Despite a smattering of rain drops ahead of the shootout for pole, Mercedes elected to send Hamilton out on slick rubber, and it proved to be the right call. In contrast, Vettel, and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, were both on track on the intermediate tyre, and they had to stop for slicks.
By the time Vettel was ready to post a fast lap, a rain shower left the German exposed, and after he made a mistake by running off the track in damp conditions at the Spoon Curve, he finished more than four seconds adrift of Hamilton in ninth.
Raikkonen managed to qualify fourth. Kimi on today’s Qualifying at Suzuka-and the race to come:
KIMI (P4, 1min29sec521, SS tyres): “It was a tricky qualifying with mixed conditions. In Q3 we thought that the rain would come earlier, so we decided to go out on Intermediate tires. Unfortunately it did not happen and then we were a bit off with the timing. We came in to fit the Supersoft , but in turn 14 I touched a wet kerb, ran a bit wide and lost some time. Obviously fourth place is not ideal, but at least we were able to put a lap together despite the mistake. Third position could have been easily possible. It’s a pity we did not get it today; the feeling with the car was getting better and better in qualifying. For sure tomorrow is going to be tricky, but we will do our best”.