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Webber edges Vettel for Japanese GP pole

Suzuka, Japan (SportsNetwork.com) - Mark Webber from Red Bull claimed his first pole position of the season after topping his teammate and championship points leader Sebastian Vettel in Saturday's qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Webber's lap around the 3.6-mile, 18-turn Suzuka Circuit was timed in 1 minute, 30.915 seconds for his 12th career Formula One pole but his first since the Korean Grand Prix one year ago.

Vettel, who enters Sunday's race in Japan with a 77-point lead over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, experienced an issue with his kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) throughout qualifying.

"The laps weren't too bad to be honest," Webber said. "You always want a little bit more here and there but in general it was pretty good. Sebastian had a problem in qualifying, so a little bit of a hollow pole position if you like, because he still did a phenomenal lap, but I'm happy to be on pole. You've got to grab the opportunities when you can and still put the laps in."

Webber has not won a grand prix since July 2012 in Great Britain. The Australian is in his final year of F1 competition. He is joining Porsche's new sports car program in the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship in 2014.

Vettel made a lap in 1:31.089, which was 0.174 seconds behind Webber. Vettel had various technical issues during final practice, which was held just prior to qualifying, limiting the German to just eight laps in the session.

"We had a problem this morning, but I don't think that made a difference in terms of finding the rhythm," Vettel said. "I think we've done plenty of laps around this track. Congratulations to Mark. I think he did a very good lap. We did have an issue in qualifying. We are P2 and happy with the result. Front row for the team, which is great."

Vettel has won the last four grand prix -- Belgium, Italy, Singapore and Korea. He also had won the pole in the three previous grand prix. The 26-year- old driver has an opportunity to clinch his fourth consecutive F1 world championship in Japan. If Vettel wins Sunday's race and Alonso finishes lower than eighth, then he will capture the title. Alonso struggled in qualifying with an eighth-place result.

Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes qualified third with a lap in 1:31.253.

"It was difficult, or almost impossible, to finish ahead of these guys (Webber and Vettel)," Hamilton said. "They've had a much better package, generally, for a long, long time, but I think we've come a long way and to be as close as we are I think is a huge compliment to the team."

Romain Grosjean placed his Lotus fourth on the starting grid, while Felipe Massa from Ferrari took the fifth spot. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and seventh, respectively.

Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus and McLaren's Jenson Button completed the top-10.

10/12 07:33:43 ET

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