by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Japanese F1 Grand Prix 2012: Qualifying Report - Jenson Button 3rd, Lewis Hamilton 9th

- MP4-27A-03
- FP3: 8th, 1m33.025s (+0.889s), 16 laps
- Qualifying:
- Q1: 15th, 1m33.077s (on Primes)
- Q2: 2nd, 1m31.772s (on Options)
- Q3: 3rd overall*, 1m31.290s (on Options)

*will start eighth owing to five-place gearbox penalty

"It was a good qualifying session – both my Q3 laps felt good.

"We’ve improved the car a lot since yesterday, when we tried a very low-downforce set-up to help with overtaking. We pulled back from that for today, and I feel a lot happier with the car.

"My gearbox penalty means it's disappointing to be starting so far back, though. Overtakinghas never been easy around here – even with the introduction of DRS – and, that being the case, it's quite a surprise that the DRS zone has been shortened for this year.

"But I love racing around here. And because everyone’s strategy could be up in the air tomorrow – because there's been quite a lot of tyre graining and blistering – things could still be a bit unpredictable.

"The championship is a long-shot for me, I know that, but I’d love to do well in front of the Japanese crowd; I'll be going for the win."

- MP4-27A-04
- FP3: 13th, 1m33.569s (+1.433s), 14 laps
- Qualifying:
- Q1: 14th, 1m33.061s (on Primes)
- Q2: 8th, 1m32.121s (on Options)
- Q3: 9th overall, 1m32.327s (on Options)

"Today’s qualifying session was one of the most disappointing of my year. To be honest, I went the wrong way with the set-up and ended up with too much understeer. Until quali, the car had felt great all weekend, but I just couldn’t make it turn this afternoon, and as a result I just couldn’t extract the best from it.

"Jenson showed that the car itself is quite good though – he did a great job today – and our long-run pace wasn’t bad yesterday, either.

"So you never know what’s going to happen in tomorrow’s race. It’s going to be a struggle, but I’ll be pushing my hardest with the set-up I’ve got, and I hope that, through good tyre management, I’ll be able to overtake some of the cars in front of me.

"I’ll be trying to get as many points as I can tomorrow."

Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"Clearly, having been quick here yesterday, we’re disappointed to have put up a comparatively unexciting performance in Q3 this afternoon.

"Jenson drove a good lap to be best of the rest behind the Red Bulls, but will nonetheless start tomorrow’s race from P8, much farther back than his P3 qualifying pace would normally yield, having arrived here at Suzuka saddled with a five-place grid penalty, a result of a gearbox failure in Singapore.

"That said, he's a bit of a Suzuka ace, as we’ve seen as recently as last year, when he won the race with a fine drive from the front row, clocking fastest lap en route. So he'll be one to watch tomorrow, for sure.

"For Lewis, who was consistently quick yesterday, Q3 was perhaps more disappointing still – largely because, when he was on his quickest lap, waved yellow flags forced him to back off through the long Spoon corner, costing him quite a lot of time and ruining his lap as a result.

"Tomorrow, though, is another day – and the Japanese Grand Prix will be as hard as all Japanese Grands Prix at Suzuka tend to be, run as they are on such a magnificently challenging racetrack. Moreover, both Jenson and Lewis will be doing their best to make rapid progress, and to put on a decent show for the ever-enthusiastic Japanese spectators and the tens of millions of TV viewers alike."

~ Official photos and report courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ~

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