Sebastian Vettel produced an epic lap at Suzuka on Sunday as his Ferrari took pole position for the typhoon-affected Japanese Grand Prix ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.
The German clocked a brilliant 1min 27.064sec, almost two-tenths of a second quicker than Leclerc, in gusty winds at Suzuka after qualifying was postponed from Saturday.
The Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and championship leader Lewis Hamilton could only manage third and fourth fastest respectively.
“I think we’re quite surprised, we didn’t expect that, a front row lock-out. Really enjoyed it,” said Vettel, who produced a perfect lap to outqualify his teammate for the first time in 10 races since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.
“Pole was not possible, Seb was too quick,” said the Monegasque Leclerc. “Congratulations to him.”
The Mercedes pair had been consistently fastest in Friday practice, and in the first two qualifying sessions on Sunday, but had no answer to the Scuderia when it mattered.
“We always knew Ferrari might have something in reserve to turn things up,” said Bottas. “Nothing is lost yet, let’s see in a few hours.”
Hamilton was disappointed with his final laps in what he called “super gusty” conditions. “It could have gone better, just so-so,” he said. “But it is what it is.
“They [Ferrari] can turn it up and go to another level that we can’t really compete with, power-wise, but the car was feeling good,” added Hamilton. “Hopefully we are going to give them a race.”
The session kicked off what was being dubbed “Suzuka Super Sunday” containing both qualifying and the race because of the track having been safely locked down Saturday as Typhoon Hagibis roared past.
The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon were fifth and sixth with the top 10 being completed by the McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris in seventh and eighth, the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly in ninth and the Haas of Romain Grosjean.
It was only the fifth time in Formula One history that qualifying had taken place on a Sunday, and the third time at Suzuka after the 2004 and 2010 race weekends were also disrupted by inclement weather.
The race will start as originally scheduled at 2:10pm (0510 GMT) after a condensed weekend where Saturday’s third practice session was cancelled and qualifying shifted to Sunday morning.
The extremely blowy conditions under clear blue skies caught out a few drivers, with Robert Kubica becoming the first casualty right at the start of qualifying.
The Williams driver ran wide in the tailwind at turn 18 and crashed his Williams into the barriers opposite the pit lane at the start of his first flying lap to bring out a red flag.
No sooner had the session been restarted then Kevin Magnussen stacked his Haas into the wall in almost exactly the same place to bring out a second red flag.
“I lost it in the last corner, it’s very gusty today,” Magnussen told reporters. “I think I got a gust of wind then lost the rear.
“Regarding the rest of the lap, it was good when you were going against the wind, not so good the other way.”
Both Kubica and Magnussen will be allowed by stewards to start the race from the back of the grid despite not setting a lap time in qualifying, though their engineers face a race against time to rebuild the cars.