F1: Lewis Hamilton on The Pole for Japanese Grand Prix
Saturday, F1 leader Lewis Hamilton broke Honda’s Suzuka track record to take The Pole position on Saturday with Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) rival Sebastian Vettel lining up alongside on the front row.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s race from 3rd and 4th on the grid.
MercedesAMG’s Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning fastest lap of 1 min 27.319 secs for his 1st pole at the Suzuka track and 71st of his career.
Mr. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was 2nd quickest, 0.332 secs adrift but drops 5 places down the grid due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
The penalty elevated Ferrari’s Vettel to the front row of the grid, putting the 2 title contenders side by side for Sunday’s battle of F1 champions.
Mr. Hamilton, who leads Mr. Vettel by 34 points with 5 races to go, brushed aside a suggestion about how aggressive Mr. Vettel might be into the 1st corner.
“I don’t know. He won’t be any more aggressive than I am,” said the triple champion.
“I’ve got eight metres. I need to make sure I keep the eight metres that I have and get a good start. Starts have generally been strong this year.”
Mr. Vettel, a 4X world champion, needs a big result this weekend to close the gap after suffering successive setbacks to his bid for a 5th title.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen’s heavy crash in FP3 forces the Scuderia into an fast gearbox change, meaning the Finn is set to take a grid drop into Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Mr. Raikkonen got out of shape at Degner 2 and slid through the gravel into the tire wall mid-way through the final practice session at Suzuka, with his car having to be lifted back to the Ferrari garage.
Further inspection revealed gearbox damage, forcing the Scuderia crew into action, and with the change coming before 6 consecutive events, a 5-place drop is a formality.
Mr. Raikkonen is not the only man facing a penalty for Sunday’s grid: McLaren’s Fernando Alonso is set to start from the back of the field after a cumulative 35-place drop, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer has his own 20-place drop to contend with. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz meanwhile also faces a 20-place drop.
Saturday was Mr. Hamilton’s 10th pole of the season and marked his return to the Top of the time-sheets for MercedesAMG after the champions struggled for pace at the last 2 races in Singapore and Malaysia.
Note: F1 bosses revealed this weekend that they are in talks with officials in Vietnam about holding a race in the near future. Earlier this year, former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone said he could have done a deal with Vietnam but turned the chance down as he felt there were enough races in Asia.
After Malaysia chose not to renew its F1 deal beyond this season, the push for another race in Asia in the short term is high on F1 bosses’ agenda.
Vietnam is on its list of potential venues, with talks between F1 and officials in the country ongoing regarding a potential race in the capital, Hanoi.
Other venues pushing for a return to the calendar include Portugal and Turkey.
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|Neutral (0.14)||Neutral (0.10)||Neutral (0.08)||Bullish (0.25)|
Sunday, 8 October Race Day
F1 Countdown, Midnight, NBCSN
F1 Japanese Grand Prix, 1:00a EDT NBCSN
F1 Japanese Grand Prix*, 9:00p EDT, NBCSN
**NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app