Nico Rosberg will be on pole for the Japanese Grand Prix as he looks to further extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship. It was an exciting battle on the track in qualifying and rather eventful off the track too with Lewis Hamilton in a right mood, again.
It couldn’t have been much closer between the two Mercedes drivers with Rosberg clinching pole by just 0.013 seconds (around 83cm). At least we’re getting far more exciting qualifying sessions after the disappointing ones we had to endure at the start of the season.
Rosberg on pole isn’t great news for Hamilton on a circuit where overtaking isn’t the easiest job in the world. However, the defending world champion will be fully aware that Rosberg took pole in 2014 and 2015 and Hamilton won both races from second spot and the German has yet to win this race despite three poles in a row. Hamilton will need to sort his start out though which hasn’t been his strong point this season.
The Ferrari’s of Raikkonen and Vettel finished third and fourth but Vettel will start seventh due to a three-place grid penalty. He’s under pressure at Ferrari and needs a good clean race here on Sunday to get him back in the management’s good books. The Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo were fifth and sixth.
Nico Rosberg has dominated proceedings so far this weekend and is confident he can finish the job of on Sunday. A win here would take his lead to over 30 points, he commented: “It was going well all weekend. Had a good balance, feeling comfortable and that’s what allows me to put in a lap like that.”
Lewis Hamilton said he was happy with qualifying considering all the work taking place to get the set-up right. He accepted that Nico is in form but added, “History has shown you don’t have to be on pole to get the win.” That wasn’t the only thing on his mind though, more about that later in this blog.
Most disappointed in qualifying were McLaren who are keen to get a good result this weekend to please engine suppliers Honda. That might not be on the cards though. Jenson Button has been having problems all weekend and that got worse when he was eliminated in Q1 and qualified 17th. He spent most his day complaining about the power his McLaren had. He’s really not hopeful that Honda will see a good result this weekend, believing the Suzuka circuit doesn’t really suit McLaren. Not much better news for Fernando Alonso who finished 15th. The Haas team were a lot happier though with Romain Grosjean eighth and Esteban Gutierrez 10th.
So what else was on his mind? Well the world champion says he’ll be limiting the number of interview he’s gives to the media after media criticism of images of him in bunny faces. He accused the press of being “disrespectful” for what was supposed to be “a super light-hearted thing.” He then left the press conference and headed back to his surprised Mercedes team who apparently had no idea he was going to make those comments.
Back to the racing and Lewis Hamilton really has to pull something out of the bag tomorrow. He can’t really afford to let Rosberg go over thirty points clear of him. He’ll need to start well and hope the rain stays away. It’s certainly going to be a fascinating race. I’ll be back next week, in the meantime enjoy your racing.