Lewis Hamilton enters Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix with a 50 point advantage over Sebastian Vettel in the Formula One points standings. He’s also won the last three races on the season and hasn’t finished worse than second since July 1. On top of that, Hamilton has won three of the last four years on the 3.608-mile Suzuka track.
Now, he will start on the pole in his No. 44 Mercedes.
Hamilton, earned his 80th career F1 pole on Saturday with a time of 1:27.760-seconds. Vettel meanwhile, well he qualified ninth and will start eighth due to a Esteban Ocon grid penalty.
In theory, Hamilton could extend his points lead dramatically on Sunday afternoon in Japan with such a big gap between the two in the starting lineup.
The reason for Vettel’s bad qualifying performance was because Ferrari used the wrong tire combination for both he and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen at the start of Q3.
Rain fell on the track for most of the day but by time Q3 came around, the track was rather dry. Instead, Ferrari sent Vettel and Raikkonen out in the intermediate tires. That doesn’t work on a dry racing surface. They’d have to pit after one lap and by time they got their tires and setups changed for dry conditions, it rained again.
Raikkonen, will start fourth as a result.
That has them playing catch up to a driver that was fastest in all three practice sessions this weekend.
Also, Hamilton will be joined on the front row by his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. It’s the fifth straight year that Mercedes earned a front row lockout and second straight race.
Max Verstappen (3rd) and Romain Grosjean (5th) rounded out the top five.
Japanese Grand Prix Starting Lineup
Row 1: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Row 2: Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen
Row 3: Romain Grosjean, Brendon Hartley R
Row 4: Pierre Gasly R, Esteban Ocon
Row 5: Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez
Row 6: Charles Leclerc R, Kevin Magnussen
Row 7: Carlos Sainz Jr., Lance Stroll
Row 8: Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg
Row 9: Sergey Sirotkin R, Fernando Alonso
Row 10: Stoffel Vandoorne, Marcus Ericsson