Dominant Hamilton claims Suzuka pole, grid penalties for Bottas, Raikkonen
There was no stopping Lewis Hamilton at Suzuka on Saturday as the championship leader dominated qualifying.
Mercedes left Ferrari in their wake at Suzuka as a dominant Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position forÂ the Japanese Grand Prix.
Although the BritonÂ extended his lead over SebastianÂ Vettel in the drivers' standings to 34 points in MalaysiaÂ last time out, Hamilton expressed concernsÂ regardingÂ the performance of his car at Sepang.
However, Hamilton had nothing to worry about on Saturday as he smashed the circuit record in Q2 and Q3, ultimately topping the timesheets with a blistering time of one minute and 27.319Â seconds.
"It's been a really good day - every lap was fantastic," Hamilton toldÂ Jenson Button after securing his first pole at Suzuka.
Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas (+0.332secs) beat Vettel (+0.472s) to second, although the Finn will serve a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change. As a result, Vettel will start alongside Hamilton on the front row.
Kimi Raikkonen also faces a five-place penalty, after a crash in FP3 necessitated a gearbox change for the veteran. Raikkonen was only able to post the sixth-fastest time on Saturday, behind the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
In addition, there will be penalties for Fernando Alonso (35 places), Jolyon Palmer (20 places) and Carlos Sainz (20 places).
Q1 was red-flagged with just over a minute remaining when Romain Grosjean suffered a nasty shunt that he was thankfully able to walk away from.Â The FrenchmanÂ was forced to battle huge oversteer at successive corners before he lost control of his Haas and thundered into a tyre wall.
Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson, Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly joined Grosjean in bowing out after the opening session, while Q2 sawÂ Sainz,Â Palmer, Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg and Stoffel Vandoorne fail to make the cut.