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GP Week : Issue 229
QUALIFYING 2015 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX 53 LAPS ROUND 14/19 << Last Race – Singapore Last Weekend 1 Next Race – Russia >> Two Weeks’ Time 2015 FORMULA 1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION 1 – A Formula 1 race at Suzuka has only been won from lower than the front row twice since 1991, so it appears to be exclusively a Mercedes battle for victory on Sunday, with Nico Rosberg setting a pole time within 0.078s of his pole time from 12 months ago. It is only his 2nd pole this year, and 2nd time outqualifying Lewis Hamilton, compared to 12 times last year. The Mercedes drivers’ sector times were never more than 0.045s apart, with Rosberg 0.4km/h quicker in the speed trap. 2 – Valtteri Bottas has only his 2nd top-3 start of the season, following on from Belgium, and it means the top-3 on the grid is identical to the 2014 race, and in the same order. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel is attempting to win a Grand Prix from outside the top-3 on the grid for the first time in his career. Felipe Massa has a top-5 start at Suzuka for the 3rd year in a row, while Kimi Raikkonen has his best Suzuka start since 2009. 3 – Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is looking for a 3rd podium finish in his last 5 races, while Romain Grosjean reached Q3 for the 5th consecutive race. Force India have their first top-10 start at Suzuka since 2009 thanks to Sergio Perez, while Carlos Sainz has now outqualified Max Verstappen 8-5 this season, as Toro Rosso have a first-ever top-10 start on this track. 4 – Pastor Maldonado has a best-ever Suzuka start in 11th, while Fernando Alonso ties his best start of the year in 12th, a position he also started last weekend in Singapore. Nico Hulkenberg’s 3-place penalty means he starts 13th, just as he did in the 2014 race. 5 – In 13 previous visits to Suzuka, Jenson Button had never qualified outside the top-10, but he was knocked out in Q1 here for the 11th time in 14 races this year, but on a brighter note for Honda, the Mclarens were quicker than all 4 Renault- powered cars in the trap for the 2nd weekend running. 6 – Both Saubers were knocked out in Q1, just as they were in Singapore, but Marcus Ericsson has now tied up the season head-to-head with Felipe Nasr at 7-7. Max Verstappen starts his final race as a 17-year-old in 17th position thanks to his 3- place penalty, while Will Stevens outqualified Alexander Rossi as Rossi was outside 107%, mainly due to the Verstappen red flag preventing him from setting a proper laptime. 7 – Daniil Kvyat may be starting from the pitlane, but Kimi Raikkonen won this race from 17th 10 years ago, with Fernando Alonso finishing 3rd from 16th on the grid in the same race, so points are still very possible – especially for a Red Bull team that has finished on the podium in every Suzuka F1 since 2006. what could be considered a passing grade. Kvyat's late session crash also caught out Sergio Perez, who made it through to the top ten but was unable to set a time. He'd have likely ended the day in eighth, ahead of Romain Grosjean, instead of ninth. Meanwhile Kvyat's whoopsie resulted in him getting an entirely new car and a pitlane starting spot. The two Williams' showed promising pace with Valtteri Bottas in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel, while rather predictably Daniel Ricciardo struggled in the Red Bull. Marginally down in the first two sectors, where downforce counts, the Australian bled four tenths of a second to Rosberg in the short final sector, which is dominated by power and just a single braking zone. For Mercedes the session was reassuring. The opening day in Suzuka had been all but rained out leaving final practice difficult to deduce as teams ran varied programmes in a bid to make up for lost time. To therefore have both silver cars at the head of the pack was the restoration of the natural order, and proof that Singapore was a blip on the radar and not the signal of a new world order as some more excitable observers had predicted. 21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> JAPAN PARTNERS: