Webber grabs Suzuka pole position
12 October 2013 – Mark Webber claimed his first pole position of the season during Saturday's qualifying session at Suzuka. The Red Bull driver, who set a 1:30.915, benefited from team-mate Sebastian Vettel's ongoing KERS problems to outpace the German by 0.174 seconds. Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean secured the second row.
As the field approached Q3, it was Vettel who appeared to be on the front foot, but a recurrence of his final practice KERS gremlins opened the door for his rivals. And, with the reigning World Champion making mistakes on his timed attempts, Webber found the pace required to add a fourth name to the list of pole-sitters so far this year.
Vettel held on to the final front row slot in the closing stages, with Hamilton less than two tenths of a second in arrears. Grosjean continued his encouraging practice form in fourth, while Felipe Massa enjoyed a three-place cushion over Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso, the pair sandwiched by Nico Rosberg and Nico Hülkenberg.
Kimi Räikkönen took ninth for Lotus, just ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button who rounded out a top ten covered by less than a second. Sergio Pérez and Paul di Resta narrowly missed being involved in the primary battle, having fallen at the Q2 hurdle.
It was a more challenging afternoon for the second Force India of Adrian Sutil; having picked up a five-place gearbox penalty after his morning crash, the German failed to make it out of Q1. Jean-Éric Vergne was also eliminated at this stage, with the rear brake ducts on his Toro Rosso bursting into flames and signalling a brief red flag period. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo made it through, but only finished 16th fastest.
The aforementioned drama saw both Williams cars progress, with Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado claiming respective 13th and 15th positions. They were ultimately split by Sauber's Esteban Gutiérrez, who was able to escape an early cockpit fire.
Marussia's Max Chilton led the battle at the back with a spirited Q1 performance, the Briton outqualifying both Caterham drivers. He also lapped quicker than team-mate Jules Bianchi in a straight qualifying battle for the first time in his Formula 1 career.
Sunday afternoons's 53-lap Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka gets underway at 3pm local time (GMT +9) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net live report feature