SUZUKA, Japan — official release — Mercedes photo — Nico Rosberg took a key step forward in his quest to wrest back the lead of the world championship from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton when he beat the Brit to claim pole for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix my a mere 0.197 seconds at Suzuka Circuitland.
Hamilton had shrugged off his morning crash in FP3 to beat Rosberg by 0.060 seconds in Q1, where he topped the times with one minute and 33.611 seconds on the hard-compound Pirellis.
Rosberg headed Hamilton by 0.032 seconds in Q2 with a one minute and 32.950 second lap, after a lock-up at the hairpin cost the latter a little bit. In Q3, Rosberg ruled the roost, setting the fastest time of one minute and 32.629 seconds on his first run and paring that down to one minute and 32.506 seconds to get the job done.
“It was a great day today,” Rosberg said. “Of course, it’s only one step on the way but really good. It was a real pleasure today because the car is so amazing to drive and on this track which is one of the most spectacular to drive in qualifying, low fuel, the tire grip and everything. It was really cool.”
Hamilton locked up going into the hairpin on each of his runs, and his one minute and 33.703 seconds just came up short on the faster of them.
But the Mercedes duo were again light years ahead of the opposition, led again by Williams as Bottas posted one minute and 33.128 second lap for third ahead of Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull had to be content with Daniel Ricciardo in sixth and Sebastian Vettel ninth.
The Australian will share row three with Alonso, while the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button share row four.