Lewis Hamilton roars to Japanese GP pole, horror run for Vettel

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"He ran wide and he went off the track and I just went on the outside at the next corner, leaving him space on the inside", Raikkonen said.

Vettel trails his fellow four-times champion by 50 points in the standings with just four races left after Japan.

"The call we made to go out in Q3 which is probably the most hard call", said Hamilton. "With these new cars we are much faster than we were previous year so just every time you come here the cars are getting faster and faster, the track is just incredible".

His aggression paid off in the opening laps before he went a step too far while attempting to slide his Ferrari past Max Verstappen into Spoon corner on lap eight.

It's a very mixed-up starting grid, but the sight of Romain Grosjean's Haas leading the third row is an intriguing one.

He tried to overtake Verstappen at Spoon, the two made contact and Vettel spun off the track.

As a result, don't expect him to yield to Kimi Raikkonen and/or Sebastian Vettel if he ends up battling them for positions in tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix, which is set to be broadcast live from Suzuka Circuit beginning at 1:10 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Verstappen was subsequently given a five-second penalty for not returning to the track safely.

Vettel's miscue saw him drop to 19, the last vehicle running with Kevin Magnussen having retired in the early stages after contact while defending from Charles Leclerc's Sauber caused a puncture.

The championship looks as good as over for the moment, with 4 races still to go.

Magnussen came out worse, picking up a rear-left puncture that dropped him to last as he limped back to the pits, and the debris he scattered across the track in the process forced race control to deploy the safety vehicle.

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Hamilton controversially took his eighth chequered flag of the season at Sochi last weekend - his fifth win in the last six races - after Mercedes ordered Bottas to give up the lead.

Ricciardo was now the man on the move, having moved from 15th to 10th before the safety vehicle.

Both Mercedes drivers will start on the soft compound Pirellis having used them to set their Q2 times.

Here is what Verstappen had to say about the matter.

Meanwhile, there were more qualifying woes for Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who climbed out of his auto and yelled an expletive into his helmet after suffering a mechanical breakdown.

Hamilton held his pole advantage at the start and kept Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at arm's length throughout the first stint, which was punctuated by a safety vehicle.

Hamilton has won five times at COTA, including the last four.

"There's no better job than to race and have the lap times to improve it, we are a close knit of people".

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were fighting for the rearmost places in the field, but their enthusiasm got the better of them.

After a virtual safety auto, called after Leclerc pulled off with a mechanical failure, Bottas began to run into blistering problems with his tyres.

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