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Rosberg tops Hamilton for Japanese GP pole

Nico Rosberg from Mercedes will start on the pole for the Japanese Grand Prix after beating his teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton in Saturday's qualifying.

Rosberg, who is currently three points behind Hamilton in the Formula One world championship point standings, grabbed the top starting position for Sunday's 53-lap Japanese GP with a qualifying lap in 1 minute, 32.506 seconds. His lap time was 0.197 seconds quicker than Hamilton.

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It was Rosberg's eighth pole of the season and the 12th of his F1 career, including his first at Japan's Suzuka Circuit. He topped the time charts in Friday's opening practice session and then led the way in Saturday's final practice, held shortly before qualifying.

"It was a real pleasure today, because the car is so amazing to drive and on this track, which is one of the most spectacular to drive in qualifying, low fuel, the tire grip and everything," Rosberg said. "It was really cool."

The Japanese GP is likely to be a wet and windy affair. Heavy rain and strong winds associated with Typhoon Phanfone is in the forecast for Suzuka on Sunday.

"We're expecting it to be wet," Rosberg noted. "The last experience we have in the wet was Spa (Aug. 24 Belgian Grand Prix) where our car was really quick, so I'm very optimistic actually. Even if it rains, it could be even better for us."

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There are five grand prix remaining this season. F1 will be in Sochi, Russia next week for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton crashed during the morning practice session when he ran over the exit curb in turn 1 and then spun into the outer wall, tearing off the left-front wheel on his Mercedes. His team quickly repaired the car in time for qualifying.

"Nico was extremely quick today," Hamilton said. "I did the best I could. My guys did a fantastic job to rebuild the car after I binned it, so a big thank you for their hard work. Just wasn't really feeling it today. Don't know why. It was still fast, but Nico was fantastically fast today. But tomorrow is the day when you get the points, so I'm looking forward to all the different tricky weather that perhaps will come."

Hamilton has won the last two grand prix (Italy and Singapore) after starting on the pole in both of those races.

Valtteri Bottas qualified third, while his Williams teammate, Felipe Massa, took the fourth spot. Fernando Alonso from Ferrari was fifth.

Earlier in the day, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull both confirmed that Vettel will be leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season. Vettel, the four-time F1 world champion, is expected to join Ferrari for next year.

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"It felt very hard, because I am not leaving due to any issues," Vettel said. "It clearly is a decision for something new and not against the existing. But then you have to follow your inner voice. And that is not automatically the easier decision. I hope it is the right one, and that wherever it takes me I will be happy with it."

Vettel qualified ninth. He has won the Japanese GP four times in the last five years, including victories in 2012 and '13.

Vettel's teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, will start sixth, followed by McLaren drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button.

[SportsNetwork.com]

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