Other Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg finished fourth and is now 41 points adrift of Hamilton’s lead; the Singapore victor Vettel is now closing the gap for second place, as Rosberg is only eight points ahead of him.
Everybody was getting ready for their final runs when Kvyat lost control of his Red Bull approaching to the hairpin, tearing off both wheels and flipping before coming to rest.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo qualified seventh quickest with Frenchman Romain Grosjean alongside him on the fourth row for the troubled Lotus team, whose Formula One future has been plunged into doubt over a cash-flow crisis. At times today I had the flawless vehicle and I pretty much nailed my laps.
“I lost a bit of time in Turn 11 and in the last corner”. Rainy and grey to start, but a sunny conclusion, allowing drivers, teams, and fans to be sent off with a better emotional disposition after dealing with the lingering spector of the dangers of the sport.
Rosberg clocked 1 minute, 33.995 seconds, three-tenths of a second faster than world champion and championship leader Hamilton. He will start Sunday’s race from the pit lane, once his rebuilt vehicle has been re-scrutineered.
Daniil Kvyat was fastest before rain returned during Friday’s second practice session for the Japanese GP at Suzuka.
With Max Verstappen unable to rejoin qualifying after his vehicle stopped on track, only four cars were destined to join the eliminated scrapheap in Suzuka.
It was just his second pole position of the year, and his first since the Spanish Grand Prix at the start of May.
Vettel, who has now won as many races in his debut season with Ferrari as Michael Schumacher did in his first year at Maranello in 1996, told a separate news conference that he expected Mercedes to be faster in Suzuka.
“I’m confident the vehicle will be good, but as with everybody, we didn’t have the ideal preparation”.
Hamilton rued the missed opportunity on the last lap. “Hopefully tomorrow will be dry”.
Despite drivers slipping and sliding their way around the 5.8km lap during P1, everyone managed to keep it out of the barriers, although Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen all had off-track moments. “I just want to say sorry to them”.
“I was working on the best lap I’ve ever done here but obviously I didn’t get to finish it”, he said.
Button used his pit-to-car radio to complain that, in McLaren’s position, it can not afford mistakes, a pointed reference to his dissatisfaction with the team’s performance.