The Haas F1 team achieved their best qualifying positions of the season Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez qualifying 8th and 10th respectively for the Japanese Grand Prix earlier today.
The teams elevated positions on the grid can be in part attributed to continued concerns from Mercedes Powered teams around the reliability of their power unit following Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Williams F1 team, whose drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualifying 12th & 11th confirmed they were using an older power unit (unit 3 of the allocated 5 per season) at the request of Mercedes.
It is understood similar precautions have been taken with at both Force India and Manor Racing. The Mercedes works team also confirmed neither Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg were permitted to run power units at fully optimised levels during qualifying. Completing qualifying in at reduced performance levels may explain why the gap to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari was less than in recent qualifying sessions.
Non Mercedes powered teams can expect similar cautionary actions to be taken in the race tomorrow, no doubt every effort will be taken by other teams to capitalise on this opportunity and apply pressure to the power unit dominating the series.