Hamilton said he might have taken pole had his last lap not been stopped by Daniil Kvyat’s crash.
The session shook itself out and left Jenson Button, who considers Japan his second home race, in P16 and out, just behind teammate Alonso, who snuck through to the second session.
“The track is fantastic, very challenging, and even more in the wet!”
The 30-year-old Hamilton will start second in Sunday’s race, while Finnish Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and German Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel will start third and fourth, respectively. If it stays dry tomorrow, it is hard to see Mercedes being beaten. “Overall it was a good day and there’s a lot of positives to take from today.” said the Spaniard. “I was really happy with my race pace, and the gap to Kimi Raikkonen in front of me was only what it was because if you follow too close it’s easy to damage the tyres and generally overheat the auto”, he said.
With Mercedes reclaiming its position of dominance and finishing four tenths clear of the next vehicle, Hamilton reserved special praise for his engineers.
“I never rolled a vehicle, so unfortunately there’s a first time for everything”.
“Nico is driving well this weekend but I definitely felt pretty good on that last lap, but the main thing is that Kvyat is fine”. Button had to slow down under the subsequent yellow flags and qualified only 16th. The 35-year-old was 16th and out, joined by the two Saubers and Manors.
Lewis Hamilton says he learned “diddly-squat” from Friday’s rain-hit practice in Suzuka. “We can’t make mistakes like this”.
“The majority of them believe at least one of the many solutions or reasons they have come up with had a domino effect, so I am confident it has been understood”.
Though the Williams looked a step behind Red Bull Racing in free practice three, Bottas logged a fastest time just 0.4 seconds off the pole lap to lead the rest of the frontrunners. But it was only enough for 14th. “I’m feeling more disappointment than pain”.
Heading into the weekend much had been made of the lacklustre display delivered by Mercedes in Singapore and whether they would be able to bounce back. Hamilton’s initial lap included a lock-up mistake at the hairpin which cost him significant time, so likely he would have surpassed Rosberg on their last run. The world champion locked up at the hairpin, losing valuable time.