Nico Rosberg showed that he was not suffering any hangover from his Singapore disappointment by claiming pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix at the head of a Mercedes 1-2.
Although team-mate – and new championship leader – Lewis Hamilton had held sway on day one, Rosberg bounced back with fastest time in the morning practice session, and then dominated the final two phases of qualifying to edge his title rival by just under two-tenths of a second.
Where Hamilton's laps appeared a little ragged, Rosberg appeared in total control of his W05, and revealed afterwards that he had enjoyed every second of the run.
“It was a great day today,” the German enthused, having taken his eighth pole of the year, “Of course, it's only one step on the way, but it was a real pleasure today. The car is so amazing to drive and, on this track, which is so spectacular to drive, in qualifying, low fuel, tyre grip, everything, it was really cool. I just felt very comfortable with the car, had a good balance, and that car is just unbelievable out there.”
With Typhoon Phanfone lurking off the Japanese coast, the weather is expected to be as big a rival to Rosberg as anyone on Sunday, and there are a number of rumours doing the rounds, ranging from an early start, to running some – or all – of the race behind the safety car should the conditions be too bad to unleash the 22 machines. Rosberg, however, says that Mercedes, despite not qualifying with a wet-weather set-up, should still be the car to beat.
“I'm not really thinking too much about tomorrow,” he said, “I'm sure they're going to try and take the best decision for everybody, especially for the fans coming out to watch the race.
“For sure, it's better to be first than second, so that's some sort of advantage, but I don't know yet how much. If it's dry, it's more of an advantage, less if it's wet, but I'm definitely happy to be on pole.
“We're as prepared as we can be. We're expecting it to be wet, and the last experience we have in the wet is Spa, where our car was really, really quick, so I'm very, very optimistic. If it rains, it could be even better for us!”