Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix as another Ferrari blunder left Sebastian Vettel only ninth.

Hamilton, who headed into qualifying after topping every practice session, delivered again at the Suzuka circuit to finish ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes locked out the front row for a second consecutive race.

Vettel, 50 championship points behind Hamilton, will start way down the order after his team selected the wrong tyre in the changeable conditions.

Despite a smattering of rain drops ahead of the shootout for pole, Mercedes elected to send Hamilton out on slick rubber, and it proved to be the right call.

In contrast, Vettel, and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, were both on track on the intermediate tyre, and they had to stop for slicks.

By the time Vettel was ready to post a fast lap, a rain shower left the German exposed, and after he made a mistake by running off the track in damp conditions at the Spoon Curve, he finished more than four seconds adrift of Hamilton in ninth.

Raikkonen managed to qualify fourth.

The shower intensified, and there would be no challenge to Hamilton, who cruised to his 80th career pole.

"I never in a million years thought I would get to 80 poles," he said.  "(Ferrari's mistake) adds to the championship momentum.

"It is so difficult to make the right call, but that is another real big difference that we as a team have made this year.

"When it comes to being under pressure, and making the right calls, that is why were are the best team in the world."

Max Verstappen, who took advantage of Ferrari's error, was asked about Hamilton's championship battle with Vettel. "Is it still a battle?" he asked. "I am not sure."