Nico Rosberg remains unbeaten this weekend after dramatically snatching his third straight pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The German edged out Mercedes team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.013 – the equivalent of 82 centimetres of the Suzuka circuit.
Hamilton has won for the last two years here despite starting from second and will need to do the same on Sunday if he is to reduce Rosberg’s 23-point championship lead.
Rosberg was quickest in all three practice sessions and the theme continued as qualifying began under a leaden sky.
Despite running wide in the second sector, Rosberg drew first blood. His 1:31.858 was more than three tenths of a second quicker than his team-mate’s first effort on the same medium tyres, though Hamilton radioed in to say ‘so much traffic’ had hurt his time.
Those scruffy laps and the quicker soft tyres allowed Ferrari to top the timing screens at the end of the first qualifying section. Sebastian Vettel’s effort was three tenths quicker than Rosberg’s as he edged out team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.