Japanese Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton breaks Suzuka track record
Lewis Hamilton set a new track record at Suzuka as he took pole for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Suzuka always promises incident, and Valtteri Bottas started off the day with a bit of drama, veering off track on Turn 5 but grabbing control of the car once more and reporting no damage.
It was a truncated Q1, though, as the red flag was waved when Romain Grosjean went into the wall - fortunately he was unharmed, but his Haas looked a proper mess.
That meant that the drivers in the drop zone were suddenly robbed of the chance to improve their standings - and Lewis Hamilton, who had never previously been on pole here, stayed in P1.
There was also a bit of an issue for Force India's Sergio Perez, under investigation for potentially blocking Lance Stroll.
OUT: Romain Grosjean (Haas), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Lance Stroll (Williams), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber).
Beautiful, breathtaking driving from Hamilton, setting a new track record.
The Red Bulls were peculiarly muted after their excellent weekend seven days ago; and the Ferraris were encouraged to put on a bit more pace as best they could.
Good work from Stoffel Vandoorne, only just off the pace of his more experienced McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso - and after the 35-place grid penalties for the Spaniard, the Belgian will start in the top 10 anyway.
OUT: Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Jolyon Palmer (Renault), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso).
In a display of utterly scintillating driving, Hamilton whittled away at the track record to secure himself provisional pole - and Bottas snuck in behind him to take P2, although again with grid penalties that won't be a lock-out for Mercedes.
It means that Sebastian Vettel, who qualified in P3, will start on the front row beside his championship rival - so that should be fun.
The Red Bulls will be ready and waiting, though, in the row behind, and looking to capitalise on any mistakes.
TOP TEN: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Esteban Ocon (Force India), Sergio Perez (Force India), Felipe Massa (Williams), Fernando Alonso (McLaren).
QUALIFYING IN SUMMARY
The session was incident-packed in terms of mistakes and aggressive driving but perhaps not that much of a surprise in terms of how the cars and teams performed. Hamilton continues to write his name in the record books as Ferrari's championship challenge looks to be crumbling.
Romain Grosjean's end-of-season slump continues - and the Haas mechanics are going to have another horribly late night trying to get everything ready after the drain cover incident in Malaysia.
ONE TO WATCH
Vandoorne has really settled into his seat as the season has progressed; if his car stays in one piece, expect points tomorrow.
Hamilton - Vettel - Bottas