SUZUKA, Japan (REUTERS) - Formula One Championship leader Lewis Hamilton seized pole position with a dominant display in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Briton lapped the Suzuka Circuit in 1min 27.319sec in his Mercedes, the fastest ever at the 5.8km track, to finish well clear of his rivals.
His team-mate Valtteri Bottas set the second fastest time but will drop five places after collecting a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
That will elevate Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, who was third quickest nearly half a second off the pace, to the front row of the grid alongside Hamilton.
The German trails Hamilton by 34 points in the overall standings with just five of the season's 20 races left.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, will start Sunday's race from the back of the grid after the Spaniard picked up a 35-place penalty when the team's mechanics fitted his car with a fresh power unit on Friday night.
The team broke curfew - during which members associated with the operation of the car must leave the track - after the engine the double world champion used on the opening day of practice suffered a hydraulic issue.
Rules restrict drivers to no more than four power units and its constituent components for the duration a season, and Alonso has long exceeded his allocation as McLaren continues to struggle with a lack of reliability from their Honda engines.
Suzuka is the home race for the Japanese manufacturer, which will part ways with McLaren at the end of the season after three years of dismal performances, with the Surrey-based team switching to Renault power units.
Honda will instead supply engines to Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso, currently powered by Renault, whose Spanish driver Carlos Sainz has also been hit with a 20-place penalty for exceeding his allocation of engine components.