Japanese GP: Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton vows to match Sebastian Vettel aggression
Lewis Hamilton says he will be ready to match any aggression from Sebastian Vettel at the start of Sunday's Japanese GP.
The championship rivals will share the grid's front row after Hamilton claimed his first-ever Suzuka pole and third-fastest Vettel inherited second from the penalised Valtteri Bottas.
It will be the first time they have started alongside each other since the Belgian GP in August and since then Vettel has been involved in a dramatic three-car start-line crash in Singapore, which most pundits blamed on the four-time world champion after he swept across from pole to block Max Verstappen.
Suzuka is one of F1's most difficult circuits on which to overtake and asked if he was expecting Vettel, who is 34 points behind him in the title race, to be aggressive off the line, Hamilton told Sky F1: "He won't be any more aggressive than I am.
"I've got eight metres [advantage], I need to make sure I keep the eight metres that I have and [have a] good start. Starts have generally been strong this year so I'll just try to continue with that."
However, Vettel is also optimistic of a strong launch from second on the grid.
"Our starts lately have been quite good so we will see what we can do," said the Ferrari driver.
Hamilton thrilled to end Suzuka wait
Mercedes have dominated the Japanese GP in the V6 engine era and Hamilton's commanding pole was the team's fourth in a row at Suzuka.
But it was the first time Hamilton had topped qualifying at the famous circuit, giving him the only pole that had eluded him on the current calendar. He described the feeling of driving the W08 at lap-record speed as "insane" and "mind-blowing".
"It's been 10 years trying to get that pole position!" said Hamilton, who now has 10 poles in 2017 and 71 in his career.
"Every single time I've struggled here with finding the right balance, often not starting on the front foot.
"This is the first time and definitely the first car which has felt underneath me all weekend with small tweaks in the right direction. It's worked out better this time and my knowledge of the car is better than it has been before. It's a real confidence builder as a group, me, my engineer and mechanics. I hope I can capitalise on today's great work."
Mercedes were outpaced by Ferrari and Red Bull in Malaysia last weekend and have spent the days since working on ways to improve their car in race conditions.
Hamilton had also asked for procedural changes to be made, and on his lap back to the pits after securing pole praised the team for the way they managed qualifying.
Although the cooler conditions of central Japan are more favourable for the W08, Hamilton believes the car is "different this weekend and is much better to drive".
"Our car is generally very strong in qualifying trim and then generally when we get to a race we are maybe a step back, not as good," he told Sky F1. "So trying to understand that and how we can improve that for next year's car is key.
"But, for positioning, it's hard if not impossible to overtake here so we have definitely put ourselves in the best position. I'm hoping that our car works well. It felt good on the soft tyre, perhaps less so on the supersoft."