Reprimanded Vettel keeps pole
World Champion's pole is ratified by the stewards despite Q3 infringement; Gloom for Hamilton and frustrated Alonso at Suzuka
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 07/10/12 12:53pm
Sebastian Vettel has been cleared to start Sunday's Japanese GP from pole position after the stewards at Suzuka handed the World Champion a reprimand for impeding Fernando Alonso during qualifying.
It wasn't until three hours after the chequered flag had fallen that Vettel's fourth-consecutive Suzuka pole was belatedly ratified, the interminable delay representing the only occasion when the German hasn't been quick this weekend in a RB8 car which has been upgraded to the class of the field.
"The car felt fantastic from the start of the session," said a relieved Vettel. "We did not have the best start to the weekend but we have seemed to get better every time we have gone out. I just felt I could push harder and harder and then we just got quicker.
"The car feels fantastic around here and obviously we hope for a very good race on Sunday."
Vettel's joy, though, was in sharp contrast to the gloom of Lewis Hamilton as the 2008 World Champion reflected on the "most disappointing qualifying of my year" after the McLaren driver took a disastrous wrong turn on set-up which is likely to cause further aggravation in Sunday's race.
"I was nowhere, I made a big mistake with the set-up," a frustrated Hamilton told Sky Sports News. "I was just driving round with masses and masses of understeer and I was giving it everything I could just to turn the car in.
"You never know what might happen in the race but I'm going to struggle with it."
Alonso's irritation was equally evident after taking his complaint against Vettel to the stewards and being forced to abort his final lap in Q3 after a spin for Kimi Raikkonen.
"The yellow flags came at the worst possible moment, when I was coming into Turn 14," the World Championship leader lamented. "Up until then, my lap was great and there was every chance of setting the fourth fastest time of the day, which would have then seen me start from third on the grid.
"From there, the race could have taken on a completely different picture, but we have to accept what happened. We were unlucky today."
Nor is Alonso predicting an easier Sunday, even though his Ferrari will start ahead of both McLarens on account of Jenson Button's five-place grid demotion. "We are up against some very strong opponents, like Red Bull who are in front and there is also McLaren who are behind, so we will have to keep an eye on both sides of the track," added the Spaniard. "I'm expecting a difficult Sunday".
With Vettel seemingly poised for a second win in succession, the only question at this stage appears to be how difficult Sunday will prove to be for Alonso.
The Stewards' Verdict In Full
'The stewards, having received a report from the Race Director, have heard from the driver and team representatives and examined video evidence, have considered the following matter, determine a breach of regulations has been committed by the competitor named below and impose the penalty referred to:
No/Driver 1: Sebastian Vettel.
Competitor: Red Bull Racing.
Fact The driver of Car 1 impeded car 5 at Turn 16.
'Offence Involved in an incident as defined by Article 16.1 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.
Reason: Self Explanatory
The FIA Stewards of the Meeting Lars Osterlind Enzo Spano Derek Warwick Kazunari Yamanashi.'