Dominant Hamilton claims Suzuka pole, grid penalties for Bottas, Raikkonen
Mercedes left Ferrari in their wake at Suzuka as a dominant Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Although the Briton extended his lead over Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' standings to 34 points in Malaysia last time out, Hamilton expressed concerns regarding 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 27.319 seconds.
"It's been a really good day - every lap was fantastic," Hamilton told 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. The Frenchman 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 saw Sainz, Palmer, Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg and Stoffel Vandoorne fail to make the cut.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27.319seconds
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:27.651s *
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:27.791s
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:28.306s
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:28.332s
6. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:28.498s *
7. Esteban Ocon (Force India) 1:29.111s
8. Sergio Perez (Force India) 1:29.260s
9. Felipe Massa (Williams) 1:29.480s
10. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 1:30.687s **
*Five-place grid penalty
**35-place grid penalty