Vettel smiling after mad Suzuka qualifying

This morning’s qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix was one of the most incident-packed in recent years. Sebastian Vettel eventually took the pole position, standing him in great stead for the race tomorrow. Penalties issued subsequently to Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello for setting times under waved yellows will please the pole-sitter immensely; Vettel is now in with a distinct chance of closing the points gap to the two Brawns tomorrow.

Sebastian Buemi’s insisting on driving round the track even while parts of his car were falling off had an impact on some following cars’ fast laps: the two Brawns, who will now start twelfth and tenth respectively, and Fernando Alonso and Adrian Sutil. The revised grid is due to be confirmed early tomorrow morning British time. Prior to all that, Brawn had not had the best of days – it does indeed look now as if their car is not at its best around the narrow, slippery Suzuka track, which suits Red Bull’s RB5 much better. There is also a lot of pace in third placed on the grid man Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren – and he should take the victory if anything happens to Vettel.

Other bets for a good result are Nick Heidfeld, who should be confirmed in fourth place on the grid because of the penalties. The new order will also look pleasing to Heikki Kovalainen, who went off the track once in Q2 and ran very wide on his final Q1 lap but nevertheless managed to be top ten. Kovalainen is a lucky man, who may well be confirmed back in a Renault seat later this month.

No fewer than four drivers went off the road in a big way, with Timo Glock’s accident at the final corner being the most sizeable. Fortunately none of the drivers was hurt seriously, another testament to the strength of the cars’ chassis.