Image: AFP / Behrouz Mehri
Suzuka, Japan — Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg put himself in the best possible position to widen his lead over Formula One title rival and team mate Lewis Hamilton by securing pole position on Saturday for the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix.
Rosberg clocked a time of 1min30.647 seconds on his final flying lap at the Suzuka circuit to beat Hamilton by just a hundredth of a second.
"Things have been going well all weekend," said Rosberg, who topped all three practice sessions as well. "We had good balance in the car, I was feeling comfortable and that's what allowed me to put in a lap like that."
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was a close third followed by team mate Sebastian Vettel, who takes a three-place grid penalty hanging over from last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix and will start seventh.
Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified fifth and sixth.
With five races remaining, Rosberg holds a 23-point lead over Hamilton, who is seeking a third straight victory in Japan.
Hamilton will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of Malaysia where his engine failed while he was leading the race.
"I'm happy with qualifying," Hamilton said. "It's been a week of a lot of work to get the car right and there were some big changes so considering that I am happy to be as close as I am. History has shown that you don't have to be on pole here to win."
Rosberg started the previous two races at Suzuka from pole position only to be overtaken by Hamilton.
Force India's Sergio Perez was seventh fastest and Haas driver Romain Grosjean was eighth, just ahead of the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg. Esteban Gutierrez of Haas rounded out the top 10.