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Japan 2011 - Qualifying highlights - Red Bull stake their claim on pole position at Suzuka

Published by Christine

Adrian gives it some concentration
Adrian gives it some concentrationCredit: Force India F1

An intriguing qualifying session in Suzuka results in another Red Bull pole position, but a few out of place drivers set to battle their way through the field in search of points tomorrow. No one could outshine Sebastian Vettel as he continued the march on his way to a double world championship, but Jenson Button gave it his best shot, finishing less than one hundredth of a second away from the top spot.

With that, bad strategy calls, slow drivers, personnel with the flu, and a couple of question marks over hydraulic reliability, it was an entertaining, if predictable, hour of qualifying. Relive the session step by step with the Factbyte Factbox highlights.

As it happened: 2011 Japan - Qualifying

  • 05:30

    Hello there, welcome to the Factbyte Factbox for qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

  • 05:30

    How have you been? It's early hours in the UK, so I cannot promise this will all be coherent.

  • 05:31

    So far this weekend, Jenson Button has topped all three practice sessions, whilst Sebastian Vettel had something of a crash on Friday.

  • 05:31

    You'd be crazy to bet against Red Bull in qualifying though.

  • 05:32
    2011 Pole Positions
    1Sebastian Vettel11
    2Mark Webber3
  • 05:33

    If you need to catch up with any of yesterday's news, there's a 60 second roundup available: That shouldn't take up too much of your time.

  • 05:33

    Notably, Bruno Senna had a big crash in FP3, trashing the car somewhat. The mechanics have been working hard and should be ready in time for qualifying.

  • 05:34

    They've had to change the front suspension, though, and it's been a pretty big job! It also means Senna had limited running in that final practice.

  • 05:35

    TweetTweet from @OfficialLRGP: Chassis is fine; bolt on some new bits and job's a good 'un!

  • 05:37
    Fastest Session Times
    Free Practice 1J Button1:33.634
    Free Practice 2J Button1:31.901
    Free Practice 3J Button
  • 05:38

    The BBC featured an interview with Sergio Pérez a few minutes ago, and mentioned that he is suffering with the flu a little bit. That could compromise his weekend somewhat.

  • 05:40

    This year, the Japanese fans have to focus all their attention on Kamui Kobayashi as their sole representative. They have no home team, no engine supplier or tyre supplier to cheer on. It's all with Kamui.

  • 05:41

    TweetTweet from @clubforce: Qualy is gonna be close today. In FP3 P9 to P15 is covered by less than a second.

  • 05:44

    Busy busy in the Renault garage, via @OfficialLRGP.

  • 05:45

    Also a good glimpse of McLaren's Saturday overalls:

  • 05:47

    TweetTweet from @PaulHembery: So Pole , I rather rashly claimed sub 1min 30 sec with my team, JB looking awesome, but Lewis will fight him. Somersets finest it is, but Seb....

  • 05:47

    Some links you might need. Live timing will burst into life here:

  • 05:47

    Autosport's live text is go here: and the BBC has a stream and text updates here:

  • 05:50

    TweetTweet from @sarahholtf1: Lots of cups of tea and coffee being ferried to the back of the Renault garage as the team work to get Senna's car ready #bbcf1

  • 05:53

    TweetTweet from @MyTeamLotus: Just over 10 minutes to qualifying.... who ahead will risk Q1 on the medium compounds? could be very interesting....

  • 05:54

    Interview with Martin Whitmarsh: "For Lewis, this has been a very difficult season but... put it in perspective, he's 17 points away from being second in the championship. We didn't give him the quickest car at the beginning of the year so he had to fight back. He's made some mistakes, he's an aggressive driver, he still has lots to learn.

    "I think he's got to be more open, I think he's got to grow into himself a little bit more. I think having a teammate like Jenson Button is a great example."

  • 05:55

    As I'm sure you're well aware, Vettel needs just one point to secure the championship regardless of what anyone else does.

  • 05:56



    Wind speed1.6mps
  • 05:58

    Christian Horner speculates that the pit stop strategies could range anywhere from a three stop to a five stop. FIVE!

  • 06:00

    Green flagQualifying session 1 begins.

  • 06:00

    TweetTweet from @jellyrocket1: @factbytefactbox Sounds like a Jenson Button type of race then. #fivepitstops #F1

  • 06:00

    Jarno Trulli is the first driver out on track, zooming off for an outlap by himself.

  • 06:01

    Vitaly Petrov and Paul di Resta also leave the garage, as the Lotus circles the track, glinting in the glorious sunshine.

  • 06:02

    RadioTeam radio to Lewis Hamilton: "Lewis, we believe the cutoff time is going to be 1:33.4s, which we managed on the prime tyre this morning."

  • 06:03

    More drivers are piling out of the pit lane now, half the field on an outlap. Trulli is about to cross the line for the first timed lap of the session.

  • 06:03

    TweetTweet from @OfficialLRGP: Still working on the car for @BSenna whilst @vitalypetrov10 takes to the track on new mediums

  • 06:04

    Trulli's initial time is 1:36.571, but Petrov drops it immediately by 2.5 seconds.

  • 06:05

    Tonio Liuzzi has been out for an installation lap but returned to the garage. Only Kovalainen, Schumacher and Senna have not yet been out.

  • 06:07

    Vettel sets the first meaningful lap of the session, on the harder tyre - a 1:33.051. Webber is a tenth behind in second place.

  • 06:07

    Replays show Lewis Hamilton running wide as he completes his first lap, a relatively slow 1:37.575.

  • 06:08

    Button has topped Vettel's time, and Alonso has gone even faster - 1:32.817 - the fastest lap of the weekend so far.

  • 06:09

    Last year's pole position was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull with a 1:30.785. We've got a little way still to go then.

  • 06:10

    Nico Rosberg has also been out on a installation lap, but no time from him yet.

  • 06:10

    It looks like the drivers are completing just one flying lap at a time, backing off as soon as they cross the line to save tyres.

  • 06:10

    The drop zone currently features Glock, D'Ambrosio, Ricciardo, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Senna and Liuzzi.

  • 06:11

    Hamilton improves to second place, jumping ahead of Button by a tenth of a second.

  • 06:12
    Field Spread
    1stF Alonso1:32.817
    20thD Ricciardo1:38.061
  • 06:12

    Lots of cars have returned to the pitlane, it's a bit quieter out on track now. Just Hamilton, Massa, Schumacher, and both Lotus cars.

  • 06:13

    Seven minutes left to go and still no sign of Senna, Rosberg or Liuzzi setting a time.

  • 06:14

    TedNews: Liuzzi hasn't gone out because he wants to save a set of tyres. Rosberg has a problem, they won't say what it is, but they've fixed it and are preparing to send him out.

  • 06:14

    The top five have returned to the garage, they may not reappear - Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Vettel and Webber.

  • 06:15

    Massa in sixth is still circling the track, but Schumacher in seventh is in the garage.

  • 06:15

    Senna has, in fact, left the pis now, as has Liuzzi. Rosberg remains in the Mercedes garage though.

  • 06:15

    There's just over four minutes remaining, if Rosberg doesn't come out soon, he'll be the one dropping out in Q1.

  • 06:16

    The 107% cutoff time sits at 1:39.314. No one looks like they'll drop out because of that. Ricciardo is last and on a 1:38.061.

  • 06:17

    Paul di Resta jumps up to seventh place, pushing Schumacher down the order. The soft tyres are coming into their own now.

  • 06:17

    Adrian Sutil has jumped up to P1 with a 1:32.761. Where did that come from? Senna improves to 8th.

  • 06:18

    Kamui Kobayashi has gone P1 now, the cheering Japanese crowds love it!

  • 06:18

    Schumacher, who was the last of the top runners to stay in the pits from seventh, is now down in 13th place.

  • 06:19

    One minute left, Rosberg won't get out of the garage. He's got out of the car and pulls off his gloves, not looking too happy about it.

  • 06:20

    With thirty seconds to go, there's just a few drivers left out on track. Two Virgin drivers and Daniel Ricciardo. Everyone settling for their position.

  • 06:20

    Chequered flagQualifying session 1 ends.

  • 06:22
    Qualifying Position
    18Heikki KovalainenLotus
    19Jarno TrulliLotus
    20Jérôme D'AmbrosioVirgin
    21Timo GlockVirgin
    22Daniel RicciardoHRT
    23Nico RosbergMercedes
    24Tonio LiuzziHRT
  • 06:22

    Jérôme has managed to outqualify his teammate - something he doesn't do very often!

    Qualifying Battle
    VirginQualified Ahead
  • 06:24

    Nico Rosberg walks past the back of the garages. He looks irritated but not too despondent. He even manages to raise a smile with his colleagues.

  • 06:25

    The Virgin drivers clap hands, both looking smiley and happy with their efforts today. Not every day they start ahead of a Mercedes, I suppose.

  • 06:26

    Fastest three in Q1 - Kobayashi, Sutil and Alonso. That's worth highlighting, I reckon.

  • 06:27

    Green flagQualifying session 2 begins.

  • 06:27

    Adrian Sutil heads out of the garage first, the Force India driver keen to get his Q2 campaign underway.

  • 06:28

    Sutil is joined on track by Vettel and Button.

  • 06:29

    TedNews: Liuzzi's delay in Q1 was not saving tyres but apparently an engine misfire - a Cosworth problem. He's managed 12 laps so far this weekend. Not great.

  • 06:31

    Sutil sets the first time of Q2 with a 1:34.384.

  • 06:32

    Meanwhile, Mark Webber is on a flying lap, but it's Vettel who will cross the line first. 1:31.424.

  • 06:32

    Lewis Hamilton is top now, with a 1:31.139. He leads Vettel, Button and then Webber, Alonso and Massa - all in the 1:31s.

  • 06:34

    Vettel, Button and Sutil all come back to the pit lane after their first attempt at a lap. Eight minutes left on the clock.

  • 06:34

    Plenty of drivers are just about to set their first lap, but Paul di Resta and Sergio Pérez have yet to leave the garage this session.

  • 06:36

    With all drivers bar those two setting times, the drop zone features Kobayashi, Sutil, Senna, Barrichello, Maldonado, Di Resta and Pérez.

  • 06:37

    It all quietens down as drivers return to the pits. There's time for one more run, but will the top six come out again?

  • 06:38

    Pastor Maldonado has the whole track to himself. I'd like to think he can't do any damage all by himself.

  • 06:39

    Kobayashi leaves the garage, currently sitting 11th but with the inspiration of topping Q1 and the home crowd to boost him on.

  • 06:40

    Two minutes left on the clock, Petrov is the highest placed car out on track at the moment, currently sitting 8th.

  • 06:40

    Paul di Resta has left the garage for the first time this session, Pérez still remains in the pits - he may not make it out.

  • 06:40

    He's out of the car, in fact, taking his helmet off.

  • 06:41

    We heard earlier that Pérez was feeling slightly under the weather, and now he'll qualify 17th.

  • 06:41

    Maldonado improves to ninth place, Kobayashi is on a hot lap and looks like he'll squeeze into the top ten as well.

  • 06:42

    Chequered flagQualifying session 2 ends.

  • 06:42

    The top seven remain in the garage, with Schumacher the last placed. He had half a second on 8th place Petrov.

  • 06:43

    Kobayashi tops Petrov, splitting the difference between the Renault and the Mercedes. He's in 8th, and Sutil jumps up to 9th.

  • 06:43

    Petrov improves to jump back up to 8th place, regaining the position from Kobayashi.

  • 06:43

    Senna jumps up to ninth, which drops Sutil out of Q3. Paul di Resta can only manage 12th.

  • 06:44

    Monisha Kaltenborn looks on happily from the Sauber garage as Kobayashi squeezes through in tenth place.

  • 06:45
    Qualifying Position
    11Adrian SutilForce India
    12Paul di RestaForce India
    13Rubens BarrichelloWilliams
    14Pastor Maldonado
    15Sébastien BuemiToro Rosso
    16Jaime AlguersuariToro Rosso
    17Sergio PérezSauber
  • 06:45

    Force India will be disappointed they haven't got either driver into Q3, whilst Williams will probably be happy with their positions, given the weekend they've had so far.

  • 06:45

    Renault managed to get both drivers through to the top ten, which is good work after Senna's crash.

  • 06:47

    Interview with Sergio Pérez: "It was an hydraulic problem, at the moment, we think. We're not quite sure what happened. I was on one lap and lost power in the second sector. Power steering and everything, I lost it. I had to pit, then we couldn't go out in Q2.

    "It's going to be a hard race, it's been a hard weekend for me. I don't feel well at all but today there was the potential to get into Q3. Tomorrow, hopefully we can score some points but it will be very difficult. It's been a very bad weekend all in all for me."

  • 06:47

    Interview with Nico Rosberg: "Hydraulic problem, apparently. They just said come straight back in. That's it, they couldn't repair it. Hydraulic is always very complicated.

    "We'll see. It's definitely possible to score some points from back there. It won't be easy but we'll see."

  • 06:50

    TweetTweet from @InsideFerrari: So let's see what can happen in Q3. The most realistic target is 3rd row with both drivers.

  • 06:50

    Green flagQualifying session 3 begins.

  • 06:50

    Kamui Kobayashi pulled up to the pit exit, waiting only briefly at the red light before it disappeared and the session began.

  • 06:51

    Both McLaren and Ferrari cars join Kobayashi out on track. Everyone is on the soft tyres now.

  • 06:52

    Vettel and Webber join the session, with just Schumacher and two Renault drivers still in the garage.

  • 06:52

    I take it back. Kobayashi is on the harder compound - white stripe tyres. He's not looking for performance, then, but setting a time and hoping for better things in the race.

  • 06:53

    In fact, Kobayashi returns to the pitlane without setting a time.

  • 06:54

    Fernando Alonso ran massively wide off track, no damage done, but will have lost plenty of time there.

  • 06:54

    Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest lap we've seen so far this weekend - 1:30.617. Button pops into P2, with Vettel and Massa behind.

  • 06:55

    Half the session gone, just five minutes remain.

  • 06:55

    Alonso returned to the pitlane after his excursion off track without setting a time.

  • 06:56

    So far, we've got just five drivers with a time - Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Webber and Massa in that order.

  • 06:56

    Hamilton pits from P1.

  • 06:57

    Hamilton pulls up to his garage, narrowly missing Felipe Massa who was at the 45 degree angle to be pushed back into his own space.

  • 06:57

    All drivers in the pits now. Less than three minutes to go.

  • 06:58

    Alonso breaks cover and leaves the pitlane, Vettel and then Massa follow on behind. I don't think anyone was confident we'd see another run, the way qualifying is at the moment.

  • 06:59

    Less than a minute to go on track, Kobayashi and Petrov have remained in the garage, but the other eight cars are out and about.

  • 07:00

    Petrov just left the garage, but I'm not sure he's going to make it across the line in time to start a lap.

  • 07:00

    Chequered flagQualifying session 3 ends.

  • 07:00

    Hamilton didn't get across the line in time, so he's going to have to cross his fingers and hope that his P1 time is enoguh.

  • 07:01

    Alonso crosses the line and remains fourth. Vettel jumps up to P1 with a 1:30.466.

  • 07:01

    Button misses out on pole position by nine thousandths of a second. 2nd place for him, Hamilton down to 3rd.

  • 07:03

    Schumacher, Senna, Petrov and Kobayashi all missed out on setting a laptime.

  • 07:04
    Qualifying Position
    1Sebastian VettelRed Bull
    2Jenson ButtonMcLaren
    3Lewis HamiltonMcLaren
    4Felipe Massa
    5Fernando AlonsoFerrari
    6Mark WebberRed Bull
    7Michael SchumacherMercedes
    8Bruno SennaRenault
    9Vitaly PetrovRenault
    10Kamui KobayashiSauber
  • 07:04

    Felipe Massa has managed to outqualify Alonso again for just the third time this year.

  • 07:05

    As they head to the weigh in, Button punches Vettel playfully in the arm. I think it's playful anyway. Perhaps he is hoping to give him a dead arm and scupper his race.

  • 07:06

    Vettel and Hamilton study the timing screens carefully, the three fastest drivers discussing the session just gone.

  • 07:06

    Hamilton has put on his sunglasses for the photoshoot of the top three. Vettel waves happily and gives a thumbs up to the crowd.

  • 07:09

    Onboard footage shows that Hamilton was overtaken by two other cars on his lap, which took him by surprise, slowed him down, and he missed the cutoff.

  • 07:09

    Mark Webber passes him on the right hand side, as Schumacher ran wide off track and got dusty tyres.

  • 07:09

    Hamilton was going pretty slowly anyway.

  • 07:12

    Interview with Martin Whitmarsh: "I think Jenson did a great job. Very frustrating to miss pole by nine one thousandths. With Lewis it was tight, we told him not to back up and let cars by. Unfortunately, he got hustled at the last corner and missed the opportunity to do that last lap.

    Frustrating of course, but the reality is we've got a car that's quick here. We're second and third and it's a long race. I think both drivers have a chance to have an exciting race at a great circuit."

  • 07:16

    Press Conference Quotes - Sebastian Vettel: "What a qualifying. To be honest, yesterday, obviously I went off in free practice and damaged the wing. It wasn't ideal in the afternoon to prepare the car for today. I think we suffered a little bit from that this morning. In particular, we were kind of coming back regarding the car balance but were too slow. We sat down after the practice session this morning and fortunately got everything together.

    We were able to get everything, every single bit out of the car in qualifying which you know, was crucial. There isn't much between Jenson and myself. It was a tough qualifying but I enjoyed it a lot. It's a long lap, you start off with this mega first sector. We come here, not for the first time, but every time is a challenge, especially in qualifying to really get it as good as you can.

    I had a bit of a wobble in sector 1 but I made up for it in the second sector, and we've been strong in the third sector so. All in all fantastic, especially thanks to the team, who just in time brought the front wing. Many regards also to the factory, I think without them I would not sit on pole position today. Very happy, very proud."

  • 07:19

    Press Conference Quotes - Jenson Button: "It's been a pretty good weekend. As always, I think we all do, love driving round here. Suzuka is a great circuit. When you've got a car that's working, it's a great feeling.

    "Basically, I was just building up until Q3, I thought the last lap would have been enough. It was just nine thousandths not good enough. I got everything out of the car, had a little bit of oversteer on that last run but it's just because I was pushing that little bit more. Fair play to the whole team. To fight the Red Bulls round here, on a circuit they've dominated on the last couple of years, is a great job. Second is still pretty good and I think we can race well from there."

  • 07:21

    Press Conference Quotes - Lewis Hamilton: "I have to second what Jenson said, the team have done a fantastic job. To be able to compete with the Red Bulls on this kind of circuit is pretty impressive. The car was feeling great, I felt I had a couple of tenths left. I had time, there was a couple of corners where I lost time on my first run, so I felt like I was in the position to at least fight with these two guys.

    It was a bit dangerous on the last corner, where I had Mark attack me and had Michael down the inside. It was very, very strange, so that's really why we lost a lap."

  • 07:24

    I don't usually do quite so many in the gap analysis, but these were the only drivers to set times, so it seemed fair to include them all. You can't really tell the difference between Button and Vettel, of course.

    Gap Analysis
  • 07:26

    Interview with Kamui Kobayashi: "It's a pretty difficult week for me. It's very busy. So many fans I can't get out from the hotel to the circuit. But this is really good, it's a good sign for the future of Formula One in Japan. We work really hard to get more fans... It looks really great, when I come back second year in Japan, there's so many fans here, everybody gives you attention, it's great."

  • 07:28

    Interview with Michael Schumacher: "Luckily, Kobayashi didn't go out again to set another lap, because that would have meant I would have been shy by about a second. It was a bit stupid, at the last chicane, everybody was driving so slow. I saw my lap, my time, so I knew I had to go through somehow otherwise I wouldn't make it. I just missed it by a second, bit of a shame, but it didn't make a problem in the end."

  • 07:28
    2011 Pole Positions
    1Sebastian Vettel12
    2Mark Webber3
  • 07:29

    Interview with Paul di Resta: "I think, given the weekend that we've had, I've struggled to get up to speed and get the balance of the car. We opted to go for more of a race setup, and I think, given we were one position away, that will put us in a better position tomorrow. Tyre condition will be crucial. It's going to be a long old race, I'm not feeling the best at the moment, but we'll give it our best shot to try and score points just as we did in Singapore."

  • 07:30

    Paul also sounds very bunged up and unwell. Definitely a nasty cold going round the paddock!

  • 07:30

    That's it for qualifying, then. The BBC were trying to make out it was a surprising and fascinating qualifying, but it was never going to be anyone but Red Bull's pole position.

  • 07:31

    They've been supreme around Suzuka before, and have the pace this year to clean up. However, it was great to see Button so close to the competition.

  • 07:31

    Strategy calls in qualifying seemed a bit wonky, with so many drivers missing out on making a final lap. I wonder how the strategies will play out tomorrow, and if they will go according to plan.

  • 07:32

    Rosberg has a lot of work to do in the race tomorrow, starting from 23rd on the grid. Pérez is also somewhat out of place in 17th. They may work their way through the field.

  • 07:33

    It should be a good race tomorrow, regardless, and I know I'll be tuning in. I hope to see you then, for more Factbyte Factboxing fun!

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