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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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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.

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.


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…..


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.


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 ?


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)


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 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.



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


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.


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.


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 🙂


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 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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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 …


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.


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

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