Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Suzuka, 2012

Vettel continues Suzuka dominance with fourth pole

2012 Japanese GP qualifying

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Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Suzuka, 2012Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka for the fourth year in a row.

The reigning champion was rarely challenged during qualifying and heads an all-Red Bull front row with Mark Webber taking second.

Jenson Button took third but his gearbox change penalty will promote Kamui Kobayashi to third on the grid at his home race.


Vettel led the way at the beginning of Q1, a 1’32.608 enabling him to stay in the pits without using a set of soft tyres.

Most other drivers had to use a set of the faster compounds to ensure a place in Q2, including the Lotus pair.

Nico Hulkenberg made a late start to qualifying after the team completed repairs to his car following his crash in final practice. But a 1’32.828 comfortably got him into Q2.

Another Mercedes-powered driver was having a less comfortable time. Michael Schumacher left the pits late and ended up needing a final flying effort to secure his progression. He made it, after a superb lap on hard tyres secured 16th place.

Jean-Eric Vergne made it through but not without incurring the wrath of Bruno Senna, who he held up at the chicane. Senna gesticulated angrily at the Toro Rosso pilot.

Vitaly Petrov could only manage 23rd, beaten by both Marussias and Pedro de la Rosa – the HRT driver successfully splitting the two MR01s.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’33.405
19Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’34.657
20Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’35.213
21Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1’35.385
22Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’35.429
23Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’35.432
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth1’36.734


Vettel set the benchmark in Q2 with a lap of 1’31.501. Button came closest to begin with but was almost three tenths of a second slower. Behind them was Webber and these were the only three drivers who were not on the track at the end of the session.

Hamilton, fourth, returned for another run having been four-tenths off his team mate with his first run. However he was able to return to the pits as he only fell as far as eighth as others improved.

Alonso produced a 1’31.833 to ensure his place in the top ten but team mate Felipe Massa failed to get through by just two-hundredths of a second. He was knocked out after Romain Grosjean improved his time, joining team mate Kimi Raikkonen in the final part of qualifying.

Neither Mercedes made it through, nor did the Toro Rosso pair.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Felipe MassaFerrari1’32.293
12Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’32.327
13Michael SchumacherMercedes1’32.469
14Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’32.512
15Nico RosbergMercedes1’32.625
16Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’32.954
17Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’33.368


Red Bull led the running as Q3 began, Vettel setting a 1’30.839. Webber was just two-tenths of a second off his team mate – he was quicker in the first sector but lost time with a lock-up later on the lap.

Button was another two-tenths behind in third, followed by the Lotuses and Hamilton. Alonso, Hulkenberg and the Saubers limited themselves to just one run.

Vettel made a good start to his final effort, immediately finding the time he’d lost in the first sector. But further ahead Raikkonen hit trouble, spinning at Spoon curve.

With the yellow flags out the drivers behind him were required to slow down. Several drivers improved their time after Raikkonen spun, but it remains to be seen which of them had passed the scene before the yellow flags came out – and whether they might received penalties.

The top three held position while Kamui Kobayashi moved up to fourth and Grosjean took fifth. Perez claimed sixth ahead of Alonso with Hamilton only ninth.

But Vettel had no need to improve his time and backed off, cruising into the pits to celebrate pole position at Suzuka for the fourth time in as many years.

Top ten in Q3

1Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’30.839
2Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’31.090
3Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’31.290
4Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’31.700
5Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’31.898
6Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’32.022
7Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’32.114
8Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault1’32.208
9Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.327
10Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes

2012 Japanese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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91 comments on “Vettel continues Suzuka dominance with fourth pole”

  1. Vettel is so dominant in Suzuka, even without the yellow flag incident he would still probably be on pole. Red Bull 1-2!!!

    1. Sebastian Vettel is also under investigation for impeding Fernando Alonso (last paragraph). I didn’t see anything like that on Sky’s coverage and I didn’t hear anything on the team radio, so I suppose nothing will come of it.

      1. Here’s the onboard. Looks like a clear block to me.

        1. Looks like Vettel getting out of the way before Alonso gets to him.

          1. I think that’s what it looks like he tried to do, too, and whoever wrote this article seems to agree (as, I suppose, the stewards did) — but there clearly will be no convincing some people. It seems to be one of those ambiguous incidents subject to varying interpretations.

          2. @aka_robyn

            It seems to be one of those ambiguous incidents subject to how much people like or dislike either Vettel or Alonso.

            Fixed it for you, Miss :)

          3. @guilherme Hahahaha! Yeah, probably in a majority of cases, especially among fans…

  2. This is bad. Alonso is far behind and Hamilton is further more! also Red Bull seems quite fast in the race. I hope race pace is a litte bit different from the qualifying. If not, final chapter of the season gonna be easy task for Red Bull and Vettel. Sauber really helping Red Bull and I was quite surprised when Kimi spinned.

    1. release the grosjean!

      1. @naylamp Now we need (Grosjean) launch control!

        1. Ferrari are always quicker in the race than in qualifying. I expect Fernando to be right up there.

          1. @kingshark you’re right. still I can’t see they would be as fast as Red Bull which Alonso need. two Saubers make me worried as well.

      2. LOL really funny this!

    2. Even if he performs really well in this race he will lose another 10 to 15 points and doesn’t seem to have much at hand to protect his lead with for the remaining races. I thought another win for Ferrari should be enough, but the last couple of races indicate even that might be too little. I can only see it happening if the McLarens consistently take points off Vettel (who must feel a bit like Schumacher in the early 2000s, no matter what happens things keep coming back to him). Well .. I’ll keep hoping for the best!

      1. You guys do realise that if Gro crashes into anyone it will probably be an advancing Alonso or Hamilton right?!

  3. Surely a penalty for Kobayashi?

    1. @095cal Looks possible. However he hadn’t previously set a time in Q3, so maybe not. The same could go for Alonso.

      Looked like Grosjean and Button improved their times with their last runs too, which could be problematic.

      Let’s see what the stewards come out with. We may be in for a repeat of 2009

      1. Or perhaps not:

        So, I’m told that in the relevant yellow-flag sector, no-one improved so there are unlikely to be penalties

        So says Andrew Benson:

    2. And for webber and grosjean. They both destroyed di resta’s lap.

      1. I really don’t see how you could blame webber for that, he was completely off the racing line. Even Grosjean had another car in front of him. As Ant said in Sky commentary its to do with the track layout and bad luck.

    3. Reports on Twitter indicate Kobayashi will not receive a penalty because he didn’t gain time at the point where he passed Raikkonen and didn’t use KERS or DRS.

      1. How close to Button do you think Kobayashi would have come (not that it matters in terms of position), if he were able to utilise KERS and DRS?

        Stellar drive from him, though :P

      2. Since when did they use KERS and DRS through spoon anyway..?

  4. Anti-climactic end, that’s for sure.

    Can’t help but think, given the speed the RB’s have just shown, the championship is as good as gone for Ferrari.
    And the Mclarens are going to have interesting time of it tomorrow – they’re pretty out of place.

  5. damn kimi! alonso could’ve start from P3.

    1. :))). Where is Piquet Jr. when you need it?

    2. Hamilton’s fault!, Raikkonen’s fault!

  6. Looks like Red Bull are set for a 1-2 here tomorrow, with their real contenders being stuck 6th to 9th on the grid.

    Equally disappointed with the Mercedes “trio” of Schumacher, Rosberg and Hamilton. Unless Lewis was trying to get on par with his future ride, I don’t know what else could have happened there to throw him 1 sec. off Button’s pace. Disaster for Williams as well, with Sauber and Force India both doing well and rather well, respectively.

    The upside: I wouldn’t have credited Sauber with a Spa-like performance yesterday… If they play the tyre conservation game right, who knows…

    Gonna be good fun tomorrow.

    1. Hamilton’s final lap of Q3 was ruined by Kimi’s spin, but yes, he was consistently slower than Button in Q2, Q1 as well.

      1. I thought I just heard him almost admiting in the interview he was just worse since when asked about the Raikkonen incident if it compromised him he replied “nah I was not near” or something.

    2. There’s still a race to go. Yes, they are fastest, and have the best chance of winning, but its not a done deal.

      What if Kobayashi has a great start from 3rd (if he keeps that) and gets ahead? Pitstops, tyres, possible crashes and SC periods, etc.

      1. This is when Grosjean is needed.

        1. And he is almost there (at P4)!!

      2. Or THE alternator. :) Yeah, and I know it’s not a done deal but I don’t think this is to be taken away from Red Bull. However, those Saubers are well placed. We’ll see…

  7. Vettel was never really in doubt for pole after his first flying lap in Q2.
    I will be very interested to see if Kamui gets a penalty, considering he didn’t really look like he lifted off under yellows. A shame as Ferrari tweeted that Kimi’s yellow flags cost Alonso a very probable 4th.

  8. Too bad the Red Bulls are cushioned from Ferrari and McLaren by KOB and GRO. This way, nobody will be able to challenge Vettel in the first corner. I’m pretty sure Webber has been already worked up by the team and his mission for this race will be to take poins off Vettel’s rivals. It will be a wild run for the McLaren drivers with some ‘smart’ strategies and plans A-Z. Alonso should finish on the podium if he gets through the first corner in one piece. As for Vettel there are 2 variants: straight win or alternator failure.

    1. the alternator failure line made me laugh.

      1. As for Vettel there are 2 variants: straight win or alternator failure.

        Or launch Grosjean in turn 1.

        1. Nah, after the Spa carnage, Grosjean will be super-extra-careful. I think he’ll opt for a miserable start – better lose one place than one race.
          Hopefully Kamui will want to show his compatriots the kamikaze spirit and wipe out the front row.

          1. @kingshark @klaas has made a good point. If Grosjean hits Vettel he’ll be banned yet again, perhaps for more races than one. I doubt he’d dare do anything too risky if he wishes to keep his seat at Lotus…

        2. I’m so going to laugh if Gro takes out Alonso or Hamilton tomorrow..

    2. @klaas Never rule out Grosjean of Mass Destruction.

    3. Just wait until Grosjean spears ahead (hopefully not spear into anyone)

    4. This way, nobody will be able to challenge Vettel in the first corner. I’m pretty sure Webber has been already worked up by the team and his mission for this race will be to take poins off Vettel’s rivals.

      I don’t know about that. He’s 62 points behind with 150 on the table. Technically he’s still pretty much the same title contender Hamilton and Raikkonen are. He might just go for it. I hope he’ll go for it…

      1. On the other hand, both Webber and Kobayashi have a history full of poor starts, so yeah…Vettel seems likely to pull away early.

      2. Do you really think Red Bull will allow Webber to challege Vettel? Mark was in better position to take the title in 2010 but his team made everything possible to give Seb the advantage. But now, with Vettel so much in front…no way. It’s the same ridiculous thing as if Ferrari were starting to favour Massa over Alonso. Mark is No 2 – period.

        1. Webber is much closer to Vettel than Massa is to Alonso this season…but you are right, if it was Webber on pole you could be assured Webber would need a gearbox change before tommorow’s race ;)

          1. By this u mean Redbull will do just anything to keep Webber behind Vettel?

  9. How the hell can Hamilton be 1.1 seconds slower than Button in the same car? I don’t want to start a conspiracy, but something’s not right.

    As for Alonso, I have faith in him. Had it not been for Raikkonen, he was on a very respectable first sector and definitely could’ve been 3rd/4th. Plus, Ferrari’s pace in the race is always better than qualifying.

    1. you are right somethng is fishy with the hamiltons car.

    2. I don’t want to start a conspiracy, but something’s not right.

      Good, if you don’t want to start that kind on nonsense, don’t.

      Hamilton chose to return to an earlier setup after this morning (said so in interview) and it proved to be the wrong choice. Also we all know how Button can be incredibly fast when the car works to his liking.

      1. Also we all know how Button can be incredibly fast when the car works to his liking.

        1.1 seconds faster than Hamilton? On a drivers circuit like this? Even with a better setup? Yeah right.

        1. Well, another reason could be Ham running the worn tyres in the “only” timed lap in Q3

          1. hamilton could have gone faster like kobayashi did, just slow down in the yellow flag section. it was his setup choice, ie driver mistake. dont blame the team.

      2. @BasCB …and Hamilton has a habit of making horrific choices when it comes to set-up.

    3. “I don’t want to start a conspiracy but…”

      I suspect, that was somewhat insincere.

    4. @kingshark

      How the hell can Hamilton be 1.1 seconds slower than Button in the same car?

      Here’s Hamilton’s explanation:

      Hamilton: “I was nowhere” after set-up change

    5. Doesn’t the Technical Team use all the telemetry info they have to make good setup calls?
      Whether a new wing is better than an old one?
      There’s definitely something fishy there…

      1. Ofcourse there is. Another tin foil hat.

      2. Maybe the team didn’t want to show him the telemetry ;)

    6. I don’t think Hamilton was 1.1 slower. Remember he went out on Q3 with used softs, and with his fastest sector times he 0.674 slower than Button. If he had put his fresh tyre lap in, could be less than that. And he said he could have gotten 4th or 5th if not for the Raikkonen spin, which is not too bad, better than Alonso. I think Hamilton will still finish ahead of Alonso in the race

  10. rai just said “i spun. i don’t care what happened to others.” haha

    1. Heard it too.

  11. I strongly believe that if a drivers. Destroys the other driver’s hot lap by doing a kimmi (the spin) his times should be eliminated and he should start. Last in that kimmi should start 10. He basically screw everybody up by such a silly mistake. I don’t sish bad luck upon any driver but i really wish he would have hit the barrier and destroy his car , so that way he wouldn’t be laughing right now for what he did.

    1. I did not see him laughing. I fact he came across seriously ****** off in the sky interview since he screwed up his own q3 as well. Clearly you were hoping your driver to do better in q3 but he didn’t not sure the absence of the yellows would have changed that.

    2. It is simply a racing incident and it can happen anytime especially when you are pushing hard. So i dont see the point of implementing such a rule of eliminating the driver.
      Of course, if its hamilton or alonso who spun, will you be blaming them instead?

    3. He didn’t do it on purpose, you know.
      And that is a very extreme way of looking at driver mistakes.
      Therefore, by extension, were you hoping Grosjean would be banned for spinning at Silverstone for spinning out in quali?
      Or maybe Rubens at Singapore in 2009?
      That is ridiculous; F1 drivers are human, and can therefore make mistakes; you shouldn’t severely punish a driver for simply making a slight misjudgment.

  12. Well, hang on. Vettel has been summoned to the stewards – for allegedly holding up Alonso.
    If Vettel is penalized, he will end up… just behind Alonso! How convenient.

    1. I am praying. :P

    2. Is it 5 place penalty for impending? I though it’s less than it…

    3. It would only be a 3-place penalty, but if he did it can’t have been a major impediment otherwise I assume we would have heard about it during qualifying (like in Vergne’s case).

    4. He’s been cleared.. or reprimanded to be specific..

  13. LMAO …. kimi has given one of his classic interviews:
    Pinkham: “kimi what happen?”
    Kimi: “I spun” (already going ….)
    Pinkham: “what was the cause, as other drivers had yellow flag?”
    Kimi: “I dont care about other drivers!”

    1. Kimi you legend! haha

    2. Classic Kimi :)

  14. Hamilton was well off the pace. The change in setup must have been quite drastic to swing that much. With Ferrari’s continued pace issues, it looks like Alonso’s championship chance is slipping away gradually.

  15. I think Kobayashi and Grosjean improved in sector 2 under yellow flags. They should be handed three-place grid penalties. I’m not sure about Button, though.

    1. Kobayashi has escaped. I’m not sure about Button and Grosjean.

  16. Is Ferrari up to their old tricks again or Vettel did infact block Alonso?

    1. Can’t blame them for trying. They know they’re in trouble.

      1. they should spend their time trying to develop the car!

  17. Just heard that puts him 3rd on the all-time list of pole positions.
    And he’s 25 years old.

  18. I fear Newey is back, with vegeance.
    It’s gona be the two Red Bulls for the rest of the season.
    Whilst others make even more mistakes having to over-push and over-strategise.

    1. @jason12
      I heard the same things after Bahrain and after Valencia.
      Sure, right now Red Bull has a strong car, but we saw how quickly things can chance (I know a sound a lot like Vettel, but it’s true).

      1. Sebastian is that you?:)

  19. Unfortunately I slept through most of qualifying (thanks for that, alarm) but it seems that I didn’t miss much about from some complaining. I woke up to see the press conference so I was a little annoyed but seeing Vettel in the middle has confirmed me 2 points for the predictions championship so I’m happy about that ;)

    Solid effort from Lotus and a dismal one from Mercedes. I guess the pressure is off them a little now for the rest of the season. Stuttgart has signed the Concorde Agreement and they’ve bagged a world champion to drive for them next year.

    Another set-up mistake from Hamilton. He seems to like them.

  20. Good job from RBR. Looking forward to seeing Seb and Mark standing on the #1 and #2 spots tomorrow.

  21. 2 races ago McLaren were declared as the car to be in, now they should just hand the championship over to Vettel – noobs hehehe

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