Nico Rosberg beat his title rival Lewis Hamilton to a high-pressure pole for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
Rosberg, fastest in the second segment of qualifying and on the opening run of Q3, posted a lap of 1:32.506 late on to edge out Hamilton, who crashed at Turn 1 in the closing minutes of final practice, by two tenths of a second to claim his eighth pole position of the season.
Hamilton was fastest in Q1, but a lock-up on both of his final runs in the final shootout cost him a shot at what could be a crucial pole position, with Sunday’s race expected to start behind the safety car if Typhoon Phanfone makes landfall.
Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams, six tenths shy of Rosberg’s session topping time, but ahead of his team-mate Felipe Massa, who had to settle for fourth.
Fernando Alonso will start fifth for Ferrari, with Daniel Ricciardo alongside him in sixth, in the first of the Red Bulls.
The Australian’s outgoing team-mate Sebastian Vettel was just ninth, the best part of two seconds shy of the pacesetter Rosberg.
The two McLarens will split the Red Bulls – Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button seventh and eighth fastest respectively, while Kimi Raikkonen will start 10th.
Jean-Eric Vergne, who was snubbed for Vettel’s vacant Red Bull seat on Saturday, was 11th, ahead of his team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who will replace the German in 2014, in 13th.
The Force India team-mates Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were 12th and 14th, while the two Saubers made up the top 16, Adrian Sutil three tenths clear of Esteban Gutierrez, after the pair knocked the two Lotus cars out of the opening round of qualifying late on.
Pastor Maldonado was 17th, ahead of Romain Grosjean, but the Venezuelan will take a 10-place grid penalty – which will carry over to Russia next week – after he used a sixth component of his engine.
Former Japanese F3 champion Marcus Ericsson settled the battle of the traditional back markers in Caterham’s favour, pipping Marussia’s Jules Bianchi to 19th by a tenth of second.
Local favourite Kamui Kobayashi was 21st, while Max Chilton rounded out the order in 22nd.
Images courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS and Williams F1 Team