Dominant Hamilton claims Suzuka pole, grid penalties for Bottas, Raikkonen

Sebastian Vettel was faster than title rival Lewis Hamilton in first practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel was faster than title rival Lewis Hamilton in first practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain exits his vehicle following the third practice session for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

Vettel may have been off the pace but will start alongside Hamilton on the front row after Bottas was handed a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change.

Kimi Raikkonen recovered from his crash in FP3 to end the day sixth for Ferrari, but is another with a five-place penalty as his off necessitated a gearbox change.

The Englishman completely smashed the Suzuka track record in Q3 and finished nearly half a second clear (1:27.319) of bitter rival Sebastian Vettel (1:27.791), who qualified in third.

The Ferrari driver battled from the back of the grid at Sepang to finish fourth, two places behind Mercedes' Hamilton, and now sits 34 points adrift of the Briton at the top of the drivers' standings.

Saturday was Hamilton's 10th pole of the season and marked a convincing return to the top of the timesheets for Mercedes after the champions struggled for pace at the last two races in Singapore and Malaysia.

"The last race the vehicle was a disaster, so second place was not too bad", Hamilton said.

Ricciardo said at the official FIA Thursday press conference that he believes the Red Bull now has close to the best chassis in the championship.

It was his first pole at Suzuka, 10th of the season. Vettel and Hamilton were on softs while the rest of the first runners were on super softs.

The team-mate of Ake, Sergio Perez (1 m 51,345 s), and the duo of Williams formed of Felipe Massa (1 m 52,146 s) and Lance Stroll (1 m 52,343 s) were the only other drivers to complete a timed lap during the session was shortened. Bottas made it 1-2 for Mercedes as Vettel qualified third ahead of Ricciardo. This became the first Japanese Grand Prix pole for Hamilton at Suzuka.

"I think it's pretty clear we need to do our best".

'For us normally we are a bit stronger in the race compared to qualifying, so we get together and see what we can do at the start and during the race'.

"This track has always been one of the greatest and with this auto it's just mind-blowing", added the triple world champion, looking to hit back in Japan after being stunned by Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Malaysia last weekend.

'The vehicle balance is getting better and better.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso did well to put his auto into 10th place but Honda had no good news for their fans at their home race.

In summary, penalised for using additional power unit components are Sainz (20 grid places), Alonso (35), and Palmer (20). For Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein (right), it is a time to float, or would that be race, a paper boat down the pit lane, with help from his team mechanic.

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