Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel kept the pulse in his slim Formula One championship campaign by taking pole position today for the Japanese Grand Prix.
On an incident-strewn day of many crashes, with qualifying punctuated by a series of red flags to clear debris, Vettel led qualifiers with a time of 1 minute, 32.160 seconds.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli will start from second spot on the grid in tomorrow's race, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Force India's Adrian Sutil on the second row.
Championship leader Jenson Button qualified in seventh, two places behind Brawn GP teammate and title challenger Rubens Barrichello. Button needs five points more than Barrichello in Japan to secure the championship.
Vettel is 10 points behind Barrichello, and while his hopes of overhauling the Brawn drivers in the championship race are slim, he is positioned well to take a chunk out of their lead.
"Three races to go, it's quite a big gap, but every race has to be a chance," Vettel said. "We are in the best position for tomorrow's race. We have a very, very good chance."
The picture from qualifying was muddied by doubts over the legality of some laps. Renault's Fernando Alonso, who qualified 12th, claimed some times were set when yellow caution flags were being waved, meaning drivers should not be at full speed.
"Everybody was improving their times," Alonso told reporters in the paddock. "I backed off. Other people didn't. We'll see what happens this afternoon."
An FIA press delegate confirmed stewards were investigating six drivers for possible infractions of the yellow-flag rule, including Alonso himself. The others were Button, Barrichello, BMW pair Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, plus Sutil.
Sutil qualified fourth, and Heidfeld in sixth, ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi made it through to the final session of qualifying but set no times. Kovalainen spun off at the Degner Curve early in the session, while Buemi crashed at the end of the second session and took no part in the third.
Along with Kovalainen, others to crash into the wall at the Degner on Saturday were Buemi in session one, his Toro Rosso teammate Jaime Alguersuari and Red Bull's Mark Webber. Webber damaged his car in practice, requiring a chassis change so he missed all of qualifying and will start Sunday's race from pitlane.
The most serious accident was that of Toyota's Timo Glock, who speared front first into a tire wall at the top of the start-finish straight. He remained in the car for almost ten minutes and a screen was placed around the car before he was taken into an ambulance and then by helicopter to hospital.
He suffered back pain and a wound to his leg, making him a doubtful starter in tomorrow's race.
Toyota team principal John Howett said x-rays had cleared Glock of any major damage.
Starting grid for Sunday's Formula One Japanese Grand Prix
1. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull.
2. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Toyota.
3. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, McLaren.
4. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India
5. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Brawn GP.
6. Nick Heidfeld, Germany, BMW Sauber.
7. Jenson Button, Britain, Brawn GP.
8. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Ferrari.
9. Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, McLaren.
10. Sebastien Buemi, Switzerland, Toro Rosso.
11. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Williams.
12. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault.
13. Robert Kubica, Poland, BMW Sauber.
14. Timo Glock, Germany, Toyota.
15. Jaime Alguersuari, Spain, Toro Rosso.
16. Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Ferrari.
17. Kazuki Nakajima, Japan, Williams.
18. Romain Grosjean, France, Renault.
19. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Italy, Force India.
20. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull.Reuse content