Nico Rosberg took pole position at Suzuka for tomorrows Japanese Grand Prix by seven one hundredths of a second after setting a lap time of 1:32.584 after the Red Flags came out due to a huge shunt for Daniil Kvyat heading into the hairpin.
The Red Bull driver put a wheel onto the grass approaching the hairpin, which sent his car sideways before he was able to collect it, and it speared him off into the barrier to the left. The impact managed to roll the RB11 and cause substantial damage to the left-hand side of the car, something team principle Christian Horner admits might result in a pit lane start tomorrow for the Russian.
Valterri Bottas managed to post a lap time good enough for third from Sebastien Vettel in fourth, just six tenths of a second off the two Mercedes drivers during the initial runs of Q3. After setting a time good enough for third in Practice Three, Daniel Ricciardo could only manage sixth place, behind Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa in fifth and fourth respectively.
In what has turned out to be a weekend of embarrassment for Lotus after they failed to pay the circuit for their hospitality, Grosjean salvaged something during the weekend for them amid speculation over the future of his time at the team by qualifying in eighth.
Hulkenberg was one of the surprise drop outs in Q2, with Verstappen also dropping out after stopping with a problem in his Toro Rosso coming out of the hairpin. He is currently under investigation from the stewards for dangerous driving because of how he stopped in the middle of the circuit sideways, whilst Marcus Ericsson is also under investigation for failing to slow during the double-waved yellows that were put out whilst marshals removed his car. The Sauber dropped out in the first part of Qualifying in 17th ahead of teammate Felipe Nasr, in what has to be the teams worst qualifying performance in recent times.
Alonso meanwhile managed P14 and said over team radio that it was the greatest lap he’s ever driven around the circuit, and that nothing else could come from it. It certainly looked like that from the offset, although still disappointing on Honda’s home turf – especially when Jenson is P16.
Will Stevens meanwhile out-qualified Alexander Rossi in the Manor inter-team battle at the tail end of the field, after the American failed to set a lap time due to the yellow flags that were brought out for Ericsson’s car which spoiled his first attempt. Then on his second attempt he was curtailed by Verstappen’s stricken car which meant he was unable to set a time.