Sebastian Vettel smacked his beaten stable rival Charles Leclerc and beamed into the cameras. The Ferrari driver secured pole position for the Formula One race in Japan with a top round.
The 32-year-old relegated Leclerc to second place on Sunday at the Suzuka Circuit. "Grazie ragazzi", Vettel thanked his team members over the radio.
After four pole positions in a row for Leclerc, the German, who had always landed behind him in the nine qualifiers, was able to set an important mark in the stable duel with his eleven years younger challenger. "The conditions were not easy," said Vettel to the sometimes violent wind on the 5.8-kilometer course. "Only a part of the work is done."
For the fifth-last Grand Prix of the season from 7.10 clock German time Vettel got the optimal starting position. For the Hesse it was the second pole of the season and its 57th overall. "Seb made a great lap and he deserves the pole," admitted his beaten stable rival Leclerc.
Hülkenberg only starts from 15th place
Third place went to the Finn Valtteri Bottas ahead of his English Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Renault driver Nico Hülkenberg did not get past 15th because of a transmission and hydraulic problem. "In the third qualifying round they were just untouchable", said Bottas about Ferrari.
One day after the transfer of the qualification because of the typhoon "Hagibis", which spared Suzuka great damage, the pilots had a strong wind to fight. After about two minutes in the first knockout decision, Robert Kubica crashed his Williams at the start-finish straight into the guardrail and demolished his car.
Kevin Magnussen was hit when the track was released. The Dane also put his Haas in the same section in the wall – again the qualification had to be interrupted. However, both Kubica and Magnussen remained intact.
Vettel sped to the front. "We are quite surprised, we did not expect that," said the Heppenheimer to the red first row. "I really enjoyed it."
Mercedes can win constructors' title in Japan
Above all, Mercedes had to acknowledge the Scuderia's superiority on the straights. "We always knew Ferrari would have something in the back of their hands," said Bottas, who had scheduled Friday's training with Hamilton. "But nothing is lost, let's see what's possible in a few hours."
Hamilton is 73 points ahead of Bottas and 107 ahead of Leclerc. Vettel is already 128 points behind in fifth and thus only theoretical prospects for the world championship title.
Mercedes can make his sixth constructor title successively perfect already in this Grand Prix. For Hamilton and Bottas would have to get at least 14 points more than the two Ferrari drivers Vettel and Leclerc. Mercedes would equalize it with a series set up for Michael Schumacher's Scuderia period (1999-2004).