Sebastian Vettel has moved to third overall on the all-time list of pole position winners with his fourth straight pole at Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel’s incredible run at the Suzuka International Circuit has continued, with the German securing his fourth straight pole position at the Japanese venue in today’s action-packed qualifying session.

After posting the fastest time in the second phase of qualifying, Vettel clinched his 34th career pole position with an early hot lap in Q3, which no one was able to better.

Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber continued his strong Suzuka form to go second-quickest, securing the Red Bull team’s first qualifying 1-2 of the season.

The result was secured for the Milton Keynes team when Kimi Räikkönen spun his Lotus in the dying minutes of Q3, triggering a yellow flag sector and ensuring that no one could challenge the team’s front-row lockout.

The only way that there was the possibility of this lockout being broken was in the FIA Stewards’ office, when Vettel was summoned to be grilled about a complaint that he had held up Fernando Alonso. In the end, he was given a reprimand, but allowed to keep his pole result.

Jenson Button finished the session third-quickest in his McLaren, but he will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. This promotes hometown hero Kamui Kobayashi into third place on the grid, with the Sauber driver delivering an outstanding performance in qualifying to secure a second-row starting position.

He and team-mate Sergio Pérez sandwich Lotus’ Romain Grosjean on the grid, while Fernando Alonso was no better than seventh-fastest in his Ferrari.

Despite his spin, Räikkönen qualified eighth-quickest, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hülkenberg (who will also take a five-place grid penalty) completing the top-ten.

Felipe Massa will start the race from tenth on account of Hülkenberg’s penalty, having yet again been unable to deliver a strong enough performance to make it into the final segment of qualifying. He finished mere fractions quicker than Paul di Resta, who also just missed out on a Q3 berth.

Mercedes’ gamble of performing a single flying-lap run in the opening phases of qualifying backfired in Q2, with neither Michael Schumacher (13th) or Nico Rosberg (15th) able to make it into the top-ten shootout despite the excellent practice pace the silver cars had been able to demonstrate.

Williams and Toro Rosso both had poor qualifying sessions, with the former’s Bruno Senna failing to make it out of the first phase of qualifying after he was quite blatantly held by by Jean-Éric Vergne at the final chicane. Vergne was later hit with a three-place grid penalty for his troubles.

The bottom six were again the usual suspects from Caterham, Marussia and HRT, with Heikki Kovalainen quickest and Narain Karthikeyan slowest of the half-dozen. HRT had some reason to celebrate, with Pedro de la Rosa managing to outqualify Charles Pic and Vitaly Petrov.

2012 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:30.839  
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:31.090 + 0.251
3. Jenson Button* GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:31.290 + 0.451
4. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:31.700 + 0.861
5. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:31.898 + 1.059
6. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:32.022 + 1.183
7. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:32.114 + 1.275
8. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:32.208 + 1.369
9. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:32.327 + 1.488
10. Nico Hülkenberg* DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 no time  
  Q2 Cut-Off – 1:32.272   Time Gap
11. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:32.293 + 0.021
12. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:32.327 + 0.055
13. Michael Schumacher** DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:32.469 + 0.197
14. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:32.512 + 0.240
15. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:32.625 + 0.353
16. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:32.954 + 0.682
17. Jean-Éric Vergne*** FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:33.368 + 1.096
  Q1 Cut-Off – 1:33.370   Time Gap
18. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:33.405 + 0.035
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:34.657 + 1.287
20. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:35.213 + 1.843
21. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:35.385 + 2.015
22. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:35.429 + 2.059
23. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:35.432 + 2.062
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:36.734 + 3.364

* Denotes five-place grid penalty will be imposed for unscheduled gearbox change
** Denotes ten-place grid penalty will be applied for causing an avoidable collision at the previous race
*** Denotes three-place grid penalty for obstructing another competitor during qualifying

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.