Vettel on pole in Japan
Suzuka - Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix in a thrilling qualifying session on Saturday as he closed on a historic second consecutive world title.
The German, winner of the last two races at Suzuka, scorched round the challenging lay-out to take his 12th pole of the season with a time of 1:30.466, edging Briton Jenson Button of McLaren by just 0.009 seconds.
The 24-year-old Vettel needs to finish just 10th or better in Japan to become the youngest Formula One driver to win back-to-back world titles. He can also clinch the championship if Button doesn’t win Sunday’s race.
The pole was the 27th of Vettel’s career, and kept Red Bull’s perfect 2011 qualifying record intact with a 15th pole for the team in as many races this season.
He was ecstatic to bounce back after a difficult start to the weekend, where he crashed in the final minute of the opening practice session on Friday.
"Yesterday I went off in practice and damaged the car, and I didn’t have the afternoon to prepare the car for today," Vettel said.
"We sat down after the practice session this morning and tried to put everything together, and we were able to get every single thing out of the car, which is crucial.
"It was a hard qualifying but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a long lap... and I had a bit of a wobble in sector one. But then I made up for it in the second sector. All in all, it’s fantastic."
Button was disappointed to miss pole by such a tiny margin after topping the timesheets in all three practice sessions ahead of the shoot-out for pole.
"It’s been a pretty good weekend, and when the car is working around here, it’s a great feeling," he said.
"I was basically building up to Q3. It was only nine-thousandths (of a second from pole), but it wasn’t good enough.
"Red Bull has dominated around here for the last couple of years, but we can have a good race tomorrow."
Button's team-mate Lewis Hamilton was third after failing to complete a second final flying lap in the dying stages of qualifying, while Brazilian Felipe Massa was fourth ahead of fellow Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso.
Australian Mark Webber was sixth for Red Bull, 0.69sec slower than team-mate Vettel. Mercedes' Michael Schumacher was seventh ahead of Renault duo Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov, with Japan's Kamui Kobayashi 10th in his Sauber.
The starting grid for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix after qualifying on Saturday:
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Red Bull-Renault)
Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes)
Felipe Massa (BRA/Ferrari)
Fernando Alonso (ESP/Ferrari)
Mark Webber (AUS/Red Bull-Renault)
Michael Schumacher (GER/Mercedes)
Bruno Senna (BRA/Lotus-Renault)
Vitaly Petrov (RUS/Lotus-Renault)
Kamui Kobayashi (JPN/Sauber-Ferrari)
Adrian Sutil (GER/Force India-Mercedes)
Paul di Resta (SCO/Force India-Mercedes)
Rubens Barrichello (BRA/Williams-Cosworth)
Pastor Maldonado (VEN/Williams-Cosworth)
Sebastien Buemi (SWI/Toro Rosso-Ferrari)
Jaime Alguersuari (ESP/Toro Rosso-Ferrari)
Sergio Perez (MEX/Sauber-Ferrari)
Heikki Kovalainen (FIN/Team Lotus)
Jarno Trulli (ITA/Team Lotus)
Jerome d'Ambrosio (BEL/Virgin-Cosworth)
Timo Glock (GER/Virgin-Cosworth)
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Hispania-Cosworth)
Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes)
Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA/Hispania-Cosworth)