gutierrez starting in P10, and Grosjean in P8, split by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. Sergio Perez finished in P7, but will start P6, with Vettel’s 3 place penalty demoting him from 4th to 7th. The Red Bull’s of Verstappen and Ricciardo will start in fourth and fifth. Flying Finn Kimi Raikkonen showed his talents once again, and wins the ‘best of the rest’ award, behind only the Mercedes’ of Hamilton and Rosberg. This weekend, the front grid slot will be occupied by Nico Rosberg, who’s 1:30.647 lap was enough to beat Hamilton by less than two hundredths of a second.