Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat was second quick with Nico Rosberg third for Mercedes.
Mercedes returned to its dominant best by setting the fastest times in Saturday’s pre-qualifying practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix, with Nico Rosberg edging teammate Lewis Hamilton.
The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, who won in Singapore last weekend to boost his outside title hopes, were sixth and eighth respectively, though neither came within a second of Rosberg’s mark.
Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez and Kvyat complete the Q3 top 10, although Kvyat’s vehicle will have to be rebuilt and he will probably start from the pit lane.
Mercedes looking to fix their mysterious loss of pace in Singapore last weekend shot out to the quickest times in the second session before Kvyat backed up an impressive early display by edging ahead of Rosberg.
His best lap of one minute and 32.584 seconds was less than one tenth faster than his team-mate, who made two errors on his first and only run in the top-10 shootout. The reigning champion had endured a relatively untidy lap, suffering from a bout of oversteer on the exit of Degner 2 before locking up his front-left brakes at the following corner as well as the final chicane.
Lewis Hamilton was beaten to pole as qualifying in Japan was halted by a huge smash, writes Byron Young in Suzuka.
With Max Verstappen unable to rejoin qualifying after his auto stopped on track, only four cars were destined to join the eliminated scrapheap in Suzuka. “Nico (Rosberg) is driving well this weekend, but I felt good on this (first) lap”, said Hamilton. I don’t think seventh shows how happy I was with the vehicle, because I thought we were on for a top five, but we’re still in a good place for tomorrow.
Drivers, crew and spectators will be on edge, as the circuit saw F1’s most tragic incident in 21 years with young driver Jules Bianchi of Manor-Marussia suffering severe injuries at the track during a rain soaked 2014 Japanese GP.
“Clearly, we will have a very long night producing a vehicle for him to race tomorrow”.
He had another chance to beat his team-mate to pole but had to abort his final run when red flags were brought out for Kvyat’s big crash on the approach to the hairpin.
“It is a shame this crash, and I am disappointed about the missed opportunity”, he explained.
“For me everyone’s a threat and they (Ferrari) have been since Malaysia (in March)”.
As the lap times crept downwards as more rubber was laid into the track it became increasingly obvious that McLaren-Honda was in trouble. “I can not do any more than this”, he said over the team radio. Unfortunately there is a first time for everything.