After topping all the practice sessions and dominating qualifying, everyone expected McLaren to grab pole position and end Red Bull’s run, but once again it was 2010 Champion Vettel who had the biggest smile in parc ferme.  Here’s qualifying as it happened…

Vettel on his way to pole position in Japan. credit: sutton-images.com

Round 1 – Rosberg bows out.  It was a very unhappy start to the weekend for Nico Rosberg and the Mercedes GP team as their car fell in the first round of qualifying with hydraulics issues leaving him in 23rd place for the start.  As we’ve come to expect in 2011, Nico is joined by the pairs of Lotus, Marussia Virgin and Hispania drivers.

Knocked Out: Kovalainen, Trulli, d’Ambrosio, Glock, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Liuzzi

Round 2 – Kamui keeps it together.  Local hero Kamui Kobayashi gave his Japanese fans plenty to cheer for with a great lap to get him up inside the top 10 and a ticket into the final pole position shoot out.

Knocked Out: Sutil, Di Resta, Barrichello, Maldonado, Buemi, Alguersuari, Perez

Round 3 – Vettel steals Pole Position from McLaren.  Throughout most of the final shootout session it was McLaren’s pole position to lose, and lose it they did with Jenson Button just missing out against Sebastian Vettel, who was 0.09s quicker.  Many saw Lewis Hamilton being in the best place to stop Red Bull’s run of poles, but an error meant he missed crossing the line in time to start his final flying lap.  Disaster.

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