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Vettel, Webber log season's first 1-2 at Japanese GP qualifying

Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday at the head of this year’s first all-Red Bull front row, as his late charge for a Formula One world title hat-trick gathered pace.

The double defending world champion, who won last month in Singapore to rise to second in the standings, claimed his fourth pole in a row at Suzuka with a supreme level of speed and a lightning fastest lap of 1min 30.839secs.

The German timed two-tenths quicker than teammate Mark Webber as Red Bull locked out the front two spots, highlighting a surge in form by the team that has claimed the last two drivers and constructors titles. But Red Bull’s rivals McLaren were left licking their wounds after Jenson Button, who timed third quickest, was hit with a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, and departing ace Lewis Hamilton came in a lowly ninth.

Vettel even caught a break when he escaped with a reprimand, rather than being given a grid penalty, for blocking Ferrari’s championship leader Fernando Alonso in the final seconds of qualifying. The German’s fourth pole of the season and the 34th of his career gives him a great opportunity to close the 29-point gap on Ferrari’s Alonso in Sunday’s race.

Vettel said: “I’m very, very happy with today’s result. We had a very good qualifying session and it was very smooth, almost perfect. We didn't have the best start yesterday but we seem to get better every time we go out. The car feels fantastic so all in all it came together nicely and we hope for a good race tomorrow. It’s nice to see the support we get at Suzuka and it's great to come here and drive the circuit the way that I did.”

Japanese GP starting grid...

1) Vettel (Red Bull),
2) Webber (Red Bull)
3) Kobayashi (Sauber)
4) Grosjean (Lotus)
5) Perez (Sauber)
6) Alonso (Ferrari)
7) Raikkonen (Lotus)
8) Button (McLaren)
9) Hamilton (McLaren)
10) Massa (Ferrari)
11) Di Resta (Force India)
12) Maldonado (Williams)

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