Sebastian Vettel takes pole after chaotic qualifying session

Germany's Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) clocked the fastest time of a chaotic qualifying session marked by crashes and time penalties. The FIA will announce the definitive starting grid for the race on Sunday.


AFP - Sebastian Vettel kept his slim world title hopes alive Saturday when he took pole for the Japanese Grand Prix as rivals Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello fell dramatically foul of the stewards.

The 22-year-old Vettel in his Red Bull clocked a scorching fastest lap in the final minute of qualifying to secure his fourth pole of the year.

But after a chaotic session, more drama followed in the paddock when six drivers, including championship leader Button and Brawn GP teammate Barrichello, were each handed a five-place grid penalty.

Adding to the confusion, motorsport's world ruling body the FIA said it would not announce the definitive starting grid for Sunday's race until an hour before the race.

Button, hoping to wrap up the world title this weekend, and Barrichello, were penalised for not slowing down while yellow flags for caution were shown after a crash involving Toyota's Timo Glock.

The others demoted were Renault's Fernando Alonso, Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi of Force India and Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso.

Button had qualified in seventh, Barrichello in fifth, Alonso in 12th, Sutil in fourth, Buemi in 10th and Liuzzi in 19th.

Buemi was sanctioned for driving back to the pits in his damaged car after the accident that caused the yellows, while Liuzzi was later sanctioned for an illegal gearbox change.

"We have learnt this evening that Rubens and Jenson have been penalised with five-place grid penalties for failing to reduce their speed under the yellow flag in Q2," said a Brawn team statement.

"We acknowledge and respect the decision of the stewards and will do our best to have a good race tomorrow."

Vettel is 25 points behind Button with three races remaining and must score six points more than the Englishman if he is to maintain his title challenge on Sunday.

"There's three races to go and it's quite a big gap so every race has to be a chance if you still want to keep our chances alive," said Vettel.

"We came here to race and we want to win. I think we are in the best position for Sunday's race. It is a long race, obviously tough for the tyres and I think really tough for the drivers."

The 22-year-old German made the most of his late chance on a dramatic day of accidents with a fastest lap in one minute and 32.160 seconds.

It lines him up in prime position alongside Italian Jarno Trulli after the Toyota driver claimed second place.

Defending world champion, Lewis Hamilton, was third for McLaren Mercedes.

Before his grid demotion, Button said: "It was a tough session. No one got any practice on Friday and very little this morning."

The drivers who crashed were Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari and Red Bull team-mate Buemi, Finn Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren Mercedes and Glock.

Glock remained in his car after his crash as the medical team arrived, but he was able to wave and give a thumbs-up as he was lifted out and transferred to a helicopter on a stretcher.

Early reports suggested he suffered a leg wound.

Australian Mark Webber did not take part in the session for Red Bull after crashing at the treacherous Degner curve in the morning free practice session.

Glock had 14 stitches but is said to be "doing well", according to his team Toyota. The Japanese outfit said they would have to wait before deciding on Glock's participation.

If he does not race, Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, the team's third driver who drove in free practice on Friday when Glock was suffering a cold, could step in - if race officials, and other team bosses, agree.

A FIA spokesman claimed it was because of Glock's injuries that the official grid, normally announced after the final qualifying session, would only be released an hour before the race.

"Because of the condition of Timo Glock, a provisional grid will be announced four hours before the race and the final grid one hour before," a FIA spokesman said.

With three races remaining, including Japan, in the 17-leg world championship Button tops the standings on 84 points with Barrichello second on 69 and Vettel, third on 59.

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