SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Championship leader Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, leading a 1-2 finish for Mercedes drivers.
Hamilton posted a lap record time of 1 minute, 27.319 seconds to finish .332 ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel was third.
Ferrari driver Vettel will move up to second thanks to Bottas’s penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change
Before Saturday’s qualifying, Hamilton had secured pole at every current F1 circuit except Suzuka.
With five races remaining, Hamilton leads Vettel by 34 points in the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton has won twice before in Suzuka, in 2014 and 2015, and was runner-up to former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in last year’s race.
A win in Suzuka would move Hamilton a step closer to a third F1 title in four years with Mercedes and his fourth overall. •
By JIM ARMSTRONG, AP Sports Writer