F1 Winter Break
Hamilton on pole, Vettel ninth after tactical error in Japan F1 GP qualifying
Posted By: Editor   |  06 Oct 2018   |  9:09 am GMT  |  279 comments

Whilst Lewis Hamilton bagged his 80th Formula One pole position, Sebastian Vettel’s ever-fading hopes of being able to fight for the drivers’ championship continue to dwindle away after a tactical error in qualifying left the Ferrari driver down in ninth place on the grid.

With Ferrari struggling to overcome Mercedes in straight fight, their attempt at gambling in the tricky wet-dry conditions at Suzuka backfired. Their call for intermediates tyres at the start of Q3 was ill-timed, and it left their drivers rushing to complete a lap on a gradually-worsening track, with the rain eventually falling at the end Q3.

By the time Ferrari had set their first lap times, which were only good enough to put Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in fourth and ninth, Mercedes had already stormed to a one-two, with Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas by three tenths of a second.

“The team have done an amazing job this weekend, and the call by the team in Q3 was probably the most difficult call,” said Hamilton after qualifying.

“You saw all of us bumbling and trying to figure out what to do. The team were just spot on with it and gave us the opportunity to grab this pole position.

“Whilst it was a bit of an anti-climax, because we didn’t get to do the last lap, it was still…it’s my 80th, I can’t believe that I have 80, and I couldn’t have done this without the team.”

Max Verstappen also benefited from Ferrari’s below-par qualifying to take a place in the top three, a position he will be hoping to hold on to during the race after Red Bull’s comparable pace to Ferrari in practice. It was a bittersweet qualifying for Red Bull, however, as Daniel Ricciardo suffered power unit electronics issues in Q2, meaning he’ll start from 15th on the grid.

Raikkonen took fourth ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, whilst Toro Rosso had a superb qualifying session with the updated Honda power unit, with Brendon Hartley taking his best qualifying result of the season in sixth and Pierre Gasly in seventh.

Qualifying Session One

Despite the top teams easily progressing and not needing to push to their cars to the maximum in order to get through to Q2, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel did a 180-degree spin of his car at the turn eleven hairpin, indicating how much he’s pushing in order to compete with Hamilton, who topped Q1.

The session was interrupted with ten minutes to go due to a crash for Marcus Ericsson. The Sauber driver ran wide on the exit of turn six and spun off into the tyre barrier, damaging his Sauber and putting him out of qualifying.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg had a similar crash in FP3, and his team faced a rush to get his car ready for qualifying. The Renault team succeeded, but he failed to progress into the second part of qualifying, getting edged out by an impressive lap from Williams’ Lance Stroll.

Joining Hulkenberg in the drop zone were; Sergey Sirtokin, Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson.

Qualifying Session Two

With Mercedes enjoying a pace advantage in Suzuka, they took up the option to try and progress into Q3 on the soft-compound tyres – the ‘middle’ choice tyre for this weekend. Ferrari chose the supersofts.

Regardless of Ferrari having the faster tyre, the Mercedes took the top two slots on the timing screen, albeit with Bottas finishing ahead of Hamilton for the first time this weekend.

With Ricciardo unable to get a lap in due to a power unit electronics failure, the Australian was eliminated, providing one of the shocks of qualifying.

Interestingly, both Haas drivers tried to take on Q2 with a set of soft tyres, and their plan looked to initially be partially-working with Romain Grosjean sitting in eighth place and Kevin Magnussen in twelfth after the opening laps.

With the ever-present odd spots of rain gradually intensifying over the course of Q2, drivers were unable to set any faster times in the closing stages of the session.

Getting their laps in just in time, Toro Rosso managed to get both cars into Q3, with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley in ninth and tenth.

The drivers who weren’t given another shot at qualifying due to the weather were Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo, who was seen screaming in frustration inside his helmet as he walked down the pit lane towards parc fermé.

Qualifying Session Three

Ferrari were the only team to venture out on the intermediate tyres, but they quickly determined that the track conditions were too dry and bailed out for supersoft tyres.

With the Mercedes drivers initially alone in battling it out for pole, it was Hamilton who set the fastest time by going purple in the second and third sectors. Bottas was fastest in the first sector, but ultimately fell three tenths short.

With both Ferrari drivers taking too much of the damp patches at the spoon corner, neither Raikkonen or Vettel set good initial lap times. Raikkonen was fourth behind Verstappen and Vettel was down in ninth.

However, with the drops of rain deciding to intensify once again, no runners were given the chance to improve their time, leaving the Mercedes pair to lock out the front row of the grid unchallenged.

Verstappen remained third ahead of Raikkonen, with Grosjean taking fifth place for Haas and Toro Rosso claiming one of their best qualifying results of the year with Brendon Hartley sixth and Pierre Gasly seventh.

The Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez had perhaps hoped for more, but line up in eighth and tenth, separated by Vettel.

“It wasn’t our day for timings, and the snap [mistake] into spoon [corner] didn’t help. Yeah, not our qualifying,” said Vettel.

“I think we made a step from yesterday, but unfortunately we were not able to confirm that.”

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.760s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.059s 0.299s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m29.057s 1.297s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m29.521s 1.761s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m29.761s 2.001s
6 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m30.023s 2.263s
7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m30.093s 2.333s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m30.126s 2.366s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m32.192s 4.432s
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m37.229s 9.469s
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m29.864s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m30.226s
13 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m30.490s
14 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m30.714s
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault No time
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.361s
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m30.372s
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m30.573s
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m31.041s
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m31.213s

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Who is the real Marlboro man at Ferrari (or F1 for that matter)? It’s not Arrivo though, is it even John Elkann?

Funny trivia or whatever one would want to call it.

Louis Camilleri, is also named Carey.


Well one can’t really demand that team orders and other artificial tricks are not supposed to happen in F1 as long as it’s mot prohibited.

What is very anoying is the pretention of fairness and all the hand-wringing going on. They should just do it all the time and be clear about all the shadow-plays. But that would not look good from a marketing perspective of course. So this is what we get. And Toto knows too well that it’s better to try to make it as open as possible, just like he introduced the Wing-man concept, and prepared the ground for it.

Still one is permitted some consumer complaints about the state of things.


i celebrated the championship a couple of days ago so this is all expected. roll on austin!


Some-one was wishing that it could rain to mix thing up and increase Seb’s chances on Sat quali. The wish was half granted, it rained and Seb worse off then, he would have been. It does not look, he can handle the rain. We can’t really blame Ferrari for his 9th position, whereas Kim will start on 4th position. If both drivers avoided the curves, they could have been in 3rd and 4th positions.

If intermediate worked, they could be in 1st and 2nd positions and fans would turned around and blamed MB for choosing the wrong tyres.


Ferrari has officially fallen apart! At one point it looked like they were going to run away with the season! Where did it all go wrong?


What strange irony for RIC. It’s hard not to reflect on the Webber/Vettel days and wonder whether this is somehow Marco’s revenge for RIC going to Renault? I know – illogical. But is it possible RIC’s crew are not as mindful of his car now?


I dont get it, the LHFC,aveli and Toto were saying that the Ferrari is the fastest car this season, this Merc managed championship theory is starting to become obvious.


Jimothy, didn’t I try and explain the concept of ‘in season development’ to you the other week? You should pay more attention….


As an aside, I’m on holiday and was going to get F1 TV pro to watch the race, but I can’t because the payment method has to match the location I’m watching in. Good job guys…


F1 pro remains the most idiotic subscription service ever conceived. They’re literally throwing millions of potential revenue away.


Can’t you buy a burner credit card, then use that?


If I’d planned it in advance maybe; unfortunately I didn’t know where to get a Barbados burner credit card at 11 at night 😀


to spice things up, i think the fia should award each driver with the points deficit they suffered to the champion a in the previous season. ie if vettel finished 50 points short of hamilton in 2018, he’d be given 50 points at the start of the 2019 season. we can then sit back and enjoy the chase.


Yep you’ve definitely hit the land of Pixies🧝‍♂️ and Fairies🧚‍♀️ where the Unicorns let you smoke Mary Jane from their horns 🦄
And Wizard🧙‍♂️ hands out hallucinogenic sodas with happy straws and the sky is pink and fluffy.
Just say no to the Unicorns and ask Dorothy to click her heels and say “There’s no place like a Santorum !” 🤣😊
50 point advance next thing you’ll want a “Milligan” (free pass) for every bad overtake attempt Vettel messes up.


Thats a Mulligan . Dam autocorrect


So Lewis manages 400 points and next year Sirotkin who scored nothing starts on 400 points (example only nothing against Sirotkin) So Sirotkin can trundle around last every race and probably win the championship. Great Idea, can we have sprinklers with that.

What i want to know is who are the five other people who thought that was a good idea, come on MOD name and shame



Lol aveli you’re ridiculous 🙂


Hmm, didn’t you recently comment that Seb was going to win every title from 2018-20, to be on 7?

Fernando said he didn’t leave a mm out there. I missed those type of comments from him of late.


I thought Seb was good enough to win in that car. He may not even be 6th fastest on the grid.

I was referring to Fernando leaving Ferrari and robbing us all of him in this years Ferrari and going up against Lewis.


hamilton spoke of ferrari’s trickery a couple of races ago and they spoke of being gentlemanly while referring to bottas as a butler. they recently threatened anyone exposing their intellectual property to the world while hamilton wondered where all ferrari’s pace had all of a sudden disappeared to.

i doubt anyone in the paddock can go against hamilton and come out victorious…


hamilton spoke of ferrari’s trickery

No he didn’t

He said there are some trick things in that car, eluding to the fact Ferrari had found something in Quali, he made no mention of the legality of the trick items.

Trick and trickery have completely different meanings..


How many naysayers accused Lewis of poor sportsman ship with the trickery comment. Only for the installation of a second sensor corresponding with a sudden drop in performance. Whatever “tricks” they were deploying it’s no longer feasible.

First it was a right hook in Germany. Multi combo body blows in Italy. A savage uppercut in Singapore. The opponent is winded, knees are wobbly – time to finish him off Lewis. 😀


Thinking about how the Merc evolved into the fastest car, it seems they started with similar problems to last season with their Diva Mk2 then did a major revision to wheel design and a rethink on set up along with the usual aero evolution.

Now they’ve finally, after several seasons of having tyre setup as their Achilles Heel, got the tyre management nailed, I suspect the only thing that will stop them next season is a fully developed and reliable Honda engine and some close to the edge Red Bull car design – though I predict that quite a few Newey tricks will be consigned to the FIA naughty step – I think Ferrari and Mercedes have turned a blind eye this year (aside from contemplating the good bits) and the other teams don’t have the resources to research the Red Bull tricks.

While nobody knows for sure, it does seem that Ferrari have been caught with an over-enthusiastic interpretation of the MGU-H rules and were less than transparent with the FIA given that the magic power boost evaporated with the additional sensor (which goes against the gentleman’s agreement over protests). Ferrari can only hope to equal the Merc engine, will struggle to match the long term design of the Merc and need a major overall of trackside management. Together with Seb not being able to command the team after 2 years of failure we could see Ferrari in 3rd place next year.


the cheats have been exposed!


Wet quali? Well that means Lewis is on pole doesn’t it? Seb messed up again?! What are Ferrari going to do about him? It was worth a punt trying the inters, and actually this gave the Ferrari drivers the best conditions, but they both made errors at Spoon and now they’re nowhere. Hard to see what Seb can do from ninth tomorrow, wonderful as Suzuka is, it isn’t easy to overtake there.

Great job by the Torro Rosso boys, q3 may have been a bit of a lottery, but getting there was a great achievement. Just like old times with Honda pulling out a ‘Suzuka special’, wonder what Fernando said about it….


What in the World has happened to Vettel?


He’s a very good driver but this season he’s up against a superior one.


Question. Ocon’s grid penalty sets him back to P11. Leclerc progresses from 11th to 10th on the starting grid. Does he lose his free tyre choice because of that, or is his Q2 result decisive? Conversely, does Ocon gain free tyre choice?


No on both counts.


No and yes.

The sporting regs state “at the start of the race each car which qualified for Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his fastest time during Q2”.

So Ocon must use what he used in Q2 and Leclerc can choose.


@ctrl-alt-del (and @Andrew M)



No, they have the same restrictions as when they qualified before grid penalties.


Just wait until the next automotive recession and Renault pulls the plug.


There is an “everything recession” coming to the “west” as a whole, as a result of greedy and selfish governments and bankers pouring money into inflating property prices and making them unaffordable, instead of pouring money into tech, manufacturing, science, education and innovation.

The hard times ahead couldn’t be less suited to overpriced hybrid tech, so all those who invested heavily in hybrid will suffer massively, including F1. Mark my words.


LukeC is 100% correct about the financial ‘melt-down’ of the “West”. Spring 2019 to be exact.


Indeed. Think the Global Funancial crisis of 2008, only much bigger, more widespread and longer-lasting.


Luke C, Sibelius

You’re right about melt down, increased risks indeed for such a thing. But going back in general to fossil fuel etc, will not change nor be much cheaper. Maybe the opposite is true. And I’m talking about the society.
F1 will be in trouble regardeless when/if that happes.

That’s why I’m surprised about the shortsighted approach. I can’t understand the Merc policy right now. F1 has such a unpredictable if not to say difficult future ahead, and with the races lookin like they do most of the time alrady they are playing high odds game here, playing with fire. Maybe they just want to grab what they can and then withdraw from F1


Renault pulled the pug because they were caught defrauding F1, entire grid, the championships and fans.

Makes me chuckle that people point out how robotic and corporate drivers are lately, feeding us the standard stuff, having little personallity, groomed and trained to be marketing spokespeople telling us what they were told to say and yet the same fans believe the rest of the marketing plan is left to chance, given no thought and not at all steered towards desired outcome.


@Gary – I don’t know how many times Renault has “pulled the plug”, but the last time was due to the Singapore cheating scandal, rather than anything economy-based.

That said, I did learn this year that Renault are heavily tied in with the desires of the French government, so if there is a historical correlation between automotive recessions, or just recessions, and Renault throwing in the F1 towel, France could be in the background, calling those shots.

Tornillo Amarillo

getting edged out by an impressive lap from Williams’ Lance Stroll.”

Thanks Editor for this, something to cheer up to my boy, Go Lance! 🙂

Tornillo Amarillo

I see it this way:
– Ferrari tyre error vs Mercedes perfect tyre;
– Vettel turn 14 error vs Hamilton perfect lap

Mercedes team and driver were just better.
It’s also explained because Bottas is P2 and Kimi P4 in qualify…

This season Ferrari and Vettel were good but with errors, and Mercedes and Hamilton were better.


Exactly! It’s been that way from the from the start. Mercedes are a juggernaut. Thanks for playing Ferrari. Time to shut this farce down and let the Merc boys enjoy vacation a little early. Again!


The Ferrari comedy show continues; Ferrarain. They surely must have Ombrophobia — or may be Bernie Ecclestone’s 2011 artificial wet track idea is responsible…LOL!


Poor RIC, hope next year is going to be less frustrating but his face was weary…


I haven’t seen him smile in a very long time! But, again what’s to smile about?


He’s a victim of timing. Talented driver, but arrived in the era of Hamilton & Verstappen plus Merc dominance. He doesn’t seem to have that extra tenth or two, certainly in qualifying. Give him a Merc or Ferrari and he’d probably find it and be in the mix, but timing means he did not find a seat at a top team table.

I fear sadly he’ll drift around in midfield for a couple of seasons then fade off to Formula E or such like.

Hope I’m wrong.


Game over. Ferrari did another strategic mistake. They finally reverted to the pre Monza package and car started working again, in normal condition they were .3 slower from superHam


Kimi did a better job than Sebastian. Same conditions and caught out at the same corner but kept it on the island and did a half decent lap. Has to be his best chance for a win this season now so I hope he gets a demon start!


Strategy usually worked ok on Seb’s weekends. Now they dont.

Something has changed….


they complained about their intellectual property, that’s what’s changed.


Maybe it’s all the sensors on the Ferrari cars that are making them slow. The weight must be a hefty load:))


Chris, good gag, but something fishy going on with those sensors…..


Ham is Spot on. Why there has not been more complaints about one stop year is strange. It’s part of the procession races we’we had


What I’ve not grasped is why a tyre engineer is unable to produce a tyre that can be driven hard and returns performance but degrades, or can be driven gently and lasts without being so sensitive to simply becoming unusable.

F1 should have tyres you can either thrash around for a 3 stopper 3 or 4 seconds a lap faster than a 1 stopper. This season the performance tyres have been fragile but have not delivered the speed advantage.

2 stops should have been the design goal and the ultrasounds should have been reliably fast but only good for 15 laps or so. Instead they are often only fast for a handful of laps and then grain so are no better than the harder compounds in terms of real race performance.

If Perelli aren’t up to the job of engineering degredation then they should engineer some super fast tyres that don’t degrade and there is then a rule to specify the maximum number of laps they are allowed to be used for.

Take away forcing to use multiple compounds, and if every tyre had a maximum specified laps you could probably get different setups suiting different tyre combinations and bring back 3 stop dashes vs 1 stop tip toes around.


Arivo comment:

“It is true that we are a young team, and we are probably missing an ‘old hand’, an experienced person capable of reading situations correctly and quickly.”

That guy is now leaving with a smile on his face, they should have left the decicion making to Kimi

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