Vettel leads Red Bull charge
German grabs fourth consecutive pole at Suzuka; Webber second
Dominant double world champion Sebastian Vettel took pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix for the fourth year in succession on Saturday, with Mark Webber to start alongside the German on an all-Red Bull front row.
Ferrari’s Formula One championship leader Fernando Alonso, who is 29 points clear of Vettel with six races to go, will start on the third row in sixth place, while Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi in a Sauber delighted the home crowd by taking third.
Vettel and Alonso were both called to the stewards afterwards and the German was reprimanded after being accused of impeding the Spaniard at the last corner in the dying seconds of a sunny session.
Jenson Button was demoted five places for a gearbox change to eighth while McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton will start ninth. Frenchman Romain Grosjean (Lotus) will line up in fourth ahead of Mexico's Sergio Perez (Sauber) in fifth.
Vettel’s 34th career pole lifted the 25-year-old to third in the all-time list behind seven-time champion and compatriot Michael Schumacher (68) and the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna (65).
Vettel was also helped by Kimi Raikkonen, whose Lotus skidded off right at the finish and brought out yellow flags before others could get in their final quick laps.
Button, winner in Japan last year, qualified third but knew even before the weekend that he would have the penalty after a problem was detected in his car’s gearbox after the previous Singapore Grand Prix.
‘It hurts a little bit having the grid penalty but today was good,” said Button, who will start eighth and next to Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus.
Schumacher announced his second retirement at Suzuka on Thursday and will start his last Japanese Grand Prix on the back row due to a 10-place grid penalty imposed for a collision with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore. Brazilian Bruno Senna -- Ayrton’s nephew -- was furious after Vergne blocked him in the first part of qualifying, leaving his Williams in 17th place on the grid.
The Frenchman was later handed a three place penalty, lifting Senna to 16th, but it was little consolation for missing out on the second phase of qualifying and the chance to progress higher up the grid.
Meanwhile, Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg qualified tenth but will start from the 15th position on the grid after being handed a five-place penaltly due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
Paul di Resta qualified 12th but will move one place up to 11th, just behind Massa.