sport

Vettel focused on title

Sebastian Vettel may have joined some illustrious company following his 34th pole position but he will put it to the back of his mind in Japan.

A stunning lap early in Q3 ensured the German recorded his fourth pole in a row at Suzuka, as championship leader Fernando Alonso could only manage the seventh-fastest time.

Top spot looked under threat when the stewards investigated allegations he had impeded Alonso at the chicane late in the session, but, after a delay of three hours, Vettel was allowed to keep his place, although he did receive a reprimand.

As a result Vettel moves above Jim Clark and Alain Prost on the all-time list of pole winners, leaving him behind only Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, arguably the two greatest drivers the sport has ever seen.

But with a 29-point gap to Alonso to close, and a third world title on the line, Vettel will put his achievement to one side for now.

He said: "I think Michael has a lot of records that will probably stay there forever.

"You don't really jump into the car thinking about those sort of things.

"Obviously, when you end up here and end up with people telling you some things it's nice for all of us but it's not the number one motivation that makes you jump into the car.

"I enjoy what I do a lot and on tracks like this on soft tyres, low fuel, you really feel what the cars can achieve and I think our job becomes very, very special and unique in the world.

"That's what I enjoy most. Obviously, if you're successful then it feeds on itself. I think they are quite a long way ahead as well, so we will see. We have to work, obviously, focus, step by step, and not think about those kind of things."

Red Bull's pace in qualifying, allied to the ominous speed they have shown on the hard compound tyre this weekend would appear to suggest a dominant race performance.

But Vettel, having been denied victory in Valencia this year by an engine failure after pulling out a huge lead, and losing further points in race where tyre degradation has played a big part, is not taking anything for granted.

He said: "I think we should have a good race car tomorrow. But you never know until you find out. I think we've seen a lot of races this year where probably we expected something, and people expected something, other teams had expectations but in the last 10 laps everything turned around.

"We have to stay focused and see what we get from start to finish."

The incident between Vettel and Alonso came during a dramatic finish to qualifying.

Kimi Raikkonen's spin at Spoon Curve brought out the yellow flags and ruined the final attempts of most of his rivals, including Alonso, who cut a frustrated figure as Ferrari continue to struggle as his title lead evaporates.

He said: "What can I say, other than get angry about being unlucky? The yellow flags came at the worst possible moment, when I was coming into Turn 14.

"Up until then, my lap was great and there was every chance of setting the fourth fastest time of the day, which would have seen me start from third on the grid.

"From there the race could have taken on a completely different picture, but we have to accept what happened. We were unlucky today so maybe we'll be lucky tomorrow.

"I'm expecting a difficult Sunday, the aim will be to finish - reliability is crucial - and bring home a good points haul."