Despite having appeared out-paced by the McLarens throughout the early weekend at Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel bounced back to claim another pole position for Red Bull Racing in an unbeaten 2011 season.
Judging by his reaction, the German may well have been among those who doubted whether he had the beating of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton but, when the former came up just a hundredth short of toppling Vettel from the top of the Q3 times, the streak was assured. That was as much to do with Hamilton's mistake or misfortune, as the Briton - along with Michael Schumacher - failed to make it across the start-finish line in time to begin a final flying lap. The two McLaren drivers will line up behind Vettel, however, and continue to offer the only thing resembling a threat of spoiling the German's coronation party.
With Mark Webber also appearing to have a problem on his final run, and having to settle for sixth, the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso will fill positions four and five on the grid. They were the only six runners to attempt a time, with Schumacher's error preventing him from recording a flying lap, and the two Renault of Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna not even venturing out in an effort to save tyres for race day.
Most disappointingly of all, however, local favourite Kamui Kobayashi also decided against a Q3 effort, denying the thousands of fans that had cheered his earlier performances.
Full report and times to follow....