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Pole and lap record for Hamilton

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 07/10/2017 skysports.com
Sutton Images © Provided by BSkyB Sutton Images

Lewis Hamilton set a new lap record at Suzuka as the Mercedes driver strengthened his grip on the F1 title race by claiming a dominant pole position for Sunday's Japanese GP. 

Hamilton's pole lap of 1:27.319 was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the previous record, a 1:28.954 held by Michael Schumacher.

Remarkably, Hamilton's pole position was the first of his career at Suzuka and means he has claimed pole at every circuit currently on the F1 calendar.

But despite being half a second slower than Hamilton, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will start the race alongside his world championship rival on the front row.

Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will form the second row with the Australian fractionally quicker than last week's victor at the Malaysia GP.

Valtteri Bottas was second quickest in the session, three tenths down on Hamilton, but will start from seventh due to a gearbox-related grid penalty.

The final grid for the race will be heavily revised with Bottas joining Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Jolyon Palmer in being hit by a penalty.

Force India's Sergio Perez is also under investigation for apparently impeding Lance Stroll during Q1.

Such was Hamilton's confidence and outright speed that he was fastest in Q1 on the slower soft tyre. Only Vettel was able to enjoy the same luxury of saving up a set of supersoft but in a tell-tale giveaway of their relative speeds, Hamilton was quicker than his rival by three tenths.

After bolting on the supersofts, the Mercedes driver immediately broke Schumacher's lap record and then improved again at the start of Q3 when the Silver Arrows are able to deploy a power boost that Red Bull reckon is worth up to eight tenths of a second.

Suzuka is recognised as posing one of the sternest tests on the entire calendar and the circuit bared its teeth on Saturday with first Bottas and Raikkonen crashing in Practice Three before Romain Grosjean also hit the barriers at the start of qualifying as Haas' struggles continued.

For Grosjean, the incident bore an unwelcome familiarity - just a week ago, the Frenchman was pitched into the barriers at Sepang during qualifying after running over a broken drain.

"The car just went on a massive snap," he said. "It's a shame because I thought we could have made the top ten."

More to follow...

Watch the Japanese GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. The race from Suzuka begins at 6am on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!

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