Webber snatches pole from Vettel in Japan

Australian pips teammate in qualifying at Suzuka but the German triple world champion still has the chance to wrap up title on Sunday

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:50pm

Red Bull’s Mark Webber upstaged his title-seeking teammate Sebastian Vettel on Saturday as he snatched his first pole position of the season in a masterful qualifying drive for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix.

With all eyes on Vettel, who may be able to land his fourth successive world title in Sunday’s race, the soon-to-retire Australian lapped 1:30.915 to push Vettel into second.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start behind the Red Bulls on the second row alongside Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, with Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg on the third row.

Nico Hulkenberg timed seventh, just ahead of Fernando Alonso. If Vettel wins on Sunday, the Ferrari man will need to finish inside the top eight to keep the title race alive.

Sebastian had a problem so it’s a little bit of a hollow pole. But you take them where you can get them. It’s not like they hand them out
Mark Webber

Webber’s rivalry with Vettel reached boiling point earlier this season when the German ignored team orders and overtook his stablemate to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Australian later announced he was quitting Formula One at the end of the season. But he said pole position was a sweet farewell to Suzuka, despite admitting he’d been helped by a Kers problem plaguing Vettel.

“Sebastian had a problem so it’s a little bit of a hollow pole,” Webber said. “But you take them where you can get them. It’s not like they hand them out.

“We did the laps when they counted and that’s what was important. It’s a very, very nice farewell pole here on my last attempt at Suzuka on a really phenomenal circuit.”

Vettel refused to blame his mechanical problem for missing out on what would have been his fifth straight pole position in Japan and his fourth in a row this season.

“I had a problem with the Kers system but it’s not my style to make excuses,” said Vettel. “Congratulations to Mark.”

The rampaging Vettel has a massive 77-point lead with only 125 available from the last five races after winning in South Korea last weekend, and is set to become only the third man to win the Formula One title four times in a row.