Grosjean’s fifth-place performance equaled Haas F1 Team’s best qualifying effort to date, earned on three previous occasions: Magnussen on Sept. 29 for the Russian Grand Prix, Grosjean on Aug. 25 for the Belgian Grand Prix and Magnussen on July 21 for the German Grand Prix. The Japanese Grand Prix is the 17th race of 2018 and the 58th race for Haas F1 Team since its debut in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. It was also Grosjean’s 10th straight appearance in Q3, a streak that began June 23 in qualifying for the French Grand Prix.
Grosjean set the seventh-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:29.724 around the 5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn track. Magnussen was 11th quickest with a lap of 1:30.219. Each driver handily made the top-15 cutoff to advance to Q2.
In Q2 where rain fell in the latter part of the session, Grosjean earned the eighth-fastest time with a lap of 1:29.678 and Magnussen was 12th with a lap of 1:30.226. Only the top-10 drivers move on to Q3.
Q3 featured the heavy hitters of Formula One, with four-time and reigning champion Mercedes, 16-time champion Scuderia Ferrari and four-time champion Red Bull all represented. Haas F1 Team held its own among these giants, with Grosjean qualifying a best-of-the-rest fifth with a lap of 1:29.761.
Grosjean and Magnussen used the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tire in Q1 and then switched to the Yellow soft tire for Q2. They set their fastest Q2 times on softs, as the rain thwarted their attempts to better their respective times when they made a second run on supersofts. Grosjean stayed on supersofts in Q3, posting a fast lap before another burst of rain impacted the session.
Before Grosjean, Magnussen and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they had one final practice (FP3) to dial in their racecars for a quick lap around the track. Both drivers ran exclusively on the supersofts. However, a light rain shower disrupted the session for about 20 minutes, resulting in some tricky track conditions.
Magnussen ran 13 laps and set the 10th-fastest time with a 1:31.521 on his 10th tour. Grosjean tallied 14 laps and earned his best time on his 11th lap – a 1:31.636 that put him 11th overall.
Romain Grosjean: “It’s a great day. I’m very happy with the changes we made from FP3 to qualifying to get the feel back in the car. And with the way it behaved in qualifying, we had the courage to put the softs on in Q2 and try to go through on that, which we did. Q3, with one lap, I love it. You know the rain is coming and you’ve got to put everything together. That’s the feeling that I prefer. I had a great lap. You always look afterwards and I was only two tenths from Kimi (Räikkönen). We’re in a great spot to start the race. Starting on the soft will be a big advantage compared to the supersoft, especially with the high temperature tomorrow. We’ll do our best on our side. We’ll see at the end where we are.”
Kevin Magnussen: “I didn’t get the lap time on the first run in Q2 on the softs. Gasly came out of the pit as I started my fast lap – he didn’t do it on purpose, but in sector one it’s just impossible to get out of the way. I was driving behind him, lost downforce, then I made a mistake which cost the lap. It was just bad luck and the nature of the track. It’s frustrating, as I think I could’ve been in Q3 on the soft tire. That was our plan, to go through to Q3 on the soft and start the race on softs. We tried to get out on supersofts to get us into Q3, but it didn’t happen due to the rain. I’ll probably start on the soft tomorrow with the free tire choice. A few people around me won’t, so I think we could have an advantage on them if the supersoft falls apart quickly. Perhaps they’ll fall into traffic when they pit, then I can go along and hopefully get the jump.”
Guenther Steiner: “It was obviously a good qualifying session for us, especially for Romain. P5 on softs puts us in a good position for tomorrow. We still have to get the points, but we’re starting in a good position. Magnussen, in Q2, had a little bit of traffic. He lost some time there and didn’t make it into Q3. That was his day done. For him – starting 12th with a free tire choice – we still have a good chance to get him into the points, as well.”