F1 Winter Break
Vettel on surprise pole for Japanese GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Oct 2011   |  7:29 am GMT  |  128 comments

Sebastian Vettel took his 12th pole position of the season, rather unexpectedly, as the pace setter McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton failed to get a final run in Q3 due to a timing error.

Jenson Button, who had set the fastest times in all three practice sessions, ended up second by one hundredth of a second, his first front row start since Monaco.

Having set the fastest time in the first runs, as he ended his out lap for his second Hamilton was passed by Schumacher and Webber and crossed the line after the chequered flag had fallen. He blamed the two drivers who had passed him for creating a “dangerous” situation.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said that Hamilton had been told not to let any cars pass and the Englishman seemed to be caught unawares when the pair blasted past him, Schumacher cutting the chicane in order to do so.

Hamilton said, “I felt I had a couple of tenths left so I felt I was in position. It was dangerous at the last corner, where I had Mark attacking me, so that’s why I lost the lap.

“It was my mistake,” he added later. “I should have got out sooner but I was making a wing change and I went out too late.”

Schumacher said the situation was “stupid” and went on “everyone was driving so slowly. I could see the time. It was tight for all three of us.” He too didn’t get a second lap in.

It was clear that Red Bull had expected to lose their 100% qualifying record from the reaction of Vettel’s engineer, who said via radio as soon as the lap was over, “Pole position, how about that?”

Vettel, who crashed on Friday, said that he had been “too slow” in final practice and managed to “get everything out of the car in qualifying.”

Saving tyres was at the top of everyone’s agenda in qualifying and this made for a lacklustre spectacle, which is a shame given the intensity of the competition at the front, with Red Bull’s 100% pole record, stretching back 14 races to the start of the season, under threat.

In part one of qualifying, among the front runners, Alonso had the edge over Hamilton, Button and Vettel all using the slower medium tyre.

Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi saw an opportunity and went out on the soft tyres to set the fastest time in Q1.

Nico Rosberg had problems on the Mercedes, not managing to set a competitive time due to hydraulic problems. He starts a season worst 23rd on the grid tomorrow. It was the first time this season he didn’t make it into Q3.

This left an extra place open for one of the midfield teams in the top ten, which Sauber, Force India and Renault were all competing for.

Petrov took 8th, Senna recovered from his morning accident to claim 9th and Kobayashi 10th, giving the Japanese fans something to smile about.

But it was clear that everyone was desperate to save tyres and limited their running accordingly. Alguersuari and Buemi didn’t do a second run in Q2, neither did the top seven runners. Perez had a hydraulic problem on top of a bad cold and didn’t set a time in Q2. He starts in 17th tomorrow.

Neither of the Force India cars made it into the top ten.

In Q3 Kobayashi went out on medium tyres to set a time, this was to cover any driver thinking of not running in Q3.

In Q3 both Schumacher and Hamilton failed to cross the line in time to start their lap, a horrible operational error which cost him pole position. He had been 3/10ths faster than Button in Q2, but didn’t get the run in when it counted.

It summed up Hamilton’s season of missed opportunities. He could and should have had pole position this weekend, with Red Bull the most vulnerable it has been in qualifying this year.

Although he faces a severe test from McLaren in tomorrow’s race, Vettel needs only one point to clinch his second consecutive world championship.


1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m30.466s
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m30.475s + 0.009
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m30.617s + 0.151
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m30.804s + 0.338
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m30.886s + 0.420
6. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m31.156s + 0.690
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes No time
8. Bruno Senna Renault No time
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault No time
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber No time

11. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m32.463
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1m32.746
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m33.079
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m33.224
15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m33.227
16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m33.427
17. Sergio Perez Sauber No Time

18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m35.454s
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m35.514s
20. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.439s
21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.507s
22. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m37.846s
23. Nico Rosberg Mercedes No time
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth No time

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Well done to Seb and Jenson. Hamilton errs and looks to blame others for his errors as he has done all season. It seems Jenson has completely unsettled Hamilton this year by his calm but very determined approach. My driver of the year, is Jenson. The race should be a cracker.


Except he didn't and accepted blame. Get your facts right before slandering the most exciting driver on the grid.


spot on Nick4.

So much for the critics who said Jenson would be destroyed by Hamilton.

Jenson is getting the job done with little fuss........unlike his team mate.


Read the post again!

“It was my mistake,” he added later. “I should have got out sooner but I was making a wing change and I went out too late.” Not sure how you come to the conclusion that LH is mentally weak.


When I posted my comment, LH had not made that statement about accepting blame. What he had said was that the situation was "quite dangerous" suggesting the other two drivers had created the danger. The truth is LH has portrayed all the traits of being mentally weaker than JB this year. Whereas JB and FA have adapted their driving styles to minimise their disadvantage to the Red Bulls and especially SV, Lewis continues to believe that his driving style is bullet proof. All the incidents LH has had, proves his style of driving needs a re-think. He is too impatient, wears his tyres out too quickly and becomes frustrated which causes him to err. In Singapore he could have afforded to wait and overtake FM, rather than cause the incident he did. That is why he has been mentally weaker.


I think Hamilton is showing all the traits of being exhausted, mentally aswell as physically. Since his debut he's been at the sharp end even when the car was weak he has been there or there abouts....he's human.

Its starting to take its toll, I think.

What compounds his problems is the media and public expectations, plus drivers who can't race and stewards who can't steward.....lol.

Button is doing a good job and deserves all the plaudits and praise, but Ican't help feel Hamilton would have been a lot closer and pushing Vettel and RB harder this season if he was on form & Mclaren gave him the support without the cock-ups.


I don't think Hamilton's problems are anything to do with Jenson. He knows he is faster and will still probably finish ahead at the end of the season. The reason for Hamilton's problems is Vettel. Vettel is now the young and exciting talent in F1... Which is what Hamilton used to be... He liked being the one to watch. Vettel is dominating the sport and Hamilton can't stand it.


Surely Vettel is driver of the year?! But I do agree, Button has been extremely impressive.

Hamilton just isn't there mentally, and I think he could struggle in this way for the rest of his career. He is immensely talented, but had too much too soon, and it now shows in everything he says and does.

The qualifying incident today I would blame more on the team than on Hamilton though. I just can't understand why any team would risk leaving the margin so fine. And having left it tight, why didn't they just tell him to go faster on his out lap? Whitmarsh said they told him to "keep the other cars behind him" - but why is there a need to be so cryptic all the time? A ridiculous and unnecessary error.


Right. My first thought on hearing the radio message was that Hamilton was holding up others in qualifying. Isn't that sort of a no-no? It should actually be a grid position penalty for Hamilton.


I agree that Button is just getting better and better, and there is a distinct shift in how McLaren are treating him compared to Hamilton, compared to last year, say.

It IS getting to the mentally weak Hamilton.

But more than that, it's pretty obvious that Hamilton is quickly losing the respect of his fellow racers...and when that happens you're on a downward spiral.


In contrary to your comments, Melvin, I rather buy rodger's comments on Lewis "losing the respect of his fellow racers". Ok Lewis may have a lot of raw speed and exceptional skills, this does not mean he has any respect for others on track. Very evident on Hamilton's attack on Schu after Jap qualifying session and he's attitude in Singapore during qualifying and post-race attitude (in not accepting the incident as his fault).


I can't agree. Hamilton is as good as he's ever been. The problem is his car is not dominant and he's frustrated that he's not leading the WDC, which is where he believes rightfully he should be. He's wringing the neck of his car and still can't beat Vettel.

Button, on the other hand, has remarkable self-control and is calmer because he isn't expecting to be WDC again with a driver of Hamilton's calibre as team mate. Button is relaxed, in control and comfortably achieving more than everything expected of him.


Look, but alonso doesnt even has the car that hamilton has...and yet he is supreme this year!


So weak he was fastest in Q2 ?

Loosing the respect of his fellow racers ?

You obviously missed Kobayashi and Petrov both separately naming Lewis as the best on the grid recently then. As if it is not very clear anyway.

Amazing how some people can spin the facts to suit their agenda.


Whatever hear say and stuff doesn't matter, the best driver now on the grid is Vettel, for that there's no doubt, but saying all that the Mclaren looks quick I think the Japanese grand prix is for them to lose, come on Jenson make them wait just a tad longer.


For a driver like Hamilton, Q2 isn't exactly a test of mental fortitude, and being top indicates nothing. I doubt Button was worried that Hamilton was 3/10ths faster than him in Q2.

It's not Hamilton's driving ability that's under question, it's how he's handling the pressure mentally. If there's any doubt about this, go listen to his exchanges with his race engineer over the course of the season.


face facts mate

Lewis has been a disaster this season.

2 rookies thinking you're good doesn't make you good - results count and Button has them


Can someone explain in a way that makes sense why Lewis is told that a tow (outside of the third sector) will hurt him, yet Mclaren send him out too close behind Jenson (where he would have been during his final attempt), so he slows to get a cap, gets passed, which results in him not setting a time.


Yes I think a surprise pole for Sebastion Vettel this time when Lewis Hamilton was clearly the quickest out there. While McLaren gave Lewis "the hurry up" clearly they had not allowed enough time to allow Lewis to sight the lap properly with adequate gap to Button to push. The fact that Webber and Schumacher overtook at the chicane just made things worse.

Nevertheless from third on the clean side of the grid Lewis still has a very good chance of wining the race.


The final lap of Vettel was awesome!

I really enjoyed it!!!

Carlos E Del Valle

Agree, almost on the grass at least twice during his pole lap. Not looking as comfortable as usual, though.


that's being on the limit, and i like that. A shame we were robbed of lewi's final lap.

Ted the Mechanic

Looks like Lewis can't blame anyone but himself if he was dawdling a bit. He may have had a couple of tenths left but that probably meant Mark and Michael wouldn't have made it across the line if they had stayed behind him.

Clearly why he was so quiet and subdued before the top 3 press conference.




This situation was very interesting and I just wonder how these things happen. People try to blame different drivers and after the tough season Hamilton had, he will be the first to be blamed. But was it his fault? If yes, why?



The way I see it, Hamilton was getting ready for the flying lap and he knew he had a pace to take P1. He was fully focused on it. He was fighting people in front of him and I think more Button than Vettel. Button slowed down a bit to get ready for the last lap. Hamilton had to be sure that Button will not interrupt his attempt and so he also slowed down to give himself some room.

At the same time he got overtaken on the right by Webber and on the left by Schumacher who had to take the grass tour to avoid the accident.



I think Hamilton simply misjudged the situation. He probably though that Webber will slow down too in order to have more room, but Webber was aware there is no time late and he could not slow down if he wanted to give him a chance. Schumacher knew this too and so he had to get past Hamilton. They would probably not need to overtake Hamilton if he did not slow down. I guess in a sport like F1, you have go go flat out.



I think he is trying very hard to avoid mistake and to do well, but this is not natural him. Things are not going his way. He has to find his form back soon and has to be back to what he used to be soon.

Somebody has to help him by coaching him. Somebody very wise or the boy will be lost forever.

The pressure is there and he has to focus on F1 100%. Right now it doesn't look like it is the case. There are other things in life which are disturbing him.


It's revealing that Lewis said he had enough time. Yes, but what about the guys behind ? Did he think they'd just follow him and lose their laps ? Wouldn't it have been a good idea to keep his eye on them ? He never seems to be able to put himself in anybody's else's shoes.

That said, his pit should have been more pro-active. Aren't they talking to him all the time ? Another example of McLaren amateurism this year compared with RB.


This is why appointing Sam Michael as sporting director will prevent this type of thing happening again. All of McLaren's race errors can be blamed on not having one since Dave Ryan left.


Okay, that was a dull qualifying session for not only didn't any driver crush out but this saving of tyres business is being to try our patience.

Lower down, good work by Kobayshi, Massa, Sutil & Riccardo.

Now for tomorrow, yes the front row grid reminds me so much of China 2011 so I predict a Hammy win for hey, it's better to win from 3rd than from pole, No?

My podium



that's my podium too.

Nobody gets fooled. On raw speed jenson is not a match for hamilton. He is on fire now, but the trend is going to change with the next lewis victory. This sunday i think.


"hamilton the pace setter" [mod]. he would have possibly beaten button/vet, no way the dead cert you seem to think.


He was the pace setter in Q2 by 3/10ths of a second, so he was the pace setter going into Q3...


Fantastic article as always.

Just a quick fix: Kobayashi should start in 7th since he at least had initiated a fast lap, the other no-timers are correctly placed 🙂


He was also the pace setter before the 2nd runs in Q3.

Could we have an article about the Hamilton, Webber, Schumacher incident please James? I find it very interesting that Hamilton said Webber was dangerous when he tried a similar move on Massa in Singapore quali. I also think his attitude for the photos was interesting, he was rubbing his chin when the others were smiling and waving. I wouldn't be happy if I was one of the sponsors.


Even as a fan of Lewis, I agree with this too. He just doesn't seem to have his head on recently. I also don't think his Pop Idol management is helping either.


"I find it very interesting that Hamilton said Webber was dangerous when he tried a similar move on Massa in Singapore quali. "



Disappointed I got up at 5.45am to watch 40% of the top 10 shootout not bother to set a time...


It's obvious they're aren't enough tyres. Can someone remind me what happens about this next year ?


Qualifying is turning into a real farce with people opting not to run to save tires...I used to watch qualifying with bated breath but now it's turning into a snore fest with people opting not to set a time or realising that they can score decent points by starting lower down but with fresh tires. My answer: points or penalise.

Going back to qualifying today, Hamilton only has himself to blame. He didn't need to risk being so late to the game with his second run - an unnecessary gamble. Button did a top job though and I was surprised the Redbulls didn't 'destroy' the competition. (see what I did there?)

Still, from the long runs in Free Practice, it looks like the Redbulls have really good race pace. I get the feeling that both RB cars will romp into the distance...unless Vettel slips off the road again and Webber gets stuck in traffic...


Totally agree - while in the Suzuka area I decided to enjoy FP1&2, which is usually a nice day out at this time of year, and then trade today's sessions for a few hours of WC rugby instead. In part because quali doesn't really hold so much attention these days.

Still looking forward to a great race tomorrow. Will be on the end of the home straight/1st corner. Assuming that Hamilton is on the more grippy side can see him having a tussle with Jenson into the first corner. Hopefully they both make it through OK.


Agree your comments re the fquali snore fest, just like the traces now also a snore fest.

Once the title is won watch the TV audiences drop .

Bernie will not be happy!!


Hi All,

I missed watching Qualifying, so can some fill me in why Senna is placed higher than Petrov who has a faster time? I'm not complaining though, I wished Bruno had driven alongside Button at Brawn when after they gave him a test. Go Senna.

Button for the win tomorrow I hope!



From the F1 website:

FIA sporting regulations split those who don’t record a time during qualifying sessions into three categories to determine the grid order. Drivers who attempt to set a time by starting a flying lap are ordered first, followed by drivers who leave their garage but don’t start a flying lap and finally drivers who stay in their garage. Within each group, drivers are then arranged in numerical order.

Unlike Schumacher, Senna and Petrov who didn’t complete qualifying attempts, Kobayashi did start a flying lap which he subsequently aborted. Thus Kobayashi and Schumacher will make up the fourth row in seventh and eighth respectively, while Senna and Petrov will be on the grid’s fifth row in ninth and tenth.


with the hamilton incident.. (again.. ) there are two things:

- hamilton had button right before him at the casio chicance. i think the distance between him and button was a normal one.. trying to leave 5secs before the hot lap

- webber and ms both seemed getting frustrated behind lewis. lewis was told not to let anyone pass. maybe he was too busy doing that.

in the end it worked out wrong.

to be fair to lewis... what could he have done? overtaken button? that would have caused outrage.

mclaren should come out, hold their hand up and say... we should have released both drivers 30 secs earlier.

shame for lewis as he seemed to have that extra 0.1 edge over his team mate.

i hope he can clear the air with the team and with himself... that is where a good driver coach trainer manager comes in...

which he lacks.


Does this mean Hamilton has an extra set of soft tyres? So, possibly favourite for the win if Vettel doesn't disappear into the distance in the early laps?


It also means that he has to start on older tyres. As Ted said that everyone's first run was on scrubbed sets, whereas jenson and seb will start on tyres that have only done 3 laps.

Lewis is a grown man and he and his fans need to accept that he is ultimately responsible for his own decisions (inc. who he chooses for mgmt). Some of which have shown to be pretty flawed of late...


I think he needs to ditch the Pop Idol management and go for a proper F1 or sports manager. Heck, even Flavio might be better suited for the job??


yes ; wonder if this is the truth about the team releasing him so late ...new set of tyres and just ambled around

too embarrasing for the team to admit to not sending him out for a try at pole !this way they have a split strategy


Now seems pretty-clear that Vettel was coasting during practice .... I mean, his pole-lap was a full 1.5 seconds than anything he did in any session afterall.

And Whitmarsh : Telling LH to not let any cars pass, how un-british, how unsporting ! The only thing missing was the word "destroy" and it'd start sounding awfully familiar.

And Lewis : Reckons he had two-tenths in his pocket but those bad other drivers went past him and ruined it. Terrible bad luck.

Well done to Massa though, he should be feeling pretty chuffed.


If cars passed him, he wouldn't have set a lap. There was nothing unsporting about it, he just didn't want Lewis to go too slowly, which he did.


he said that they had a problem which they didn't cure until after FP3


Hi James.I think the race is going to be very interesting.The mclaren seems to be the fastest car and is for sure the favourites to take the victory.But ferrari with their great starts might assist vettel if they jump mclarens and then delay them.How do you see this race unfold?(A 1-2 finish for mclaren has some great odds.Do you think we should bet on it?)


No. The McLarens would have to get to the first corner first. I've done some analysis of the practices, and although no-one knows for sure, the Red Bulls were very fast on the long runs yesterday, and the fuel loads would have to be unreasonably low for them not to be very competitive. I hope the McLarens make a race of it, but I'm more than a little concerned that Vettel will disappear up the road.

Strategy will be fun though, there are scenarios in which two, three or four stops could be fastest depending on the performance of the primes and the degradation of the options. Check out the analysis at http://www.intelligentf1.wordpress.com .


I don't think this is a case of Lewis caught napping - surely McLaren must take some of the blame. They control when he exits the pits, and quite clearly they cut it too fine. There simply wasn't enough time / track for Lewis, Webber and Schumacher to all complete a clear lap.

James, please let us not add to the Lewis bashing - he needs support.


It was a teamwork misfire, which includes the everyone, including Hamilton.

However, if it had been Senna, Prost, Stewart driving that car, they would have gotten over the line in time, no matter what the input was from their team.

hamilton should listen more to himself instead of the radio feeds. See Vettel a few times this season.


He needs to get the job done more often.


I agree, I don't think Lewis was caught napping. Seemed to me that he was preparing for his run in the normal manner, if anything, Jenson backing him up set of the chain of events that resulted in what we all saw. For me, the Team/Pit Wall/Engineers need to take some (if not all) of the blame/responsibility for this. I can understand that they possibly didn't want to do another Q3 run, but having decided to do one, you need to ensure that both of your drivers have enough time to complete it.


agree with that. if the roles were reversed... LH first in the cue... and JB behind him.. JB would have gotten into trouble with opening his lap.

there was just not enough time for having 2 mclaren cars open their hotlaps.

the same goes for redbull and mercedes.

as webber said.. no ones (drivers) fault. all three drivers were put in the same compressed time frame. webber and LH seemed to be able to solve it.

MS solved it his way and then comes in the press saying that LH "pushed him on the grass".

That was very unclassy... as if MS never pushed anyone off the track.


McLaren have taken some blame though?


If we talk about Mclaren, it is a case of competence or more precisely - the lack of it. How long will they continue to be so poor at race operations and management, also strategy? They are so poor that almost every race weekend something happens. They have a pretty good car but have lost so many opportunities that they should be ashame of themselves.

Red Bull are outperforming them not just because of pure speed. Also Ferrari are better in these aspects.

Also Hamilton must take some blame for some of the mistakes this year. But the main problem is not him, but the team. Maybe there are details that Lewis should change but nothing that should be changed dramatically.

How can a team, an operation be run so unprofessionally for such a long time without any apparent solutions or changes? That does not mean that somebody should be fired, absolutely not. But they need a different approach. If they have done something, then obviously that does not work or is not enough.

Mercedes are also mediocre at best as far as strategy and race management is concerned.

These teams can do better, they have proved it in the past. They should prove it again now.


I think they need to stop trying to be different, run Hamilton on a standard two runs per quali session and stop trying to get him over the line with 1 second to spare and an extra set of tyres. Every time they make a bad call on Saturday, he ends up a few places down the field and then makes a hash of it on Sunday. Monaco, Canada, Singapore were all triggered by major errors in qualifying strategy. Sometimes they make bad call on Sunday - wet/dry tyres at the wrong time. Hamilton could benefit by simply following the tyre choice from his team mate here. It is rare for Button to be on the wrong tyres


McLaren recognise this, which is why they hired Sam Michael to head operations next year. As for Merd I don't agree at all. The strategy guys gave to contend with a flawed car, which eats tyres


Thanks for the answer.

About Sam Michael - I know that his position will be sporting director but I did not know that he will be directly responsible for these operations. Good for Mclaren then.

As for Mercedes - I have read a lot of articles and information about them. There have been so many strange decisions during the races this and last year that sometimes it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind this or that move. A lot of people have criticized them for their decisions.

If you say that the car is the main reason for the strategic troubles, then I accept it and will try to look at it differently.

Nobody is perfect and anyone can make a mistake as long as it does not become a norm or a regular unexplainable event.

I remember that Mclaren were good in 2007 and Brawn in 2009. Those were different times but still they have lost something since then (if we speak about operations).


If you look at the in car, Lewis was catching the car ahead - Jenson. He had to back off.

Funny how last race he passed Massa in qualifying - his fault (according to most comments). This race he gets passed by another driver (2 in fact) - still his fault. I guess some people simply blame Lewis fo everything, even though the last 2 races McLaren have failed to give him enough time to get 2 runs in. No wonder he is frustrated.


But the time counting down is what he is driving to in that situation, not the car in front. No point having a nice gap if your lap doesn't count


I don't believe they drivers have a stop watch in the car, and if you have a look at McLaren’s pit wall application, you will see a dialog between Lewis and his engineers/pit where, Lewis asks if it’s worth getting a tow, to which the response was no, unless it was in the final third sector, anywhere else was most likely to cost him time. So, what's he supposed to do given that situation? Ignore those instructions and attempt to get past Jenson? (I can see the headlines now if he had decided to do that!), or follow the somewhat contradictory instructions given what happened, which where to maintain at least a 4sec gap, don’t let anyone pass you and don’t hold anyone up! I think he tried to do the best that he could. But it would seem in some quarters that at the moment he's dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn’t.


I think they do have the countdown in their display.



Everybody seems to have turned against him.

He was clearly keeping his gap to Button in front, surely webbr and Schumacher got their timings wrong!

He then slowed coming out of the chicane in order to avoid a collision with Schimacher slurring back onto the track.

Absolutely ridiculous. I hope he trounced them all tomorrow.


Hamilton was in no way to blame for the incident if you're looking at it only from his perspective, or as a fan of his.

It was certainly the fault of the respective teams. That said, all three drivers were trying to cross the line in time. As has been pointed out in other posts, Lewis stated he had just enough time to cross the line and start his lap.

Great. What exactly did he think about the drivers just behind him? Are they supposed to just stand by and watch the clock count to zero?

You state he was keeping his gap to Button, maybe it should have been keeping any eye on the clock. He has no justification for being angry at Webber and Schumacher, who had every right to try to get their lap in.

Hamilton is one of the greatest drivers on the grid, no doubt. But he's having a tough season. He's not handling it well, and neither are his fans, who at times have been embarassing with their defense of everything he does.


"Hamilton is one of the greatest drivers on the grid, no doubt. But he’s having a tough season. He’s not handling it well, and neither are his fans, who at times have been embarassing with their defense of everything he does".

I would also say this to[mod] those who criticize everything he does. It's the same both ways. All drivers experience bad periods, and I only hope he gets over this one sooner than later.


Simple! He's not responsible for managing the other two.


What the other drivers are doing its not his problem, maybe they should have left their pits earlier. I see most people here jumping on him, it seems that work Lewis its damn of he does, damn its he doesn't.


Well it does make me laugh that Hamilton has had a massive slating for this. His non fans are having a go at him for not getting pole. Wierd.

Since Michael was the only other guy caught out by this, I guess you're a Schumacher fan.

And if his decision to come out that late was bad, Webbers and Schumachers was far worse, no?


Some fighting talk there James, it seems like the Hamilton fan brigade can't stand the fact that Seb is dominating F1 even with a slower car and to top it all off Jenson is somehow out driving Lewis, oh well I'm sure if everything goes perfectly Hamilton will win tomorrow which should ease all your pain slightly...


Not sure how you come to the conclusion that the Mclaren is faster than the RBR.

All these guys are fantastic talents, and every driver has ups and downs.


One more thing to say - Webber could be the worst driver of the year (if we talk about the top teams). I really like him as a person and a driver but he has only had a couple of pole positions this year and even then could not win a race.

Moreover - he has not won a single race this year. How many Vettel won??????

And look at the gap in todays qualifying.

Either he is already waiting for next year or something is not right at Red Bull.


Or perhaps Webber is shwoing what a normal driver can do in the RBR, whilst Vettel is far from normal(he really reminds me of how Scumacher was in his early Benetton days). Suzuka is all about aero, and thus it appears that McLaren have the best aero package (given the exremes SV went to in order to secure pole, and it did appear that McLaren should have locked out the front row). I expect both McLarens to be quick in the race, can Vettel beat them in a car with worse aero and less KERS? That'll take some doing... But the again he's probably the best guy on the grid ATM.


In fact, Hamiltons run was timed to perfection really and would have taken pole in a glory run.

I cannot believe the BBC and even you James are continuing this 'Hamiltons head is in the wrong place' attitude.

It's nonsense and making me very angry.

There have been some poor poor calls by McLaren this year and having not won a championship for god knows how long, I'm beginning to get sick of Martin Lewiss face.

Despite how the headlines read over this week or so, Hamilton points out he is only 17 points behind his teammate - who conversely people say is 'driving beautifully'

It really doesn't make sense to me. Hammy can't do wrong for doing right.


Your first point is probably valid if he hadn't backed off or been compromised. The margin from hero to zero is tight.


How is this a case of Lewis making a mistake? Mclaren should have sent out their drivers earlier to avoid this.

Like Singapore they send their drivers out line a stern and this cost Hamilton who was sent out 2nd. He had to create a decent gap to Button or the Aero from Buttons car would stop Hamilton getting pole.

Mclaren made a mess of it.


Qualifying is so contrived these days, in an attempt to make it more exciting but it isn't exciting when drivers only try to set a fast lap just before the session ends or not running at all in q3 just to save a set of Tyres.

I want to see a return to the days of one qualifying session where the drivers just go all out, lap after lap, trying to set the fastest time with a pint of fuel in the tank.


Hi James, great piece as ever.

I was wondering whether you could do a piece (either soon or at the end of the season) where you can examine the various problems Lewis/McLaren have had in qualifying this season and whether it is possible to attribute more blame to the team or to Lewis for why it just hasn't worked out, especially in Q3?

Certainly on some occasions (notably Silverstone) you can say the team let him down, but today seemed to be a case of Lewis dawdling at the end of his out lap and not seemingly aware of how tight he was for time.

Are there problems within Macca's pit wall team, or is Lewis not responding as well to instructions?


I think that was the 3rd (!) time in the row that Hamilton has some sort of incident while preparing for a qualifying lap. I can recall Maldonado and Massa were the other drivers involved in the incidents. Is there something in particular which causes Hamilton to end up in these situations? Strategy maybe?



or the "destroy his race" syndrome.

Those drivers need to take a leaf from DiResta, he understands the game and knows who he's racing.


Pretty disappointing quali - hope something is done about this saving tyres business - make the tyres hard is what I recon - make the drivers work hard with little grip and no marbles would encourage overtaking off line.

Is it just me or there seems to be a dislike developed between MS and Lewis? (In Aus. we dont get the after race stuff - dammit!)

In Monaco Lewis called MS a 'dirty driver', MS dirty driving in Monza - but let JB through - and Im guessing after today it wont be much better...


After Monza, I was reminded of an interview with Michael Schumacher in F1 Racing during his retirement... I think it was the end of 2008... He said 'if Lewis and I were racing one another there would have been some very interesting manouveres...' If Mercedes are closer to the front, next year could be even more interesting!


Let's hope the teams fears about very high tyre wear are accurate and we get a race like Canada 2010!


More tyres please.


Personally it is the teams' fault (McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes) leaving it that late for their drivers leave the pits - and that the incident itself was a 'racing' one. It is unlikely that being the last driver on track is going to make that much of a difference considering the track has been rubbered in long enough and as we see with Vettel's impressive pole.

Hamilton's season isn't helped with fundamental errors we see from McLaren time and time again - and this is going back quite a few years now in fact.

And Kobayashi will start 7th having started a fastest lap. A stand out performance from someone who has been regularly criticised for qualifying.


I think being the last man on the track is a good strategy.... one that Vettel has used successfully all season.

However Red Bull always time it perfectly, unlike McLaren.

Agree about McLaren errors - they admitted the other day that the last really consistent team performance for a whole season was back in 2007, although even then you could argue that they basically cost Lewis the championship by letting him stay out for far too long on old tyres in the penultimate race...


Hamilton, and his team to be fair, may well have made a stupid error, but Schumi cant criticise him for putting him off the track.

He was behind Webber, who had gone up the inside. Where was he expecting Hamilton to go when he noticed Webber was there?

Schumi had no right trying to go past two cars on a corner like that. If Hamilton was in Schumis car he would have at least had a reprimand for it.


Hamilton protested his peers caused a "dangerous situation".. That's rich!


Not much seems to be going Hamiltons way right now, while it all just seems to work out for Vettel.

Don't know what Hamilton expected Webber and Schumacher to do while he was dawdling along. If they stayed behind him they would have had no chance to get a lap in.

Anyway, third on the grid is still a good position, and I have feeling Hamilton could win tomorrow.

McLaren seem to be closer to Red Bulls pace, with Ferrari still too far away.


Hey James.

I noticed that petrov's time posted on the F1 website is actually a bit faster than brunno's time. What ahppened there? Brunno went out for a q3 lap that he did not complete and this gave him 8th place? Do we know why finally Kamui did not complete his lap on hard tyres which would give him 7th place since noone else completed a lap?

double eyepatch

As the commentators say, the slate get wiped clean and the drivers have to reestablish themselves. Times set in earlier quali sessions dont get counted for subsequent shootouts.

As far as I understand, if there is no time completed, then the drivers line up based on their car number, and Senna is running 9 as opposed to Petrov's 10.

If Kobi did complete a lap time, then he would have had to start the race on that set of tyres he used. They weren't willing to go that far to give up choosing to start on fresh tyres.


Congrats to Seb, but man that "that's what I'm talking about" line is old and lame.

Someone should write down some new lines for him

Ted the Mechanic

Yes I was wondering what he was talking about also. Since there's no talk publicly about banging home pole before Qualifying from Red Bull, Seb must be telling his engineers and management at Red Bull not to worry about P1, P2, P3, Q1 & Q2 times because he's going to nail everyone in Q3! And who wouldn't believe him now.

However it seems his engineer may not have been so convinced before Q3 yesterday...


Didn't Hamilton try to overtake Massa on the kerbs in Singapore in Q3? Now, he is blaming others if someone else doing the same to him. He is mentally not strong enough.


Difference is, Hamilton had another car on the right and schu had to cut the chicane to pass him (with webber on the other side).

massa was going slowly on singapore and ham passed him on the inside, no other cars involved and inside the track

not the same to me


Hamilton didn't have much option other than too slow down with Button going slow through the chicane as noted by DC during live commentary.

Mclaren should of given Button a hurry-up but were probably overly concentrated on Hamilton.


I found the qualifying a bit strange. For a start, the Red Bulls were not strong. And then drivers trying to save tyres and not bothering to qualify.

We have heard enough about Hamilton and I prefer if the TV stations will feature something else for a strange.

Couldn't get a proper picture of what happened at the end of Q3. They showed the on-board camera shot from Hamilton's car but they should have shown from Webber and Schumaher's car cameras or another view. We didn't get an interview from Webber either to get his point of view. This is not good TV coverage. So people don't really know exactly what happened and trying to blame different drivers and jumping into conclusions.

The running order has been changed a bit. It is going to be Kobayashi 7th, then Schumi, Bruno and Petrov.

I just want to see Vettel wrap up the championship tomorrow. Then we can start talking about something else.


I don't think we have to wait for that. We can start talking about something else right now. There's more chance that my granny wins a medal in London 2012 than Seb losing this championship. She'd be 155 if she was still with us ...


Mclarem really needs Sam Michael on board ASAP. I would say in both cases i.e. team and driver should take them blame. Mclaren should have sent him early as well as kept informing him of Shumacher and Webber tailing him in order to create a gap.

Lewis should have kept going and should have left the gap just after the corner. Anyways good performance by Mclaren, but I am 100 % sure that Lewis could have got pole position. Lets hope he can transfer this into the race and go for victory as Lewis is on the clean side of the track behind Vettel.


Looks good for McLaren in the race.

Hamilton takes Vettel out at the first corner - he's bound to hit someone,so why not Vettel? JB goes on to win the race.


40% from the top ten not setting times is a bit too much isn't it. Dull quali today.

Hope race will be a cracker due to high degradation.


Slight change to the line of discussion but I noticed Liuzzi has been given the right to start the race despite not qualifying within the 7% but also not setting a time that was quicker than this mark in any of the free practice sessions (or Karthikeyan in FP 1).

I assume it was given on the basis of Ricciardo's time.

Sets an interesting precedent. Not saying it was the wrong decision at all. It is the right decision for the sport, the sponsorship and for Liuzzi's skill but interesting nontheless


There is little doubt McLaren is the fastest car this weekend so a great pole by Seb... You could see him pushing harder than I have seen in a long time and put in quite a ragged lap. Doubt he will win tomorrow unless he holds first to corner one which will be tough, but the title should be his.


My guess is that when the race starts Vettel will move over to head off Button and Hamilton will get past. - And good luck to him as needs a bit this year! I really do wish people and media would get off his back as it's become really rather boring.


While I am an Alonso supporter (give him a decent car Ferrari!), I am actually concerned for Lewis.

McLaren might not need Lewis as much these days, but Formula 1 certainly needs him. Apart from Fernando, the only other driver who can challenge Vettel is Lewis.

Without Lewis fighting for the top spot, what we will likely see is -

Button performing above average, following Vettel home most of the time, beating rather low expectations (aka driving "beautifully")

Fernando driving his heart out in a dud, to no effect - lonely races for third or fourth.

Mark doing the number two driver routine to pick up points, knowing he will not win over Vettel without massive luck.

Massa fighting off the upper midfield cars and the Mercs

And Vettel driving off into the distance without a challenge.

A good recipe for a yawnfest.


The thing with Lewis is that when he ran into the back of a stationary car in the pit lane, it was red light fault not his.

Now when Schumacher and Webber overtook him because he slowed down, it's their fault, not his.

What did expect them to do? Stay behind him and miss the final lap?


McLaren needs a whole change up on their race day crew. They have been too inconsistent for far too long. I blame Whitmarsh for not cleaning house since he has been at the helm. LH's race engineer needs to be given the chance to "seek other career opportunities".

LH himself, needs to swallow his pride and ask his dad to come back and manage his affairs. He also needs to learn to trust himself and his judgement more and not rely so much on the team.


A bit of a microcosm of the whole season. Hamilton should have got the pole but through poor communication from the team and a hint of Lewis not being more demanding with his own team he ends up 3rd on the grid.

His missed a final run recently due to some problem in the garage. Didn't get the 'banker' in in Monaco etc.

Hamilton threw away a pole position that could have really helped him mentally.

He needs to stop this 'it was all my fault' type comment as well. A bit too defensive for my liking.


Mclaren was the fastest car today.

Vetel was the fastest driver.

Hamilton continues screwing up. Ah and to Hamilton: He (Schuey) is a seven time world champion and holds all records... you can't ever beat any of his records and trust me... if Schuey gets half the car you drive (Mclaren) he would be driving circles around you 🙂


Even though Lewis has taken the blame for the qualifying incident, to be fair in the cold light of day it was a team failing not allowing sufficient time for the overall qualifying run. It's precisely this sort of thing that Red Bull have learnt to avoid and one that McLaren with their extensive experience should not be happening. It's unfortunate but it's over so let's see what he and Jenson can do tomorrow.


Hamilton fastest today. McLaren aren't helping his mindset by leaving things so chancy. In Singapore he didn't get a second run, In Japan he didn't get a second run - it's beyond a joke.


Why is Button always trying to be nice and loving towards Vettel? How artificial and annoying!


I basically like the 3 stage qualifing process, But it should be about sheer raw speed not saving tyres for the race,give them more or harder tyres.



the title of your article is funny. After dominating most pole positions, p1 finishes and completely annihilating his competition, how do you find this one a "surprise pole" ? lol


Considering how Q1 and Q2 went, it was looking a little unlikely for Vettel. His wide moments on his pole lap show how hard he was pushing, it wasn't all his way, and even with that, he was only 0.009 quicker than Button. So I think it was a little surprise at least.


Because even Red Bull expected it was McLarens to lose....and true to form they did!


I've been in and around racing for years. There are lots of "fast guys" out there, but they are driving at 110%. This normally doesn't bring consistent results. Instead it normally brings lots of accidents/problems for that type of driver.

I still like Lewis, but he needs to dial it back just a touch to start getting good results again. He needs that patience he used to have. (or get a faster car/team)


Hamilton was a sitting duck.

Whoever sent him out at that time knowing Webber

and Schui needed to set another time should be fired.

I reckon his engineers knew if they held up Webber they would ruin his lap and Hamilton could take pole.

Bad strategy, did they think Webber was going to sit still ?


You're right, he's not. But with 2 cars behind him on track position, and a team communicating to him, how about getting a move on and not doing such a slow out lap. It's obvious they all have to cross the line in time. Both McLarens should have done a faster out lap to allow their fellow competitors to get a lap in. Why should they? Simple, because otherwise they all hit the line in the dying seconds and hold each other up. It was inevitable that if he was 'not to let anyone past' and he wanted to cross the line that late, that it would end this way. Only Lewis and McLaren had the power to change that.


I think the criticisms of Hamilton is unfair. Look, isn't it the team who decides when to put Hamilton on the track for his qualifying runs?

And if Button who was ahead of him slowed down to get a gap, what would you expect Hamilton to do? Overtake and compromise his team mate's final run? The race crew seriously needs Sam Michael on board sooner rather than later.

And Mo Kahn's comment on Schumi running circles round Hamilton if he had half his car. He can't even beat Rosberg consistently in the same car.....

double eyepatch

The way Kobi wasted his soft sets in Quali, I hope he finishes high on Sunday and slaps the faces of everyone who stayed in.

Its probably better that Lewis took the blame on this one. If he said that the others were crazy then I would've brought up when he ruined Massa's flying lap a similar way in Singapore.

He just really needs to start reading the game better, rather than doing this thing people call 'having a go'. Its really just stabbing up the inside that's makes you look like you know what you're doing.


"Its probably better that Lewis took the blame on this one. If he said that the others were crazy then I would’ve brought up when he ruined Massa’s flying lap a similar way in Singapore."

Massa v Lewis did not start at singapore 2011.

remember last year's bollard incident?

I called the race the Bollard Race. i can not remember which race, apart from that it was towards end of 2010 season. it was jolly entertaining too but Massa mewling about singapore 2011 now is cos he is trying to hid behind our short memories.

during Quali he came after Lewis on their outlaps forcing Lewis to onto a bollard.

Lewis complained on radio to his team.

Ted, sounding incredulous, recounted team comm to Brundle, who replied "..Bollards..." (don't ask me what esle was said).

then later Brundle realised that actually Lewis was right to complain about Massa because they were both on outlaps and not quali laps as commentators had assumed-therefore Lewis was not obstructing.

during the race Lewis saw reason to go on the Bollards again but this time in pursuit of the car in front ( he must have taken a shine to them during prior contact with them).

to cap it off during after race interview when asked about the Bollards his response "..they are insured aren't they...." Classic Lewis.

Can the real Lewis please stand up?

there have been grumblings & rumblings between Massa and Lewis for a while, since Alonso came on board ferrari -most have been ignored becasue instigated by Massa and nothing came of them but he has tried to interfere with Lewis Qualifying a number of times - i feel sad on his behalf (for what he has been reduced to)but not sorry enough to turn a blind eye to his shennigans and proclaim him blameless innocent in their current tussle.

Lewis knowing that the stewards were not too bothered from last time obviously "Paid back the favour" in singapore.

yesterday Webber got in on the action and Schumacher felt he had to have a go to - fair play to all of them - just don't make out that Lewis is the bad guy in this particular instance.


It sounds like Abu Dhabi last year you're refering to, I do remember a bollard camera knocked out by Lewis at the first corner.

What's the whole Hamilton v Massa history got to do with Webber/Schumi v Hamilton instance? I'm focusing on the matter of muscling past someone on the last corner just before the last gasp flying lap, and that Hamilton has been on both sides of the coin in two GPs. I'm fine with what he did in Singapore, and I dont think he should feel wronged when he has it done to him in the next race at least.


just responding to the part of your comments I placed in "".

Haven't been on this site for a while so did not get involved a couple of weeks back when the Massa V Hamilton Act Singapore 11 was on. I guess it is 2 weeks late anyway but

The specific point I wanted to make was that Massa v Hamilton, Quali Squabbles did not start in Singapore 2011 rather Singapore was Pay back from Hamilton having been treated the same by Massa last year.

I listened to his interview re: Schumacher and Webber - neither he nor Whitmarsh were complainin about Webber-apart from acknowledging they lost out. He said that he had to slow down to avoid a collision with webber. it was the schumacher move that he said was "interesting situation" I expect that is the one he would have had a problem if allowed to.


It is going to be interesting seeing how Lewis turns this all around ready for next season. It is not just about losing to his team mate for the first time in his career – Even as a Lewis fan. I’m all for that, if it will force him to review his approach off the track and make the necessary changes.

1. Andy Latham has to go. Not because he is bad as a race engineer (although why Whitmarsh decided he HAD to take both Lewis engineers away and replace with a rookie engineer is beyond me and beggars the question is Whitmarsh setting Hamilton up to fail?), maybe he is a good race engineer or maybe he had potential to be a good race engineer however the fact remains that he is not working well with Lewis. In China his advice was ignored – in Germany he was busy distracting Lewis at the most inopportune moment. Before, in between and since it has been one disaster after another. Monaco has been a major talking point for “the Lewis attack” brigade but there would not have been “Monaco” if his team had not cocked up.

2. Lewis has to set up personal race to race support. He is exposed from behind (the fact that he does not see this or react to this is what I find disquieting – is he vulnerable & being manipulated? Is too naive and stubborn or is does he lack Political Nous? ), he is attacked from the front. We also don’t know what is going on in his personal life but with his girlfriend tied up, and probably stressed too, it is possible that mentally he is all over the place but even that would not excuse the lapses. One can see why Anthony Hamilton was right all along not just recent comments (one can also understand that Lewis had to break away to find himself).

3. Even if things change in the right way, he needs time to bed in the changes(working relationship with new engineer, trusting the counsel of personal support etc) in order to hit the ground running next season but so far same old.

It is also interesting in a queasy way to see how his journey is covered by the BBC group of pals who continue to bring up Canada as job well done Jensen with undertone smirks of “not just because of the spectacular win”

The narrative has always been directed (and answered by the media).

1. Oh this is the lion’s den

2. Oh he will throw tantrums and cause trouble

3. Oh Jensen is the underdog

Ignoring completely Lewis own comments and effort towards ensuring team harmony and ignoring also how much vitriol Lewis absorbs not just for his own (admittedly) “ colourful adventures “ but also for the team.

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