When and where: Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix from Suzuka gets underway at 1 a.m. ET on Saturday morning. Live coverage will be provided by Speed, with a live stream of the final practice session available on SpeedTV.com. Viewers in the U.K. can watch a live stream of qualifying on Sky Player. Detailed timing and data for all session will be provided by Formula1.com.
Preview: Much has happened in the world of Formula One since Sebastian Vettel took the checkered flag in Singapore two weeks ago: Lewis Hamilton’s much rumored move to Mercedes has finally been confirmed, Sergio Perez will leave Sauber to take his place and seven times world champion Michael Schumacher has announced his retirement for the second time.
There are many extra storylines then as the Formula One traveling circus descends to battle on a circuit that many have described as the toughest test for drivers.
“Suzuka is definitely a circuit that puts hair on your chest,” said McLaren’s Jenson Button in the buildup to the weekend, according to Formula1.com. “It’s extremely uncompromising; like a street circuit, it doesn’t allow for a single mistake, punishing you for putting a wheel wrong at almost every point on the circuit.”
While there is plenty else to talk about the focus will undoubtedly be on the race for the driver’s championship that is now entering its final stretch.
Vettel’s win last time has put him firmly in the running to claim a third straight title and made him the main threat to championship leader Fernando Alonso. The Red Bull driver is 29 points back of Alonso, with Kimi Raikkonen 45 points off the lead and Lewis Hamilton now a distant 52 points away after his car failed him when leading the Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton was second in Friday afternoon’s practice session, splitting pace setter Mark Webber and the Australian’s teammate Vettel. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg impressed in fourth, one place ahead of Alonso.
The championship leader has not won since the German Grand Prix back in July and while he keeps picking up points, Ferrari have said that they are concerned by the development of the car.
"In the second part of the season, when trying to bring updates to the car, not all are working on track," team boss Stefano Domenicali said, according to BBC Sport.
"If you are not able to improve, it's more difficult to fight for the title."
Alonso may be set for another disappointing day on Saturday, with Hamilton stating that he expects to be fighting it out with the Red Bulls for pole.
“As always, we’ll be fine-tuning the car tonight ahead of tomorrow’s sessions, but it looks very close between ourselves and Red Bull,” he said, according to Formula1.com. “I feel comfortable with our car—it’s the best that it’s ever been around here--and I think I could have matched Mark’s [Webber] fastest time with an optimal lap.”