Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Mercedes driver Rosberg takes pole for Japan GP

AP, SUZUKA, Japan

German Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG GP competes during qualifying for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, Japan, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg claimed pole position yesterday for the Japanese Grand Prix, beating teammate Lewis Hamilton and putting himself in good position to regain the Formula One championship lead.

Rosberg claimed his eighth pole of the season with a time of 1 minute, 32.506 seconds at Suzuka, 0.197 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who was below his best all day, having crashed in morning practice.

Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas was third, followed by teammate Felipe Massa.

Hamilton leads Rosberg by three points in the overall title race — 241 versus 238. Neither driver has ever won at Suzuka.

After Rosberg crossed the line for the final time, Hamilton completed his lap, but had a lock-up at the hairpin and he ended up two tenths slower.

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was fifth and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who is a distant third in the championships race with 181 points, qualified sixth for the race, which is expected to be affected by a powerful typhoon in the region.

With five races left, the results today could prove to be vital in the race for the championship. Suzuka has a reputation for making it difficult to pass and complicating matters is the weather forecast. While the typhoon may not arrive by today, rain is predicted.

While wet races can throw up unexpected results, Rosberg believed rain may compound Mercedes’ dominance.

Despite crashing at the end of morning practice, Hamilton set the early pace in Q1 after his team worked frantically to repair the damage to his car in time for qualifying.

However, Rosberg was fastest in the second qualifying session. Bottas briefly seized the lead in Q3, but Rosberg quickly grabbed it back on his final run.

Yesterday’s qualifying was overshadowed by news earlier in the day that four-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel would be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season for a possible move to Ferrari.

Vettel, who has won four of the past five races at Suzuka, has yet to win this season and finished ninth behind McLaren drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button.

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