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Japanese GP: Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari suffer qualifying disaster

Sky Sports | Updated: 2018-12-05 06:00:37

Sebastian Vettel will start the Japanese GP in eighth place after Ferrari suffered a disastrous qualifying session in Suzuka.

Lewis Hamilton, who Vettel trails by 50 points in the championship with just five races remaining, sealed pole to add to the German's woes.

Ferrari were caught out by the changing conditions in Japan as the rain fell in Q3, but made critical strategy errors while Vettel made a mistake by running wide on his sole flying lap on dry tyres.

"The Ferraris pulled out of the garage on the inters and I honestly didn't think it was the right decision," said Hamilton.

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Eighth is Vettel's lowest starting position of the 2018 season.

"I made a mistake in Spoon and the second run we didn't get out in time," the four-time world champion told Sky F1.

"This is not the position we deserve to be in."

Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene shook his head on the Ferrari pit-wall, and Sky F1 commentator David Croft stated: "It's a disaster for his team.

"If it could have gone further wrong for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel in that session, I'm not quite sure how."

But Vettel made clear he was "not blaming anybody" and that it was "our call" to start the session on wet tyres.

He added: "I lost it then into [turn] 14, so obviously that was the only lap I had which didn't help, but yeah we obviously lost a bit of timing due to that in the beginning.

"If it starts to rain five, six seven minutes earlier we either did a miracle because we're the only clever ones and if it's like that obviously we're the only ones looking stupid. Therefore I defend the decision, it's our decision as a team. Obviously it wasn't wet enough to start with and then the rain didn't come, it came later."

Vettel originally qualified ninth, though Esteban Ocon's three-place penalty has lifted him up one position on the grid.

How Ferrari's disastrous day unfolded...

* The rain starts falling at the end of Q2, which Vettel finished just three tenths behind Mercedes

* Ferrari make an early decision to send Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen out on intermediate tyres at the start of Q3, while Mercedes wait a bit longer and opt for supersofts for Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

* "It is dry," said Vettel as he immediately reports that the intermediates are the wrong tyre. "I knew it."

* Ferrari bring Vettel and Raikkonen back in for slick tyres after just one lap. Hamilton, meanwhile, posts the fastest lap of the weekend to seal provisional pole for Mercedes, three tenths ahead of Bottas.

* The conditions worsen again as soon as Ferrari finally start their flying laps on the supersoft tyres.

* Vettel makes a mistake through Spoon and runs off track, finishing his lap in ninth and more than four seconds behind Hamilton. Raikkonen goes fourth, with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull.

* Vettel stays out on track in the hope of getting a competitive lap on the board, but the rain starts lashing it down. Qualifying effectively ends there...

How Mercedes reacted to Ferrari's nightmare

Lewis Hamilton

"The call to go out for Q3 which was probably the most difficult call, and the team were just spot-on with it and gave us the opportunity to grab this pole position.

"It is so difficult out there to make the right call. I think that's another big difference that we as a team have made this year.

"Everyone has smart people but when it comes to being under pressure, and making the right decisions and right calls, that is why we are the best team in the world."

Team boss Toto Wolff
"It's a really grim starting position for [Sebastian]. He has a fast car but obviously fighting with Lewis, if everything runs well it's going to be difficult for him off the start."

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