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Sebastian Vettel takes pole for Red Bull in Japan

Sebastian Vettel celebrates pole at Suzuka

Japanese GP qualifying highlights

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
Venue: Suzuka Circuit Date: 10 October, race 0700 BST. Coverage: BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra and text commentary on the BBC Sport website Find complete listings here

By Richard Rae

Sebastian Vettel will start the Japanese Grand Prix from pole position after out-pacing his rivals in Suzuka.

The German was just 0.067 seconds faster than team-mate Mark Webber as Red Bull locked out the front row.

Lewis Hamilton was third fastest, but will start from eighth after a five-place penalty for a gearbox change.

Renault's Robert Kubica will start from third, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fourth. Jenson Button, on hard tyres, will start from fifth on the grid.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello of Williams make up the fourth row, with Barricello's team-mate Nico Hulkenberg and Mercedes' Michael Schumacher rounding out the top 10.

"It's a good start to what is going to be a tough day, but the car is very strong here and I'm starting from the clean side," said Vettel.

Japanese Grand Prix qualifying top three drivers

Japanese GP qualifying - top three drivers

"The car feels fantastic around here, especially in sector one. I think we'll have a nice race this afternoon."

With four-tenths of a second in hand over Hamilton's best time, if the Red Bulls start well it is hard to see them being caught. However with Webber closer to Vettel than some had expected, the battle between them could be fierce.

"It was a good tussle with Seb," said the Australian, who goes into the race leading the drivers' world championship by 11 points from Alonso. Vettel is fourth, 21 points behind his team-mate.

"The car worked well in 'quali' and we're looking pretty strong," said Webber. "I'm looking forward to it. Today is another chance to put some runs on the board but it is a chance to lose some as well. So let's hope we can get a good result."

Hamilton, who revealed he is battling an ear infection, said he felt he had got the maximum he could from his car.

"It's been one of the worst weekends we've had, with crashing in practice, and the gearbox change was a bit frustrating, so it's a good feeling to get out knowing I did the best job I could," he said.

JONATHAN LEGARD'S BLOG

Hamilton avoided a further penalty after the race stewards rejected a complaint from Williams that the McLaren driver blocked Hulkenberg on a flying lap during the final qualifying session.

Button was the only one of the leading group to qualify on the harder compound 'prime' tyres.

He said: "I felt better on the primes, and starting from fifth I'll be on a different strategy from everybody else, so we'll see if it works."

Alonso's Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa did not make it into final qualifying, eliminated after finishing only 12th fastest.

While team principal Stefano Domenicali is insisting Massa will still be with the team next season, the Brazilian's poor performance will only increase speculation over his future.

Eliminated with him after second qualifying were Nick Heidfeld of Sauber, Renault's Vitaly Petrov, Heidfeld's team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, Force India's Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari of Toro Rosso and the other Force India driver Tonio Liuzzi.

Eliminated after first qualifying were Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso, the Lotus drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, Virgin's Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock, and Bruno Senna and Sakan Yamamoto of Hispania.

Sebastian Vettel in car at Suzuka

Vettel's Japanese pole-lap



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see also
Japanese Grand Prix starting grid
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Japanese GP qualifying as it happened
10 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Five-place penalty for Hamilton
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari dismiss doubts over Massa
09 Oct 10 |  Formula 1


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