Hamilton Breaks Track Record; Takes Pole in Japan
SUZUKA, Japan-R.I.S.- Breaking the lap record of the Suzuka International Circuit three times on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton finally set a 1:27:319 fastest time, taking his 10th pole of the season, and his very first front position start at this track for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix. Despite his grid spot penalty earlier in the day, Valterri Bottas finished in second, with Sebastian Vettel in third.
Although Hamilton now holds the pole record now, he was enthusiastic knowing that this was his maiden pole at this circuit.
"I've been coming here for so long, but it's my first pole here at Suzuka! Hamilton beamed afterwards. “It was definitely worth the wait. I didn't make one mistake all session and just kept getting better and better. We built the foundation in Q1 and then just built upon it as qualifying developed. I've been waiting all weekend for that moment, for that lap in Q3 - and it feels so good when that comes together. It's incredible to come here with this car and drive on this track. It's always been one of the greatest but with this car, it's mind-blowing, I wish everyone could feel what we feel.”
Hamilton first broke the track record, which was currently held by Michael Schumacher back in 2006, in the second session, with a recorded time of 1: 27:819. The current series leader bettered this by topping the time with a 1:27:345 early in the final session, before bettering it one last time, taking pole position.
For the American Haas F1 team, Kevin Magnussen was the best driver of the day, but could not get out of the second session, ending the day in the 13th grid row slot. Things were not so great for his teammate, Romain Grosjean, as the Frenchman hit a wet part of the grass outside and spun out of the S turns, crashing into the wall and initiating a red flag, which ended the first session.
Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in their Red Bulls, while Kimi Raikkonen took sixth in his Ferrari. Force India finished Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in seventh and eighth, while Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso rounded out the rest of the top ten.
Hamilton also added that it was amazing how the newer model cars could be so quick.
"It's always been a crazy rollercoaster ride, but with the downforce on these cars, it's insane. The way you can throw the car around, I love that. We know how quick the Ferraris were in Malaysia, so it'll be interesting to see how we compare. We've put ourselves in the right position to get the job done on Sunday. I don't know if people watching realize how much effort goes into qualifying, but the team worked perfectly to get me out at the right time, into space on track and allow me to do what I needed to do - I'm so grateful for that. They did a great job, I hope I can capitalize on that tomorrow."
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
At the Suzuka International Circuit
Final Qualifying Results
1 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) AMG Mercedes- 1:27:319 (New track record)
2Valterri Bottas(FIN) AMG Mercedes
3Sebastian Vettel(GER) Ferrari
4Daniel Ricciardo(AUS) Red Bull Racing
5Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull Racing
6Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari
7Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India
8Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India
9Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams Martini Racing
10Fernando Alonso(SPA) McLaren-Honda
11Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) McLaren- Honda
12Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault
13KevinMagnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team
14Jolyon Palmer (GBR) Renault
15Carlos Sainz (SPA) Toro Rosso
16 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas F1 Team
17Pierre Gasly (FRA) Toro Rosso
18 Lance Stroll (CDN) Williams Martini Racing
19 Markus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber
20 Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Sauber
A 16 year veteran of writing formula one racing weekend race reports, features and team launches, Mark has worked for such companies as all-sports, e-sports, The Munich Eye newspaper in Germany, racingnation.com and Autoweek. A former member for this site four years ago, Mark now is a contributor for R.I.S.