Suzuka - Nico Rosberg outpaced Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to take pole
position in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix as he seeks to bounce back from
losing the drivers' championship leadership.
German Rosberg, who
trails Hamilton by three points in the championship with five races
remaining, lapped 0.197 seconds quicker than the Briton as the feuding
rivals prepare to lock horns again in a race which could be threatened
by typhoon rains.
Rosberg clocked a best lap of 1:32.506 in
the final moments of a tense qualifying session at the iconic Suzuka
circuit on Saturday.
It was his first pole in Japan and eighth of
the Formula One season and an important boost after being forced to drop
out of the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks ago and letting Hamilton in
"I am not thinking about Singapore any more, only racing here and enjoying doing the job here," Rosberg told reporters.
"We're here at Suzuka and I'm trying to win. It was great today but that's only one step on the way.
"It was a real pleasure because the car is so amazing to drive. It was really cool."
seeking a third successive pole, crashed in the morning practice,
robbing him of the chance to test the faster, soft compound tyres.
"Nico was extremely quick today and I did the best I could," said Hamilton.
guys did a great job to rebuild the car today and I was still fast -
and Nico was extremely fast," added the 2008 champion.
"But tomorrow is
the day we get the points so I am looking ahead to the tricky weather
forecast for Sunday."
Rosberg drove with cool concentration and
showed he has recovered from his mishap in Singapore when he was the
victim of an electronics system failure and had to retire.
Mercedes men locked out the front row again, breaking Red Bull's
five-year domination of pole at Suzuka on the day four-time defending
champion Sebastian Vettel announced he will leave the team at the end of
Rosberg and Hamilton were separated by just 0.060
seconds in first qualifying and 0.032 in the second while German Vettel,
who has won the Japan race four of the past five years, could only
muster a distant ninth on the grid.
Finland's Valtteri Bottas was
six-tenths down and third fastest for Williams behind the dominant
Mercedes, ahead of team-mate Brazilian Felipe Massa.
champion Fernando Alonso drove his Ferrari to fifth, while Australian
Daniel Ricciardo will start alongside him in his Red Bull.
organisers are anxiously monitoring the weather for Sunday with fears
that Typhoon Phanfone could dump torrential rain on the region.