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  1. ITV Report

Japanese GP: Lewis Hamilton smashes lap record as he takes pole position at Suzuka

Lewis Hamilton broke the outright lap record at Suzuka in qualifying. Credit: PA

Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as title rival Sebastian Vettel could not get close to the Mercedes.

After out-scoring Vettel with an under-performing car in the last two races, Mercedes were back to their dominant best at Suzuka.

Hamilton's record 71st pole position was never in doubt as he set the fastest ever lap around the figure-of-eight track.

The Briton will be joined on the front-row by the Ferrari of Vettel - who was third fastest but moves up after the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was hit with a grid penalty.

Lewis Hamilton meets fans in the pit lane. Credit: PA

The Finn was demoted five places due to an unscheduled gearbox change so at least Vettel will be alongside Hamilton at the start as he looks to close the 34-point gap in the championship standings.

The Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will occupy the second row, while Esteban Ocon benefitted from Kimi Raikkonen's own gearbox change penalty and will start fifth.

Bottas is now sixth ahead of the second Force India of Sergio Perez, while Felipe Massa's Williams, the McLaren and Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg also start inside the top 10.

That is because Raikkonen could only manage the sixth-fastest time and so will drop to 11th, while Fernando Alonso reached Q3 but will start from the back after his own 35-place penalty.