Suzuka – Given what a demanding and exciting track Suzuka is, this afternoon’s qualifying hour was a somewhat subdued affair, with no crashes or dramas and it ended with the Mercedes duo on the front row, Nico Rosberg taking his eighth pole of the year ahead of team-mate and championship leader, Lewis Hamilton. And for the sixth time this season, the twenty fifth occasion since he joined Scuderia Ferrari, the thirty fifth in his F1 career, Fernando Alonso qualified fifth. However, having admitted it was a common occurrence, the Spaniard said it was different to many others, as he’d enjoyed himself this afternoon securing his slot on the inside of the third row.
In the other F14 T, Kimi Raikkonen had a much tougher time of it, ending up tenth out of ten in the final part of the session. Unlike the other nine Q3 participants, the Finn was down to one set of the softer Medium tyres having used a set to get through Q1. He was always going to have a difficult time of it, as he lost running earlier in the weekend and a problem in FP3 this morning curtailed his track time still further, before the mechanics worked a miracle to change his power unit in double quick time to get him out for Q1.
What can our drivers do from rows 3 and 5? That will depend very much on the weather. It’s usual in Formula 1 to be looking ahead to the following day, but today, the talk was not so much about tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, but rather next Sunday’s inaugural race on Russian soil in Sochi. The imminent arrival of Typhoon Phanfone is likely to bring wind and rain to Suzuka, so that anything could happen in the race, with not one lap completed on a wet track so far this weekend. However, already concerns are being raised about the difficulty of packing away the huge tonnage of equipment in what are expected to be worsening conditions tomorrow night. If the pack-down has to be delayed on safety grounds and flights on Monday are disrupted, it means cars, equipment and personnel arriving late in Sochi, thus limiting preparation time. For these reasons and a general concern that bad weather could see the Japanese GP end in darkness, the possibility of bringing the race forward tomorrow is being discussed.