Jenson is dragged back for failing to lift off

Given the nature of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix here, it should not have been surprising that mayhem ruled not only on the track but off it.

Sebastian Vettel eventually took pole position, from Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton. But after Jenson Button qualified only seventh, two places behind his Brawn team-mate and principal title rival Rubens Barrichello, his day got worse as he was one of five drivers given five grid-place penalties for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow warning flags.

The second qualifying session was red-flagged almost immediately, Spanish rookie Jaime Alguersuari crashing his Toro Rosso heavily head-on into the tyre barrier at the Degner 2 corner.

Speaking of the corner where Mark Webber had also crashed earlier in the day, Hamilton said: "It's a very high-speed corner and very exciting but there isn't a huge amount of run-off. There's not a lot of room for error and if you run just a little bit wide you're in trouble, as you saw today with a couple of drivers.

"You get on the astro-turf and you can't stop the car, you're pretty much in trouble. So finding the limit there and getting to the maximum and stepping over the limit is such a fine line. In some corners there's probably more margin for error while in others there is even less. I think that just there, there's probably one of the smallest margins."

Qualifying only resumed for a couple of minutes when Toyota's Timo Glock ran wide exiting the final corner and crashed head-on into the tyre wall on the outside, bringing out another red flag. Glock had to be taken to hospital to have a gash in his left leg sewn up.

There was still one final act to be played out in this session as Sébastian Buemi, having already survived an incident at Degner 2 in the first session, smashed his Toro Rosso along the barrier on the run to the infamous 203mph 130R corner, littering the track with debris.

The points leader Button, Barrichello, Fernando Alonso of Renault and Force India's Adrian Sutil were given grid penalties for not lifting enough for the danger signals; Buemi was reprimanded for getting in the way of other drivers as he limped back to the pits.

Brawn's team principal Ross Brawn admitted that neither of his drivers had lifted off: "They swerved to avoid the problem. But they didn't lift off, no."

As Vettel dominated and kept his fading championship chances alive, Button dropped from seventh to 12th and Barrichello from fifth to 10th.

"Today was pretty manic," Button admitted. "I didn't want to lift off in case there was a car right behind me, and as soon as I saw the front wing I saw the green flag and just kept my foot in it. This will make the race harder for me."