Lewis Hamilton breaks Suzuka lap record and gains pole position
Hamilton claims first-ever Suzuka pole; Vettel to start on front row; Race underway at 6am, exclusively live on Sky Sports F1
Lewis Hamilton set a new lap record at Suzuka as the Mercedes driver strengthened his grip on the F1 title race by claiming a dominant pole position for Sunday’s Japanese GP.
Hamilton’s pole lap of 1:27.319 was over 1.5 seconds faster than the previous record, a 1:28.954 held by Michael Schumacher.
Remarkably, Hamilton’s pole position was the first of his career at Suzuka and means he has claimed pole at every circuit currently on the F1 calendar.
“I was very much on it,” said Hamilton. “I didn’t make one mistake and each lap got better and better.
“It’s been 10 years trying to get that pole position!”
Despite being half a second slower than Hamilton, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will start the race alongside his world championship rival on the front row.
Valtteri Bottas was second quickest in the session, three tenths down on Hamilton, but will start from seventh due to a gearbox-related grid penalty.
“I tried everything on that last lap as I knew I had to take a bit more risks, it didn’t work,” said Vettel, who trails Hamilton by 34 points in the standings.
Hamilton in a class of one
After Mercedes’ struggles in Singapore and Malaysia, the world champions have found their groove again in Japan – with Hamilton very much to the fore.
Such was Hamilton’s confidence and outright speed that he was fastest in Q1 on the slower soft tyre. Only Vettel was able to enjoy the same luxury of saving up a set of supersofts but in a tell-tale giveaway of their relative speeds, Hamilton was instantly three tenths quicker than his rival.
After bolting on the supersofts for Q2, the Mercedes driver immediately broke Schumacher’s lap record, which had stood for 11 years, and then improved again at the start of Q3 when the Silver Arrows are able to deploy a power boost that Red Bull reckon is worth up to eight tenths of a second.
“It’s just incredible to come here with this car,” said Hamilton. “This track is one of the greatest circuits and with this car it’s mind-blowing. It’s insane the speeds this car is throwing us around inside and the way you can throw the car around is like the craziest roller-coaster ride.”