Mark Webber takes pole in Japan!

Mark Webber; Sebastian Vettel; Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Mark Webber has taken pole position for his final ever Japanese Grand Prix.

Webber was faster than his team mate by 0.174s after Vettel suffered a KERS problem in this morning’s free practice session, which recurred during Q1 and Q3. It’s Webber’s first pole position of the season, and the first time this year that he’s out-qualified his Red Bull team mate.

Disappointed Vettel later told the team over the radio that he’d got everything he could out of his ailing car.

The Mercedes team knew they’d have their work cut out for them taking the fight to the mighty Red Bulls today, so Hamilton was happy to line up third on the grid for tomorrow’s race. Rosberg, however, may be a little disappointed that he only managed sixth place.

Grosjean once again put in a flying lap to put him fourth on the grid, beating team mate Raikkonen, who lines up ninth for tomorrow’s race.

Mark Webber (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)Fernando Alonso (photo by Ferrari)Massa out-qualified Alonso, taking fifth place to his team mate’s eighth. Alonso will be very aware of the fact that he needs to score points in tomorrow’s race if he’s to stop Vettel wrapping up the championship five races before the end of the season, so expect him to make a flying start during the first lap as usual.

Hulkenberg was on form in the Sauber, and lines up seventh on the grid – showcasing once again that he’s one of the sport’s hottest up-and-coming talents. Lotus and McLaren – take note!

His team mate Gutierrez didn’t have such a good qualifying session however, after his car caught light in his garage during Q1. The team turned it round and got it back on track pretty quickly though, and after making it through to Q2 Gutierrez starts in 14th place.

Button showed promise in the early qualifying sessions, on a track that he clearly loves. However, the best he could manage in Q3 was 10th place, proving that McLaren will need a miracle to achieve their aim of a podium finish this season. His team mate Perez lines up behind him in 11th.

Track action (photo by Moy)Track action (photo by Moy)It was another disappointing qualifying for the Force Indias, with Di Resta in 12th, and his team mate Sutil dropping out of Q1 in 17th. Meanwhile, Williams fared much better than they have done in recent times with Bottas qualifying 13th, and Maldonado just behind him in 15th.

Toro Rosso had a dismal session, after Vergne’s brakes caught light towards the end of Q1, causing the session to be red flagged while the marshals put the fire out. That meant he couldn’t improve on his time, so he’ll start the race from 18th tomorrow. Red Bull’s second-driver-in-waiting Ricciardo lines up two places ahead of him in 16th.

The Marussias and Caterhams round out the back of the grid as usual – with Max Chilton delighted to out-qualify not only his team mate Bianchi, but the Caterhams of Pic and Van der Garde as well.

The scene is set for an epic first-lap scrap tomorrow, with Vettel chasing down a fifth-consecutive win in a bid to wrap up his fourth drivers’ title. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Webber won’t be moving aside for his team mate should he get the call – this is one battle he’ll be fighting tooth and nail to the finish line.

It’s definitely a race worth getting up early for!   By Sarah Ellis

Provisional grid for tomorrow’s race:
1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m30.915s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m31.089s +0.174s
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.253s +0.338s
4. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m31.365s +0.450s
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m31.378s +0.463s
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m31.397s +0.482s
7. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m31.644s +0.729s
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m31.665s +0.750s
9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m31.684s +0.769s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m31.827s +0.912s

11. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m31.989s +0.699s
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m31.992s +0.702s
13. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m32.013s +0.723s
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m32.063s +0.773s
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m32.093s +0.803s
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m32.485s +1.195s

17. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m32.890s +1.066s
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.357s +1.533s
19. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m34.320s +2.496s
20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m34.556s +2.732s
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m34.879s +3.055s
22. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m34.958s +3.134s

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