The Monegasque had outqualified Vettel in nine successive races prior to Suzuka, but Vettel turned the tables, ending Leclerc’s run of four successive poles, but maintaining Ferrari’s flawless qualifying form since the summer break.
Here’s how the top three saw qualifying, just a few hours ahead of lights out.
“Not easy, obviously the conditions are very different to what we had on Friday, but the main thing is obviously the sun is out, people are happy and we are quite surprised to be honest. We didn’t expect that, the front row, so very happy. It was unbelievable, the car being so light on fuel and new tyres and we had a headwind up the esses, which is just what you want because then the car feels even better. I don’t think I used the brakes other than Turn 2 so that was unbelievable, really enjoyed it but it’s only a part of the job done, so let’s look forward to this afternoon.”
“Seb did an amazing lap and today he just deserves to be on pole. I’ve been a bit struggling since the beginning of the weekend but to be honest I was pretty happy with my lap, apart from the last sector where I made a few mistakes. Pole was not possible, Seb was just too quick so congratulations to him. I’m very happy and very surprised to be first and second after the free practices we’ve had, but the race is most important and hopefully we will be able to keep these positions.
“Mercedes are very quick in the race so it’s not going to be easy but well try to focus on our job and keep this one-two.”
“We seemed quite strong, but we always knew Ferrari maybe might have something in reserve to turn things up, especially in quali three they were untouchable really. Again on the straight lines they’re quicker, through the corners we are good. We have the new package here with the new aero bits and it definitely felt better than before, but still not quite enough.
“It’s always good to be ahead of the teammate. It felt like I got everything out of the car so that’s a good feeling. We did the maximum today and we’ll see if we can get it [constructors’ championship’ today and if not we’ll try again next time.”