SUZUKA, MIE PREF. – Nico Rosberg secured pole position in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, posting a 1-minute, 32.584-second lap to head his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who completed an all-Mercedes front row.
Daniil Kvyat brought the final portion of qualifying to an early end when he destroyed his Red Bull car in a huge accident in the second part of the Degner curve.
The Russian dropped a wheel onto the grass as he entered the corner, firing him into the outside gravel trap and barrier which rolled the car over before it came to rest right-side-up.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas finished third, ahead of Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari and Bottas’ teammate Felipe Massa in fifth at Suzuka Circuit.
“I’m very happy, a great day today,” said Rosberg at the post-qualifying news conference. “It is a good comeback for the team after such a difficult weekend in Singapore.
“I’m very thankful for that. We turned things around and optimized things for this track. It is a great position to be in for tomorrow.”
Hamilton rued two small mistakes in his first qualifying lap and said he would have improved had his second lap not been aborted due to Kvyat’s accident.
“I lost a bit of time in Turn 11 and in the last corner. Nico (Rosberg) is driving well this weekend, but I felt good on this (first) lap,” said Hamilton.
Kvyat emerged from his car uninjured and took blame for the error after returning to the pits. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he expects Kvyat’s car to require a full rebuild.
“It was a rookie mistake, I put two wheels on the grass, there is no runoff area and there was nowhere to go,” said Kvyat.
“I’m very sorry to the guys (in my pit crew), it’s been a tough couple of weeks. I just want to say sorry to them.”
Daniel Ricciardo could not carry over his pace from the final practice session, which he led earlier on Saturday, only able to qualify in seventh, behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Rosberg was upbeat about his chances for Sunday’s race, which will see him looking to cut down his 41-point drivers championship deficit to leader Hamilton.
“It is a great position to be in for tomorrow,” said Rosberg.
“I’m confident the car will be good, but as with everybody, we didn’t have the perfect preparation. There might be some surprises.”
If Hamilton can win in Suzuka on Sunday, it will be his 41st career victory, equaling his childhood hero Ayrton Senna’s total, and one behind the third-most successful driver Vettel, who has 42. Both drivers are still well behind all-time leader Michael Schumacher, who had 91 career victories.
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