With Typhoon Phanfone expected to disrupt the race tomorrow, qualifying took place in dry conditions. The big news going into qualifying was that Sebastian Vettel is set to leave Red Bull at the end of the season.
Mercedes had a lot of work to do between FP3 and qualifying after Lewis Hamilton had a crash in the third and final practice session as his team-mate topped the times. There didn’t seem to be any problems with it as Hamilton took to the track and instantly got up to speed. He went fastest overall in Q1, beating his team-mate, followed by the Williams and then Fernando Alonso. At the other end of the spectrum both Lotus drivers lost out along with the Caterhams and the Marussias. Marcus Ericsson – who has enjoyed success at Suzuka in lower formulas before – out-qualified Jules Bianchi, Kamui Kobayashi, and Max Chilton all together for the first time.
Q2 saw Nico Rosberg edge ahead with Hamilton just hundredths of a second back. Red Bull managed to sneak through at the end of Q1 however both drivers were well down the order. Both drivers improved for Q2 and managed to make it through to the pole position shoot out. They were joined by both McLaren drivers with Kevin Magnussen a solid fifth and Jenson Button in eighth. Also making it through to Q3 were Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa, Alonso, and Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Hulkenberg looked to be on a better lap but ran wide at one of the corners and ended up 14th with team-mate Sergio Perez 12th.
Drivers wasted no time in getting out on track for the pole position shoot-out with the Williams duo first out and quickly joined by Vettel and Magnussen. Rosberg took provisional pole after the first runs followed by Hamilton. Having used an extra set of tyres earlier in the session, Raikkonen sat out the first runs instead opting to go for a one-lap attack. Rosberg went first and increased his pole position advantage and Hamilton was unable to beat him. Bottas qualified in third place, Massa fourth, Alonso fifth, Ricciardo sixth, Magnussen seventh, Button eighth, Vettel ninth and Raikkonen tenth.