Lewis Hamilton led another Mercedes front row lock out in changing conditions in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, taking his 80th Formula 1 pole position.
With intermittent showers throughout all three qualifying sessions, Mercedes read the conditions perfectly in Q3 to put its drivers out in the best conditions.
While Ferrari wasted a lap on intermediate tyres, Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas put in their Q3 times to go to the top of the order. Hamilton’s 1m27.760s put him 0.299s ahead of Bottas and 1.297s ahead of Max Verstappen, who picked up third quickest.
Ferrari switched to slick tyres after an intermediate out lap, but Sebastian Vettel span on his first flying lap. By the time he had refuelled and was ready for his final lap of the session, the rain had returned and the grip was gone. He span again and ended the session ninth.
Kimi Raikkonen managed to put himself P4, ahead of Romain Grosjean.
Both Toro Rosso drivers managed to make it through to Q3, the first time two Honda powered cars have made it to the final qualifying session of the manufacturer’s home GP since it returned to the championship. Brendon Hartley outqualified team-mate Pierre Gasly, with the pair finishing sixth and seventh.
Esteban Ocon qualified eighth, but will see the stewards later, as it was detected he didn’t slow sufficiently when the red flag was brought out in FP3 for Nico Hulkenberg.
Sergio Perez completed the top 10.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was missing from the Q3 action after an engine problem in the second qualifying session. He reported “no power” early in Q2 and was pushed back into the garage. Without a lap time, he starts the race P15.
Charles Leclerc enjoyed an impressive Q1 to put himself sixth when the first chequered flag fell, but he couldn’t repeat the effort in the second qualifying session. With a spin in wet conditions in the closing stages of the session, he finished P11, ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, and Lance Stroll, who just pipped Nico Hulkenberg out of Q1.
The first session was red flagged early after Marcus Ericsson hit the barriers after losing control of his Sauber on the slippery kerbs. He will start from the back of the grid alongside McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
Sergey Sirotkin will start 17th, alongside Fernando Alonso.