Sepang Qualifying: Hamilton smokes them on the water

Lewis Hamilton will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position

Lewis Hamilton will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix after a tense, rain delayed Qualifying session at Sepang International Circuit, but it was a close call as world champion Sebastian Vettel gave Mercedes a run for their money.

Shortly after FP3 the clouds dumped their load on Sepang, as it tends to do this time of the year every afternoon and apparently more so when the Formula 1 rain magnet is in town. For most, bar Mercedes, this was a gift, because there is no way the Silver Arrows were going to be troubled in the dry, where their outright pace was at least a second faster than the next best.

Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are clearly going to be slugging it out this year, and as a result we have scenes reminiscent of the Hamilton-Alonso days at McLaren back in 2007, where they even raced each other to the pit exit. Fast forward to 2014 and Hamilton-Rosberg are pretty much in the same zone, albeit with no animosity present for now, as they dart for top spot in the pit lane exit..

Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday 29 March 2014.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in parc ferme after qualifying

From the outset of the session Hamilton appeared to have a slight edge on Rosberg, and it so transpired in Q3 as Hamilton set the best time on Wets which was over half a second up on his teammate Rosberg , whose best was only good enough for third on the grid.

Hamilton, who equalled Jim Clark’s British record of 33 pole positions in Formula 1, said afterwards, “I’m all over the place at the moment. I’m really happy with how well we’ve done over the weekend, but today was incredible – how heavy was the rain? It was tricky out there for everyone because at the end it was almost impossible to see. I couldn’t see where the track went, where the corners were, where to brake. I had to bail out of my final fast lap, so it was very close.”

Rosberg summed up his afternoon in the wet, “I was a little bit less comfortable on the Full Wets, especially [under] braking. But third is still a decent place to be – who knows what the weather is going to do tomorrow? I’m looking forward to the race now, to try and make the most of third.”

Top three in qualifying

Top three in qualifying

Splitting the Mercedes duo was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, which proved to have handy amount of grip in the prevaling conditions. There was a scare early on as the software went on the blink, but a reset appeared to solve the problem and ultimately the quadruple world champion was a mere 0.055 of a second adrift of pole, which suggests that in a wet race he could well take the fight to the Silver Arrows.

Vettel reflected, “At the beginning of Q1, the heartbeat was rising very quickly when we realised there was an issue. I came in, we restarted the car and that seemed to solve the problem. After that it was fine. It was good to go out and get another feel in the wet conditions. Q3 was not perfect. I would have loved to have a second go. My first attempt, I felt there was time to gain here and there. It was very close, too close. I should be on the good side for tomorrow but it depends on how good the start is. I’m happy with the result.”

Fernando Alonso had an incident packed afternoon, a coming together with Daniil Kvyat in Q2, an incident which broke one of the upper front suspension rods. Remarkably the Ferrari crew repaired the damage and sent their man out again. He promptly delivered, to take fourth place on the grid.

Fernando+Alonso+F1+Grand+Prix+Malaysia+Qualifying+9dY23clfSBix

Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest

Daniel Ricciardo will head up the third row in his Red Bull, ending the session with the fifth best time, albeit almost a second down on his teammate.

Alongside the Australian on the grid will be Kimi Raikkonen who again was out-qualified by teammate Alonso, although only by 0.176 of a second.

As is his trademark, Nico Hulkenberg reveled in the tricky conditions and ended best of the rest of the Mercedes powered brigade. He will start from seventh on the grid, alongside McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen who again outqualified his far more experienced teammate Jenson Button.

Magnussen survived an excursion over the grass and gravel , to keep himself in contention for Q3 where he delivered another strong performance on a track that he has never driven on, under extremely challenging conditions.

Nico Hulkenberg again impressed in the wet

Nico Hulkenberg again impressed in the wet

Magnussen said, “It was not easy to get it right – we should have gone out on the Wets in the beginning, but I’m still learning about the conditions and the tyres. It’s all good experience for me. Position eight is not bad, though it’s not good either. I do feel the car is quite good in those conditions – we just got the timing a bit wrong. The car is behaving well.”

Button was tenth fastest, victim of a dubious call to run Q3 on Pirelli Intermediate tyres, while everyone else was on the Wets. A gamble that backfired.

“When you’re probably going to be eighth on Wets it’s worth a punt to put on Intermediates. It is what it is. I, we, didn’t think it was going to rain again so it was worth a go, but it was pretty wet out at the back of the track. I chose to go on inters – I normally make the call and get it right, but I didn’t today,” admitted Button.

Splitting the McLaren duo on the timing sheets in ninth place was Jean Eric Vergne who scored Toro Rosso’s best ever starting position at Sepang.

The wrecked Caterham of Marcus Ericsson

The wrecked Caterham of Marcus Ericsson

Q1 came to an end with less than a minute to go when Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson got caught out by the slippery kerbs exiting Turn 3, slithered into the barriers, then bounced off them across the track before coming to a stop just before Turn 4.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, and disappointment to many, was the below par performance by Williams in conditions that clearly did not suit their car and as a result Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas will start 13th and 15th on the grid.

Massa said, “We’re missing some downforce on the car. Again, we’ve not qualified where we should be but we’ll see tomorrow what happens in the race.”

The weather will be a major factor in the race, with Mercedes not enjoying such a big advantage in wet conditions. But also reason for optimism among their rivals is the possibility that the Mercedes W05 may not be too kind to its tyres in race mode at Sepang…

Subbed by AJN.

Qualifying parc ferme

Qualifying parc ferme

Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 29 March 2014

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:57.202 1:59.041 1:59.431 22
2 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:57.654 1:59.399 1:59.486 20
3 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:57.183 1:59.445 2:00.050 23
4 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:58.889 2:01.356 2:00.175 22
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:58.913 2:00.147 2:00.541 20
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:59.257 2:01.532 2:01.218 21
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:58.883 2:00.839 2:01.712 23
8 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 2:00.358 2:02.094 2:02.213 20
9 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 2:01.689 2:02.096 2:03.078 23
10 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2:00.889 2:01.810 2:04.053 22
11 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 2:01.175 2:02.351 16
12 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 2:01.134 2:02.369 16
13 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 2:00.047 2:02.460 16
14 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2:00.076 2:02.511 15
15 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:59.709 2:02.756 17
16 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2:00.202 2:02.885 17
17 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2:02.074 8
18 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 2:02.131 7
19 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2:02.702 8
20 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 2:03.595 8
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2:04.388 8
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2:04.407 7
Q1 107% Time 2:05.385
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  • Amos James

    Took ages to get going, but it was en exciting finish. As much as I don’t like him, I reckon vettel was driver of the day.

  • F2000

    get rid of this track from the calendar not worth it always raining

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bomoh1Malaysia Raja Bomoh Nujum VIP

    atok pun setuju jugak

  • Ridhuan Abu Bakar

    like Spa u mean?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bomoh1Malaysia Raja Bomoh Nujum VIP

    paria ni dok buat sempoi

  • Tamburello1994

    The engine note debacle could be a quick distant memory if Red Bull and Mercedes go to war. Just wot the doctor ordered.

  • Amos James

    Aw yeah.. I hope Ferrari joins in, too.

  • Dr. Azlan

    Hopefully during the race tomorow will be half dry and then half wet and possibly dry again towards the end. Crazy action in the pit if that happens. A Marussia or a Caterham could even be leading the race.

  • Ridhuan Abu Bakar

    haha relax raja bomoh, cut this westerners some slack

  • farizY

    Nice, good to know that Vettel is still up there, hope Hamilton slows down if he is leading by a country mile, cuz he was the one who said, ohhh, it’s boring the way Vettel dominated the race last year. My prediction,fat chance Hamilton gonna slow down given the proper hardware, all that talk was just pure BS coming out of pure frustration.

  • farizY

    Saya pun setuju dengan atok. Atok serba tahu.

  • Amos James

    Anyone heard from stoner, lately? He’s been so angry of late. Good news stoner, kimi in the top ten, only a bit over a second slower than his team mate.

    Trap baited. Now to play the waiting game….

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    to be fair, Sepang can show you a thing or 2, a drivers ability to drive in the rain. there are a lot of good racing and driving that happened on this circuit. Schumacher’s comeback from the injury in 99 where he lapped the circuit almost a second faster than the mclaren, the year that ferrari finished 1-2 i think in one of the most torrential races ive seen were cars were dropping like flies to the gravel trap, Alonso’s win in the ice cream van ferrari in 2012….etc. if you think its not worth watching those kind of races were a driver’s skill is tested by heat and rain, you can always turn the tv off and wait for a boring track like Bahrain, maybe that will fancy you.

  • Amos James

    He may slow down just long enough to record a new album…..

    I wish he would just drive and not talk.

  • Amos James

    Hell yes! Level the playing field a bit.

  • Amos James

    Just change the time. Why have it in monsoon season in late afternoon?

  • Amos James

    Great minds think alike, Atok

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    if he(Vettel) was able to beat the flag and go on another hot lap he could get that pole position i bet

  • Amos James

    Schumacher was a second quicker than everyone, that day!

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    i stand corrected dude… yeah i think he was. grabbing Pole after a lot of missed races! brilliant!

  • Tamburello1994

    Kimi is getting schooled: Fact.

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    any guess how many laps lewis will be in the race? pole position = bad luck

  • bobmendon

    Even so but the safety car sounded the loudest on the track.

  • =El Presidente=

    nice for redbull.. thats cute… they can play for 1,5hour, and then they will be BOTH disqualified.. im going to love it!

  • Nowhereman

    In the wet its a crap shoot.
    Kimi go schooled for sure but will recover.
    The race will start when it drys out from time to time.
    RB is the one to watch out for.
    One of the Mercs will go down early.
    Should be a good day for Ferrari.

  • =El Presidente=

    arrogant twat deserves some proper schooling also 😉

    I like Kimi even less than Freddy-Fezza (alonso) ..

  • nakagoli

    What age are you?

  • nakagoli

    Fools seldom differ!

  • Raul – Amsterdam

    You both need to shut up

  • Amos James

    No.

  • Amos James

    Bob bob bob bob bob the bigot. Bob Bob Bob up and down. Bob bob bob for apples. Bob bob back to jail.

  • Ruben blanco

    Well that’s true because if they take no notice again of the FiA’s request, they’ll be disqualified, enough is enough and RB is the very single team in not heeding FIA.

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    have to agree to this somehow but given the conditions, id still have to take that as a factor. in practice sessions kimi was visibly faster than fernando though everyone knows that practice sessions means setting up the car for the common scenario which is dry conditions. lets wait for the race. i still do believe on an equal machine in the dry, kimi will always be faster than fernando but when the conditions changes, alonso’s race craft will be the one that will make the difference. but yes, fact is fact… kimi was schooled in the wet!

  • Tamburello1994

    Just for the record – I have no dog in this hunt: I’m just calling it as I see it in these early days and i do expect Kimi to show better once he sorts the brakes out.

  • Amos James

    I tend to agree. With the car in the sweet spot, kimi is naturally fast and rarely throws it off.

    When the car is a dog alonso is the better bet.

    Remember the wet Silverstone gp of 2008? Hamilton won, but kimi was excellent in the Ferrari until they botched his strategy.

  • http://bryanvcpalacio.weebly.com brianne

    well not surprising when ferrari losing with a crappy strategy. it almost seems like they hate winning when those things happen.

  • Amos James

    Snap. You got me! Excellent. I’ll pay that, nakagoli.
    :-)

  • Amos James

    Why do u ask, nakagoli? Looking for a boyfriend?