Lewis Hamilton smashed the 11-year qualifying lap record around the Suzuka International Racing Course to take his 71st career pole position to further increase his chances of widening the points gap to championship rival Sebastian Vettel.
As was expected of the 2017-spec cars - that have a wider track, wider tyres and 25 percent more downforce than the 2016 F1 cars - Hamilton's time of 1min27.319sec around the 18-turn, 5.807km circuit was 3.3 seconds faster than last year's pole position time but also 1.6 seconds faster than the lap set by Michael Schumacher in qualifying for the 2006 edition of the event.
In fact the top six classified drivers went under the 1min28.954sec mark set by the German legend in his final year with Ferrari.
The Mercedes AMG F1 driver will be joined on the front row by Vettel after his teammate Valtteri Bottas received a five-place grid penalty due to the gearbox on his car being changed. Vettel was a long way off Hamilton's pace, however, and after scoring just 12 points out of a possible 50 over the last two races (where Ferrari had a clear advantage over Mercedes) he stands to lose further ground in the title battle.
KImi Raikkonen qualified sixth but will also receive a five-place penalty. The top ten was completed by the Force India-Mercedes of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, Williams-Mercedes' Felipe Massa and McLaren-Honda's Fernando Alonso.