Japanese GP qualifying as it happened

Text highlights of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, where the Red Bulls have locked out the front row.

6 October 2012 Last updated at 08:05

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As it happened

  1. 0758: 

    Thanks for your company and contributions throughout the morning. It is, as always, much appreciated.

    I'm off for a power nap but will be back tomorrow morning at 06:00 (which is a lie-in right?) to begin building up to the Japanese Grand Prix.

    Don't forget race highlights on BBC One at 13:00 BST plus Inside F1 with Lee McKenzie on the BBC News channel at 18:45. Until tomorrow, it's good morning to me. See ya.


    Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who starts sixth: "It's more or less as we expected. We've been extremely unlucky with the yellow flags. I had to lift off and probably I lost fourth position. With Button's penalty, maybe we could have started tomorrow third. It was a lost opportunity today.

    "We were unlucky today, hopefully lucky tomorrow. Tyre degradation looks quite high. We need to do the maximum for that. The start will be important. The two McLarens are behind us - they have very strong race pace so I think there will be a challenge there. The points are on Sunday so we need to be optimistic."

  3. 0754: 

    Before I head off there's just time to hear from a disappointed championship leader Fernando Alonso...

  4. 0750: 

    I suggest you keep an eye on bbc.co.uk/f1 today to see what comes out of Sebastian Vettel's meeting with the stewards.

    Here's Andrew Benson's qualifying report to catch you up on the action. Go get yourself some shut eye, but set your alarms for 1300 BST when Jake and DC will bring you a shiny highlights show live on BBC One and BBC One HD.


    Daily Telegraph F1 correspondent Tom Cary on Twitter: "Perhaps the fat lady has not yet sung. Vettel called to the stewards for allegedly impeding Alonso in Q3."

  6. 0746: 

    It seems Kamui Kobayashi and Jean-Eric Vergne won't be the only ones in the stewards office today...

  7. 0741: 

    Marussia's Charles Pic has been fined 5,000 euros and reprimanded by the stewards for blocking Lewis Hamilton in final practice.

    The Frenchman, who was ordered to complete one day's community service after passing a car under red flags in third practice for Singapore GP, was coasting on the approach to the final chicane, forcing Hamilton - who was at top speed - to dive right and back off to avoid a huge accident.

  8. 0736: 

    Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne may face a penalty after Bruno Senna of Williams complained that the Frenchman had blocked him on his flying lap in Q1. The result was the Brazilian was eliminated while Vergne got through.


    Lewis Hamilton on Twitter: "A real tough day but it's never over til it's over! We win & we loose together. Thank you for all the support. I will be flat out tomorrow!!!"

  10. 0733: 

    BBC Sport understands that although Kobayashi improved his time in the middle sector of the lap, where Raikkonen spun at Spoon Curve, he did not go faster than previously in the specific part of the track in which the caution flags were being shown. So he may well not be penalised.

  11. 0728: 

    When asked what happened out on track, Kimi Raikkonen replied: "I spun". When asked about the impact on the rest of the field, the Finn added: "I don't care what happened to the others." Raikkonen at his most expansive and considerate.


    Ferrari on Twitter: "Fernando could have been P4 easily, considering how quick he was on that lap [when the ywllow flags came out for Kimi Raikkonen's spin].


    Ross on Twitter: "Lewis Hamilton best get used to ninth on the grid; sounds like an outstanding result for a Mercedes driver!"

  14. 0723: 

    1) Vettel 2) Webber 3) Kobayashi 4) Grosjean

    5) Perez 6) Alonso 7) Raikkonen 8) Button*

    9) Hamilton 10) Massa 11) Di Resta 12) Maldonado

    13) Rosberg 14) Ricciardo 15) Hulkenberg* 16) Vergne

    17) Senna 18) Kovalainen 19) Glock 20) De la Rosa

    21) Pic 22) Petrov 23) Schumacher* 24) Karthikeyan

    * Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg demoted five places following a gearbox change, Michael Schumacher pushed back 10 places for his Singapore GP shunt

  15. 0719: 

    Lewis Hamilton was at a loss to describe why he could only manage the ninth fastest time. "With the pace that I have, who knows what will happen in the race. Long run pace wasn't bad yesterday but the car - I'm going to struggle with it tomorrow."


    McLaren's Jenson Button who qualified in third, but will start eighth after a five-place grid penalty: "It hurts a little bit having the grid penalty but today was good. This morning I wasn't too happy in practice but we improved in qualifying. Both of my laps in Q3 I was happy with. It's always great driving around here and it was a lot of fun but we just aren't quick enough and I'm not sure what we can do about that. It's such a nice place to fight for a win as well but never say never, there's always possibilities and we'll fight all the way tomorrow."


    Red Bull's Mark Webber, who qualified second: "It has been a good weekend for us so far. Seb and I had a clean run in Q3 at the start. They were two big laps from both of us. Seb got me, it was a good lap for him. To be this much higher up [the grid] after a rough run of late, I'm happy to be on the front row. For the team, it's a great tonic for them at this point of the championship."


    Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who will start on pole: "I'm very, very happy with today's result. We had a very good qualifying session and it was very smooth, almost perfect. We didn't have the best start yesterday but we seem to get better every time we go out. The car feels fantastic so all in all it came together nicely and we hope for a good race tomorrow. It's nice to see the support we get at Suzuka and it's great to come here and drive the circuit the way that I did."

  19. 0714: 

    Time to hear from the top three drivers in the news conference...

  20. 0711: 

    Pole position was Sebastian Vettel's fourth successive at Suzuka and 34th of his career which moves him into third on the all-time list. Only Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65) ahead of him.

  21. 0708: 

    As my colleague Andrew Benson has just pointed out, Kamui Kobayashi set his best lap time while the yellow flags were out. The stewards will now have to determine, by checking the intricate data, whether the Japanese driver lifted off in the area where Kimi Raikkonen had spun.

  22. 0706: 

    It's a stunning lap from Kamui Kobayashi to end up fourth fastest. That will become third following Jenson Button's demotion to eighth as a result of his five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

    That is the best ever result for a Japanese driver in his home race, breaking the record set by Takuma Sato who finished fourth here in 2004. Can he go on to secure his first ever podium and become the first Japanese driver to do it at his home race since Aguri Suzuki back in 1990?

  23. 0704: 

    McLaren's Jenson Button on team radio: "I couldn't find any more guys, they were just too quick, the Red Bulls."

  24. 0703: 

    Jenson Button finishes third fastest ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso salvages seventh with Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10.

  25. 0702: 

    No one else manages to improve due to Kimi Raikkonen's spin which means Mark Webber completes Red Bull's first front row lock-out of the season.

  26. 0701: 


  27. 0659: 

    Sergio Perez goes fifth fastest, but Kimi Raikkonen gets himself in a right old state down at Spoon Curve, losing the rear end of the car and spinning round. He gets stuck in the gravel, which brings out the yellows and that will ruin everyone else's lap.

  28. 0658: 

    All 10 drivers are out on track as we approach the final minute of qualifying...


    Ferrari on Twitter: "It's a pity for Felipe, who was quick the whole weekend so far...He only missed 21 hundredths..."

  30. 0657: 

    Jenson Button goes third ahead of Romain Grosjean with Kimi Raikkonen demoted to fifth and Lewis Hamilton to sixth. A blanket of quiet falls on the circuit as everyone heads back to the pits for a new set of boots. No lap time from Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi or Sergio Perez yet...

  31. 0655: 

    Red Bull's Mark Webber makes a mess of the hairpin, locking his front left as he battles to get the car slowed down. It's a shame because he goes second, two tenths off Vettel's pace, but much of that time would have been lost in that mistake.

  32. 0654: 

    Kimi Raikkonen goes fastest, one tenth quicker than Lewis Hamilton manages. But both those times are put in the shade as Sebastian Vettel rips 1.3 seconds out of that top time to go quickest of all.

  33. 0653: 

    BBC F1 co-commentator David Coulthard says that McLaren have not had a pole here since 1991. Can Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button end that run?


    Patrick McLaughlin on Twitter: "Vettel, Webber and Button have a lot of time in hand. Fully expect Red Bull front row lockout."

  35. 0651: 

    Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton are both out nice and early to get a banker lap while it's quiet.

  36. 0649: 

    And then there were 10. Will Sebastian Vettel take his fourth pole position in a row here at Suzuka? It's looking ominous.

    BBC Radio 5 live pit-lane reporter Jennie Gow

    "Nico Hulkenberg had his gearbox changed during that rebuild so will take a five-place grid penalty."

  38. 0646: 

    Michael Schumacher cuts a frustrated figure in the Mercedes garage, tearing his gloves off and throwing them down. The seven-time world champion has a long afternoon ahead of him from 23rd on the grid tomorrow.

  39. 0646: 

    Vettel, Button, Raikkonen, Alonso, Kobayashi, Webber, Grosjean, Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg.

  40. 0645: 

    Felipe Massa will start 11th tomorrow ahead of Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher, Pastor Maldonado, Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Schumacher will of course start 23rd as a result of his 10-place grid penalty.

  41. 0644: 


  42. 0643: 

    Romain Grosjean creeps into the top 10 with the seventh fastest time which knocks Felipe Massa down into the drop zone. That's a surprise following his form at the track so far this weekend.

  43. 0642: 

    Nico Rosberg gets knocked into the drop zone by Nico Hulkenberg, and he's soon joined in there by Pastor Maldonado who can't improve on his final flying lap.

  44. 0641: 

    Nico Rosberg sneaks into the top 10 with the ninth fastest time, but there are still plenty of drivers out on track. That turns into 10th as Paul di Resta goes seventh fastest overall.

  45. 0639: 

    Out goes Michael Schumacher with four minutes to go in this session. But it looks like he's not going to do a flying lap. He weaves down the start-finish straight with BBC co-commentator David Coulthard suggests he's simply scrubbing a set of tyres ahead of the race tomorrow as he is resigned to starting last on the grid with his 10-place grid penalty.

  46. 0637: 

    It's all gone quiet out on track after all but Michael Schumacher do their first run. Sebastian Vettel is quickest of all with two seconds separating the top 16. Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Rosberg, Di Resta, Ricciardo, Vergne and Schumacher are currently in the drop zone.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "Looking at the Red Bulls, that's a very strong time from Sebastian Vettel. I'm surprised to see Lewis Hamilton has not done better, but I think that's where the car's pace is at the moment. It's not over yet, but it does look like it will be tougher for McLaren than they thought."

  48. 0635: 

    Paul di Resta gets frustrated with the traffic at the final chicane, shoting on the team radio: "There's cars all over the place!"

  49. 0634: 

    Jenson Button goes second quickest, ahead of Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton with Felipe Massa fifth and Fernando Alonso down in eighth. No sign of Michael Schumacher as yet. Is he leaving it late again?

  50. 0633: 

    Brilliant lap by Kamui Kobayashi who clocks a 1:32.368 in his Sauber on the soft tyres, but that man Sebastian Vettel smashes that lap time with a 1:31.501. It's all too easy for the German at the moment.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Some interesting things came out of that first qualifying session. One, Sebastian Vettel is looking untouchable already. Two, Lewis Hamilton ran a set of soft tyres and was still only 0.016 seconds quicker than McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who was on the hards which are as much as a second quicker."

  52. 0630: 

    Williams driver Bruno Senna, who starts 18th: "[Jean-Eric Vergne] had an easy chance to let me past no problem, but as he did in FP3, he destroyed my lap. Now I have a long race tomorrow and hopefully with new tyres I'll get back into the points, but it's another one of those days."

  53. 0629: 

    Kamui Kobayashi sends the crowd wild as he powers out of the pit lane first to kickstart this 15 minutes session. The Japanese driver was second quickest in Q1. Can he replicate that form in this session?

  54. 0628: 

    Seven drivers take an early bath. That leaves 17 to fight it out in Q2. Let's get it on.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Fernando Alonso has switched to the rear wing team-mate Felipe Massa was running in final practice. Having never run that wing before qualifying, Alonso is now playing catch-up. It's clearly a damage limitation weekend for him in terms of the championship. Again."

  56. 0626: 

    Grosjean was fastest ahead of Kobayashi, Perez, Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Di Resta, Massa, Weber, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Button, Schumacher and Vergne.

  57. 0624: 

    Michael Schumacher's last lap heroics knocks Bruno Senna into the drop zone. The Brazilian will start 18th ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa, Charles Pic, Vitaly Petrov and Narain Karthikeyan.

  58. 0622: 


  59. 0621: 

    Schumacher survives, edging into Q2 with the 16th fastest time. Impressive final sector from the German.

  60. 0620: 

    Bruno Senna waves his hand in frustration as he gets backed up by a Toro Rosso at the final chicane. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher is in all sorts of bother here. He's down on the time that he needs in the final two sectors after getting held up by slowing cars...

  61. 0618: 

    Kimi Raikkonen has gone quickest on the soft tyres, but that's soon usurped by the Sauber of Sergio Perez. The pressure is on Michael Schumacher who has made mistakes one his first two timed laps. Will he make it into Q2?

  62. 0617: 

    Lewis Hamilton on team radio: "Yeah, I'm going to struggle. That's not very good."

  63. 0616: 

    Petrov, De la Rosa, Glock, Pic, Karthikeyan, Schumacher and Hulkenberg are currently in the drop zone, however it's worth pointing out Schumacher and Hulkenberg have yet to set a lap time. They are both out on track now, though...

  64. 0615: 

    Pastor Maldonado pops into second with the soft tyres, two tenths slower than Sebastian Vettel who set his time on the hard compound.

  65. 0614: 

    Sebastian Vettel - the man who has sat on pole position here for the last three years - has put down a marker with a stunning 1:32.6, three tenths quicker than anyone else.

  66. 0612: 

    Michael Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg have are the only two drivers who have yet to make an appearance in this session. Meanwhile, we're hearing that Pastor Maldonado has headed out on the soft tyres for his first run. It looks like Williams are taking no chances to ensure they get into Q2.

  67. 0611: 

    Lewis Hamilton goes sixth, one place behind Fernando Alonso. Jenson Button has popped himself into fourth, too. Three tenths separate the top six, with Felipe Massa heading Mark Webber.

  68. 0610: 

    Big moment for Sergio Perez, who drifts off track at Turn Seven, bouncing across the gravel but just about manages to keep his Sauber pointing in the right direction and rejoins the track.

  69. 0609: 

    Felipe Massa goes quickest with a 1:32.9 on the hard tyre - that should be enough to get him through to Q2. Mark Webber goes second, just 0.05 seconds slower.

  70. 0608: 

    A decent start for Fernando Alonso, going second quickest, one tenth off the pace set by Romain Grosjean. Meanwhile, in the Force India garage, Nico Hulkenberg is climbing into the car and will have just over 11 minutes to get himself into Q2.

  71. 0606: 

    The Lotus cars of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen show their hands early as they look to capitalise on a relatively quiet track. Grosjean clocks 1:33.328, 0.15 seconds quicker than Raikkonen with Bruno Senna slotting into third.

  72. 0604: 

    Di Resta gets us up and running with a 1:33.661, one tenth quicker than Perez manages on his first run.

  73. 0603: 

    Paul di Resta is out nice and early, ahead of Sergio Perez who is told by his team that he has enough fuel for five timed laps on hard tyres.

  74. 0602: 

    There's pandemonium in the Force India garage as mechanics desperately try to finish repairing Nico Hulkenberg's car after he crashed in final practice.

  75. 0600: 

    We have the challenging Suzuka Circuit. We have jam-packed grandstands. We have 24 cars and 24 drivers. Let's go racing folks. It's time for qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

  76. 0555: 

    You can listen to live commentary with Jonathan Legard and Mercedes reserve driver and BBC F1 acting analyst Sam Bird on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra by clicking the link at the top right of this page.


    Fqiren on Twitter: "Mark Webber to mount a late title challenge by grabbing pole here and winning the race tomorrow!"

  78. 0552: 

    Other than Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, the only other active driver to have taken pole position at Suzuka is Felipe Massa (in 2006). The Brazilian was third in final practice this morning, outpacing his championship leading team-mate. Can he spring a surprise?

  79. 0548: 

    Just a reminder that Michael Schumacher will start 10 places further back on the grid having picked up a penalty for his Singapore Grand Prix shunt. McLaren's Jenson Button, who won the Japanese Grand Prix last year, has a five-place penalty because of a gearbox change.


    Louise on Twitter: "Think it is going to be between Vettel and Webber for pole position and both Red Bulls at the front!"

  81. 0544: 

    2012 pole-sitters:

    Australia - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Race finish 3rd

    Malaysia - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Race finish 3rd

    China - Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) Race finish 1st

    Bahrain - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) Race finish 1st

    Spain - Pastor Maldonado (Williams) Race finish 1st

    Monaco - Mark Webber (Red Bull) Race finish 1st

    Canada - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) Race finish 4th

    Europe - Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) Race finish DNF

    Britain - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) Race finish 2nd

    Germany - Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) Race finish 1st

    Hungary - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Race finish 1st

    Belgium - Jenson Button (McLaren) Race finish 1st

    Italy - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Race finish 1st

    Singapore - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Race finish DNF


    Mark Steeples on Twitter: "Casually sitting with a pizza and waiting for the coverage of qualifying."

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "Ferrari have some decisions to make ahead of qualifying. World championship leader Fernando Alonso has appeared to be struggling so far this weekend and he and team-mate Felipe Massa have been running different rear wing designs. This follows events in Singapore, where Ferrari introduced a new rear wing design only to abandon it during Friday practice. In final practice here at Suzuka, Massa was running a rear wing that was very similar to the new one introduced in Singapore but with slight modifications.

    "He had compared this on Friday with the 'old' wing raced in Singapore. Alonso ran on Saturday morning with a brand new wing first seen here in Japan, which he also compared on Friday with the one he raced in Singapore. But Alonso was 0.36 seconds slower in final practice than Massa, who was an impressive third. With a world championship lead to protect and his closest rival Sebastian Vettel flying in the Red Bull Alonso is faced with an awkward quandary. Which rear wings will the Ferrari drivers go for in qualifying and therefore the race?"

  84. 0540: 

    The Red Bulls looked strongest of all in final practice with Sebastian Vettel heading team-mate Mark Webber. The McLarens are best placed to challenge, with the Saubers and Mercedes capable of a strong showing. Ferrari, however, appear to be a little behind...

  85. 0536: 

    So here's how things will unfold over the next 90 minutes. The qualifying hour starts at 0600 and will be split into three sections. Q1 lasts 20 minutes and will see the slowest seven drivers knocked out. Q2 is 15 minutes and sees another seven bite the dust. That then leaves 10 drivers to fight it out for pole. Ready? Good.

  86. 0533: 

    ...text 81111 (UK only) or tweet us using the #bbcf1 hashtag with all your F1-related chat. If you want to get involved with this week's Lawro's Poduim Predictions, it's easy. Just let me know your tip and reason for it.

    I'm going for Mark Webber for the simple reason I think he's been on it all weekend and with Jenson Button dropping down the grid because of a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change I think the Aussie is best placed to benefit. Agree or disagree?

  87. 0530: 

    Welcome back, to those who have stuck by me from the very start this morning and hello to those who have just entered the land of the living.

    I'm holding on in there for the start of qualifying - which is pretty important at this track considering seven of the last 10 victories have been taken by the pole-sitter - but could do with your support....

  88. 0418: 

    Right, time for a quick pitstop to replenish food stocks before we get down to the business of qualifying. In the meantime, here's Andrew Benson's report. I'll be back at 0530. See you in a bit.

  89. 0415: 

    With the final chicane resembling a car park at times, traffic could be a massive problem in the first part of qualifying. The Red Bulls look a strong bet for the front row, but McLaren will be there or thereabouts with the Saubers and Mercedes also in the mix.

    BBC F1 presenter Jake Humphrey

    "On Wednesday night I was in Reading, chairing a debate on immigration for the BBC Three show Free Speech, and now here I am gearing up for a race weekend in Japan! Usually I like to be at a race on the Thursday when the drivers arrive and we can chat to the teams about plans for the weekend before free practice starts. Well, this weekend 6pm on Friday night was as early as I could get here.

    "I left Reading at 9pm on Wednesday, the following morning I was on my flight to Hong Kong. I tried to sleep on the plane to get into 'local' time as soon as possible but as it was mid-morning my body was having none of it. I then landed in Hong Kong, loitered around for four hours waiting for my connection and generally feeling terrified I might fall fast asleep at the gate and miss the flight.

    "Then I dozed on the short flight from Hong Kong to Nagoya, fell asleep once more in the cab, finally getting to Suzuka and the 'Super Hotel' late on Friday evening. I hope DC is wide awake for the show...and if nothing else a nip of hot sake will wake me up."

  91. 0413: 

    It was a super performance from Felipe Massa as the Brazilian finished third fastest, 0.6 seconds off the pace but four tenths quicker than his championship leading team-mate Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has looked uncomfortable all weekend and could face a fight just to get into Q3 later on this morning.

  92. 0411: 

    And here's 1-12:

    1) Vettel 2) Webber 3) Massa 4) Schumacher 5) perez 6) Kobayashi 7) Grosjean 8) Button 9) Di Resta 10) Maldonado 11) Alonso 12) Raikkonen

  93. 0409: 

    Here's how they finished 13-24:

    13) Hamilton 14) Vergne 15) Rosberg 16) Senna 17) Ricciardo 18) Hulkenberg 19) Kovalainen 20) Petrov 21) Glock 22) Pic 23) Karthikeyan 24) De la Rosa

  94. 0407: 

    The Red Bulls are looking mighty at Suzuka, but both McLarens had traffic in P3 and weren't able to set a representative qualifying-style time. The Mercedes of Michael Schumacher looks quick - but his error in Singapore, where he smashed into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, means he'll start 10 places further back then he qualifies.

  95. 0405: 


  96. 0403: 

    Brilliant stuff from Sebastian Vettel who goes quickest by two tenths at the death to take the honours. Mark Webber is bumped down to second with Felipe Massa third.

  97. 0401: 

    Lewis Hamilton over team radio: "I want to let Charlie know how dangerous that last corner was."

  98. 0400: 

    Absolute crikey. Lewis Hamilton was on course to go quickest of all, but he suddenly backed off. Replays show that the McLaren driver was hard on the gas as he flew round the high-speed 130R corner when he had to take avoiding action to miss the slowing Marussia of Charles Pic who had almost stopped at final chicane as he tried to find himself some space. Massive accident narrowly avoided there.

  99. 0358: 

    Another decent effort from Felipe Massa who goes third fastest, 0.45 seconds off the pace. It seems the threat of losing his seat has inspired the Brazilian in recent races.

  100. 0356: 

    Personal bests in the first and second sectors give Mark Webber the leading time by half a second. Great stuff from the Australian who is my tip for pole position. Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel can't quite match him, 0.128 seconds off the pace in second.

  101. 0354: 

    Jenson Button waves his hand in frustration at a slowing Michael Schumacher as he gets held up by the Mercedes driver as he goes through the 130R.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "That wasn't the kind of accident I would expect Nico Hulkenberg to have. He either had a massive oversteer in the corner or something broke on the rear of the car. When he put the steering back on, it just bit and turned left on him. I wouldn't be surprised to find something had broke on him."

  103. 0350: 

    Michael Schumacher bolts on a set of soft tyres and goes quickest of all with a time of 1:32.918. Sebastian Vettel slots into second, 0.108 seconds off the pace but that lap was particularly impressive because it was done on the hard tyre. The Red Bull driver has been on pole here for the past three years. P1 number four looking likely at this stage.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Felipe Massa could be securing his future at Ferrari here. An impeccable source close to Ferrari says the Brazilian will be retained for 2013 if he has a strong weekend in Japan and Massa has been nip and tuck with Alonso all weekend. He was 0.037 seconds faster than the world championship leader after their first runs this morning. That definitely fits the description of 'strong'."

  105. 0346: 

    Lewis Hamilton got the driver market moving with his move to Mercedes which forced Michael Schumacher into retirement and allowed Sergio Perez to take the vacant seat at McLaren.

    All the talk now is who will partner Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next season as Felipe Massa has been under pressure after failing to match the Spaniard for much of the season.

    Force India's Nico Hulkenberg has been linked with a move to th Scuderia, but it seems Massa's good form of late could save him...

  106. 0344: 

    More bits of Caterham are flying off the car. On Friday, Vitaly Petrov had a horror moment when his rear wing simply detached itself as he drove down the start-finish straight. Now it's Heikki Kovalainen's turn as a large aerodynamic part snaps off as he negotiates the first corner.

  107. 0342: 

    I feel for the mechanics at Force India. They had their work cut out repairing Paul di Resta's car after his smash on Friday and now they've got to get back on it to repair Hulkenberg's stricken machine.

  108. 0340: 

    It's Nico Hulkenberg. The German loses the rear end of the car on the entry to the second Degner Curve and slides off into the barriers, hitting them side on and heavily damaging the front left corner of the car.

  109. 0338: 

    There's a Force India in the barriers at the second Degner.


    Mercedes reserve driver Sam Bird acting as BBC 5 live analyst: "Fernando Alonso is a guy who gives 100% whatever lap he's on. I have watched him and been in awe of him this season. The Ferrari is behind on pace compared to the McLaren and the Red Bull and it is a tribute to Fernando where he is in the championship at the moment."

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "We still don't know where Ferrari are this weekend. They have two different rear wings on their cars at the moment. Felipe Massa has the wing introduced in Singapore, which they didn't use in Singapore, and Fernando Alonso has a derivative of that. Ferrari are definitely behind in terms of the detail of development through the year. On the McLaren, everything is neatly and tidily done. The Red Bull is the same. Ferrari has this untidiness about it; it just hasn't got that finesse. They need to get an update together."

  112. 0335: 

    The Ferraris have finally made an appearance, with Felipe Massa unusually one place ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso in the standings. Massa is seventh fastest, 0.7 seconds off the pace but 0.06 quicker than Alonso.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Lotus have had a shaky three races in Belgium, Monza and Singapore but they appear to be back on form in Japan. The car looks quick, especially on race pace, and the team expect to be challenging for a grid position just behind pace-setters McLaren and Red Bull. They have, though, yet again abandoned use of their straight-line speed boosting device, which 'stalls' the rear wing above a certain speed, reducing drag. It was first introduced at the German Grand Prix back in July. It works by ducting air from above the drivers' head down a tube and up the rear wing, switching on automatically above a certain airspeed. But the team have found problems calibrating it properly."


    Vettel fastest, 0.354secs ahead of Hamilton. Raikkonen has problem with the rear of his Lotus. 1 Vettel 2 Hamilton 3 Button 4 Webber 5 Schumacher 6 Maldonado 7 Massa 8 Alonso 9 Perez 10 Senna.

  115. 0333: 

    Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo is sat twiddling his thumbs as his car is up on the jacks with a couple of mechanics working on the underside of the car. The Australian is currently 15th, 1.5 seconds off the pace.


    Force India on Twitter: "Programme for FP3 is pretty standard. Qualy prep, short runs on both compounds, all while tweaking the set-up."

  117. 0331: 

    Marussia driver Timo Glock over team radio: "Far too much overtseer. I want to go back to the other front wing."

  118. 0330: 

    Sebastian Vettel hooks up each of the 18 corners of this figure-of-eight track nicely to bump the McLarens down and take top spot. The German clocks 1:33.215, 0.354 seconds quicker than anyone else. The Red Bull driver gained two tenths over both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton in the second sector.


    Pete in chilly Belfast: "Listening to Mazzy Star with some nice Shiraz and home-made almond cookies watching FP3."

  120. 0326: 

    Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen's race engineer over team radio: "Box Heikki, box. Cool the brakes." Heikki replies: "Yeah, I was just going to say..."

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "A fourth British driver looks set to be joining Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta out on track before the end of this season. GP2 race winner Max Chilton was promoted to the role of Marussia's race driver two weeks ago in Singapore and now team boss John Booth has said: 'Maybe we'll give him a (run in) Friday morning (practice) before the end of the year.'

    "It has been thought that Chilton would get a race seat at Marussia in 2013, but Booth did not sound so sure. Timo Glock is under contract and Booth revealed that the team would like to hold on to Frenchman Charles Pic, who has also been linked with a move to Caterham. 'We're in discussions with Charles,' he said. 'He's done an outstanding job. He's had a wonderful rookie year. We're in talks with his management and we'd love to keep him for 2013.'"

  122. 0324: 

    Jenson Button takes four tenths off the leading time but his time at the top is shortlived as Lewis Hamilton creeps in front by 0.052 seconds.

  123. 0322: 

    Both Ferraris remain parked up in the garage as out on track, Pastor Maldonado goes fastest of all by 0.009 seconds from Michael Schumacher. The Williams driver has been quick, on occasion, in qualifying this season but failed to turn those good starting spots into points - apart from his single victory in Spain back in May obviously. Can the Venezuelan change his fortunes in Japan?


    John Soggy on Twitter: "Re 0240. Loving F1 at this time of the night! Eating oranges & Hamilton for pole!"

  125. 0320: 

    Heikki Kovalainen and Kamui Kobayashi take the scenic route across the gravel at the Degner Curves before deciding they prefer the tarmac.

  126. 0319: 

    Red Bull driver Mark Webber over team radio: "Engine misfire mate on the exit of [Turn] five."

  127. 0318: 

    Ferrari's Fernando Alonso isn't going anywhere, though. The championship leader, who tweeted a picture of his personalised coffee this morning, is sat at the back of the garage with his shades on and arms crossed.

  128. 0316: 

    Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean have headed out on track, along with Narain Karthikeyan and Charles Pic. Michael Schumacher is still plodding around out there - the German has completed six laps already.

  129. 0312: 

    Michael Schumacher has a huge lock up at the final corner which compromises his exit, but the German still slices one second off his Mercedes' team-mate Nico Rosberg's time to go top.

  130. 0308: 

    Nico Rosberg has stepped up to the plate and completed the first flying lap of the day. The German clocks a 1:35.169 to go top of the charts before complaining over the radio about oversteer in the high speed corners.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Paul di Resta and Michael Schumacher crashed at Spoon Curve on Friday because they got their right-hand wheels slightly off the track on turn-in. After practice, race director Charlie Whiting discovered that the track and the grass next to it were not at the same level, which was creating a small dip which was dragging in the wheels of cars that were slightly wide on entry. Following Whiting's intervention, that has now been modified to reduce the height disparity for the rest of the grand prix meeting."

  132. 0305: 

    Paul Di Resta's race engineer over team radio: "We believe the grass at Turn 13 [Spoon Curve] has been modified."

    BBC Radio 5 live pit-lane reporter Jennie Gow

    "Michael Schumacher and Paul di Resta crashed at the Spoon Curve on Friday, on separate occasions but within half a metre of each other. The damage was similar on both cars with right front and rear corners damage, the front wing replaced, floor damage, rear wing end plate damage and on Di Resta's car, the right sidepod and a couple of wheels needed changing. So all in all, costly incidents for both of them."

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "There were a few drivers on Friday who could benefited from Lewis Hamilton's observation about positioning being 'so important'. A few centimetres here or there is the different at Suzuka between a perfect corner and a car in the barriers - as both Paul di Resta and Michael Schumacher found when they tried to turn into Spoon Curve with part of their outside wheels on to the dust. For them, this final practice session will be critical as they try to make up for lost track time."

  135. 0304: 

    Plenty of work to do this morning for all of the teams, so unsurprisingly there's plenty of action almost immediately. Everyone has already completed an installation lap and now headed back to the pits so their teams can prepare the car for a first timed run.

  136. 0302: 

    Kimi Raikkonen is the first man out of the pits in his Lotus, closely followed by Heikki Kovalainen and Romain Grosjean.

  137. 0300: 

    The fuel is in, the tyres bolted on and the engines started. Third practice is underway at a gloriously sunny Suzuka.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "This final session will be a vital one for Jenson Button, who tried a lower-downforce set-up on his McLaren on Friday. Button said he and the team had been 'thinking outside the box' because of his five-place grid penalty following a gearbox change. But the changes were not successful and Button missed a lot of running. 'We tried a few things and not all of them worked,' he said, 'and we couldn't go back on them because they took a lot of time to change. So most of the session I wasn't out because it wasn't worth it.' It means Button has this session alone to hone his car for qualifying and the race. Not easy on a track as demanding as this."

  139. 0253: 

    McLaren's Jenson Button looked strong in first practice, setting the pace before fading to seventh in the second session.

    The 2009 world champion loves this circuit, though, having finished top in all three practice sessions at Suzuka last year before taking the win.

    This year, it'll be slightly tougher as a gearbox change following the Singapore GP means he'll start five places back from where he qualifies.

    BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson

    "The headline lap times on Friday were pretty close - and the same went for the race-simulations runs. Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus all look like they have a similar race pace. Ferrari are difficult to judge as Fernando Alonso did not do a race-simulation run and Felipe Massa's was so fast as to be unrepresentative - he must have had less fuel than the other leading drivers. There was a lot of rear blistering on the soft tyres all across the tyre width, most teams suffering to some degree. That should clear up a bit when the circuit gets more rubber on it but it will still be a potential problem."

  141. 0250: 

    Mark Webber set the pace in Friday practice, holding off the stern challenge of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. It's all looking pretty close at the top, though, with Gary Anderson suggesting three teams have the edge...

  142. 0246: 

    Jonathan Legard, Tony Dodgins, Gary Anderson and Jennie Gow will be live on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online via the link at the top right of this page from 0155.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "Half an hour or so after stepping out of his car at the end of second practice on Friday, Lewis Hamilton was still buzzing with the thrill of driving at Suzuka. 'It's just so exhilarating around here,' he said. 'Very, very high speed. One of the circuits where you really have to know the limits of the car and the width of the road.' The best bit of arguably the best track is the first sector, especially the swerves of the Esses.

    "'Jenson (Button) is really good in sector one,' Hamilton said. 'So I have to try to compensate by being a little bit better in other places. You're flat out into the first corner, then braking and the car's trying to understeer. Carrying lots of speed through Turn Two and it's so quick through the left-right, left-right and then back up the hill. Positioning is so important. Trying not to take too much speed through the corners but you want to keep the minimum speed up, making sure you get to full power as soon as possible."

  144. 0243: 

    Third and final practice starts at 0300 BST and lasts an hour. A short break is then followed by qualifying hour at 0700 which will be split into three sections. More on that later.

  145. 0240: 

    Whether you're coming in from a night out, huddling under the covers struggling to stay awake or simply chilling on the sofa, I want to hear from you.

    Is anyone having a Japanese GP party? What are you listening to/eating/drinking to keep you awake? Who is your tip for pole later today? Send all your F1-related thoughts my way via the usual channels - use #bbcf1 on Twitter or text 81111 (UK only).

  146. 0236: 

    Lewis Hamilton finally ended speculation about his future by signing for Mercedes last week, sending Michael Schumacher into retirement and allowing rising star Sergio Perez to take his vacant McLaren seat.

    The 2008 world champion has been in good form of late, but bad luck (victim of crash in Belgium) and poor reliability (gearbox failure in Singapore) have robbed him of some big results.

    Still, Hamilton looked in good shape on Friday in Suzuka, nailing the second fastest time in both practice sessions.

    BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson:

    "There are few better places to watch sport than Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix. Arguably the finest circuit in the world tests the drivers to limits beyond anywhere other than perhaps Spa and Monaco. The place is teeming with history and the drama of great title showdowns of the past - Senna v Prost, Schumacher v Hakkinen, Schumacher v Alonso. And this weekend the track is bathed in lovely sunshine. But for the drivers there will be no time to admire the scenery or reminisce. Total concentration is required at Suzuka, which punishes the tiniest of mistakes."

  148. 0233: 

    A very good morning/afternoon/evening to you all and welcome to our coverage of final practice and qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

  149. 0230: 

    McLaren have qualified on pole in the last four races in their best run since Mika Hakkinen took six in a row during the 1999 season. Lewis Hamilton has taken three of those four, and five in total this season. Can he make it number six and get his title charge back on track? Stick with me and you'll soon find out.

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Formula 1 World Championship 2014

Position Driver Team Pts
1 Great Britain L Hamilton Mercedes 384
2 Germany N Rosberg Mercedes 317
3 Australia D Ricciardo Red Bull 238
4 Finland V Bottas Williams 186
5 Germany S Vettel Red Bull 167
6 Spain F Alonso Ferrari 161
7 Brazil F Massa Williams 134
8 Great Britain J Button McLaren 126
9 Germany N Hulkenberg Force India 96
10 Mexico S Perez Force India 59
11 Denmark K Magnussen McLaren 55
12 Finland K Raikkonen Ferrari 55
13 France J Vergne Toro Rosso 22
14 France R Grosjean Lotus 8
15 Russia D Kvyat Toro Rosso 8
16 Venezuela P Maldonado Lotus 2
18 Germany A Sutil Sauber 0
20 Mexico E Gutierrez Sauber 0
22 Japan K Kobayashi Caterham 0
23 W Stevens Caterham 0


After 60 of 61 laps
Position Driver Team

Race stopped at 60 laps

1 Great Britain L Hamilton Mercedes
2 Germany S Vettel Red Bull
3 Australia D Ricciardo Red Bull
4 Spain F Alonso Ferrari
5 Brazil F Massa Williams
6 France J Vergne Toro Rosso
7 Mexico S Perez Force India
8 Finland K Raikkonen Ferrari
9 Germany N Hulkenberg Force India
10 Denmark K Magnussen McLaren
11 Finland V Bottas Williams
12 Venezuela P Maldonado Lotus
13 France R Grosjean Lotus
14 Russia D Kvyat Toro Rosso
15 Sweden M Ericsson Caterham
16 France J Bianchi Marussia
17 Great Britain M Chilton Marussia
18 Great Britain J Button (ret.) McLaren
19 Germany A Sutil (ret.) Sauber
20 Mexico E Gutierrez (ret.) Sauber
21 Germany N Rosberg (ret.) Mercedes
22 Japan K Kobayashi (ret.) Caterham