Championship leader Nico Rosberg seized pole position for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, as the German marginally fended off Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in a close-run qualifying session.
Rosberg has led every session of the race weekend and confirmed his superiority around the Suzuka Circuit with a fastest lap of one minute, 30.647 seconds, just 0.013 seconds quicker than Hamilton on an overcast afternoon.
“I’m happy with the result in the end,” Rosberg said. “I was going well the whole weekend and had a good balance in the car, feeling good, feeling comfortable so that’s what allows me to put in a lap like that in the end.”
Rosberg’s 30th pole position of his career was the German’s third in a row at Suzuka as Mercedes, who can wrap up a third successive constructors’ title on Sunday, claimed first place on the grid for the 52nd time in the past 54 races.
Starting from the front also gives Rosberg a golden opportunity to extend his 23-point lead over defending champion Hamilton with four rounds remaining after Japan.
The Briton had been poised to vault back into the overall lead at the last race in Malaysia until he was forced out with an engine failure while on his way to a landmark 50th win just 16 laps from the finish.
Australian Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo took the victory in Malaysia, but will start from sixth on the grid at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen was third in qualifying for Ferrari on what has so far been a strong weekend for the Italian squad, one place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel, who will drop three spots as punishment for shoving Rosberg into a spin at the start in Malaysia.
Red Bull, who arrived on a high after inheriting a first one-two finish since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix in Malaysia, were unable to match the qualifying pace of their German and Italian rivals.
Max Verstappen, second in Malaysia, was fifth ahead of Sepang race-winner Ricciardo.