Nico Rosberg seized pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of teammate and Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who completed a front-row lockout for Mercedes in qualifying.

Rosberg, who relinquished the championship lead to Hamilton after retiring from the last race in Singapore, lapped the 5.8 km Suzuka Circuit in one minute 32.506 seconds to claim his first pole since the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.

"I'm not thinking about Singapore at all," Rosberg, who trails Hamilton by three points after a steering wheel failure led to an early retirement at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, told reporters.

"It was a great day today, it is only one step on the way -- but really great. The car is so amazing to drive," he added.

Despite his error, Hamilton's time was quick enough to secure Mercedes an eighth front-row lockout of the season. The team have looked dominant all weekend and could leave Japan with the constructors' title wrapped up if results go their way.

Valtteri Bottas took third for Williams ahead of team mate Felipe Massa, with the Grove-based squad taking over from Red Bull as the best of the rest on a circuit that suits their car.

The reigning world champions had scored a double podium behind Hamilton in Singapore but were unable to carry that form over to Japan.

Sebastian Vettel, set to leave the team at the end of the season for Ferrari, only managed a disappointing ninth fastest at a circuit where he has won four of the last five grands prix.

Source: Reuters