Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix, setting a time of 1m30.647s on the soft tyre: the fastest time of the weekend so far that was around two seconds faster than last year’s pole. 0.017 seconds ahead of Title rival Lewis Hamilton.
While Rosberg celebrated his continued impressive form, Hamilton reacted to what he perceived to be harsh treatment from the media over his snapchat activity at Thursday’s press conference. Telling the assembled media “You won’t be smiling in a minute”
Hamilton continued “I’m not actually here to answer questions, I’ve decided. With the utmost respect there are many of you who are super-supportive of me and I know who they are.”
“There are others who unfortunately often take advantage of certain things. The other day was a super light-hearted thing.”
“If I was disrespectful to any of you guys, or if you felt that I was disrespectful, it was honestly not the intention. It was just a little bit fun.”
“But what was more disrespectful is what was then written, worldwide. There are some people here and it’s not them that’s done it, and the decision I will take unfortunately affects those who have been super-supportive.”
“But I don’t really plan on sitting here many more times for these kind of things. So my apologies and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the weekend.”
Cue Mike Drop.
Outside of the Mercedes dominance and the toy throwing, Ferrari wrestled back position from Red Bull in the battle for the “Best of the Rest”. Kimi & Seb lock out the 2nd row in 3rd & 4th respectively, while Max beat Daniel by the smallest margins on an all Red Bull 3rd row.
Haas also took advantage of what seems to be an upturn in Ferrari performance, as Romain Grosjean will line up in P8, with team mate Esteban Gutierrez rounding out the top 10.
Two stops seem set to be the most probable strategy for the grand prix tomorrow, although this will depend on track and weather conditions. Following some overnight rain, qualifying remained completely dry; however damp conditions at the start of FP3 meant that the Cinturato intermediate and full wet was also briefly used today – meaning that all five tyres were run.
Everyone used just the soft tyre from Q2 onwards. In Q3 the drivers did two runs (apart from Force India and Haas), timing the final laps for the very end of the session in order to benefit from track evolution.
Tomorrow is expected to stay dry but the possibility of showers remains, with similar track temperatures to the 26 degrees centigrade seen today.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Track temperatures were cooler than they had been yesterday, which affected tyre behaviour, along with the overnight rain that washed whatever rubber had been laid on the track yesterday away. The superior speed of the soft tyre meant that it was the automatic choice for qualifying and so the top 10 will all be starting on this compound tomorrow. Where they go from here in terms of strategy will be very interesting, with the whole field closely matched in terms of speed and the possibility of cool and variable weather.”
How the tyres behaved today:
Hard: Used by two drivers at Q1 start as an installation. Mandatory set for the race.
Medium: Mercedes and Red Bull got through Q1 with medium only, not used thereafter.
Soft: The most popular tyre choice for Suzuka, with a 1.3 second per lap advantage.
Free practice 3 – top three times
Qualifying top 10
Most laps by compound so far
Best time by compound so far