FORMULA 1

HAMILTON ON POLE WHILST VETTLE DENIES ROSBERG FRONT ROW START

Lewis Hamilton won pole position for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix with a blistering lap in the wet after Q3 had been delayed by the weather.

It was Hamilton’s 40th pole and his third on this track after he was almost knocked out in Q2. He said: “I think the first lap was good, it’s always difficult in conditions like that and not one of us have driven in the wet this weekend.”

The Mercedes’ of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were split by the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in a replica of last year, though then Vettel was a Red Bull driver; this year’s Red Bulls will start fourth and fifth.

At one point in Q3 Rosberg appeared to slow and impede Hamilton just as the British driver had posted the quickest first sector time. Hamilton, though, gained a small measure of revenge by passing Rosberg and then slowing himself, suggesting there are still mind games going on between the duo. At one point Rosberg asked his Mercedes team to tell him the lines Hamilton was driving. But they replied: “We can’t tell you that.”

As qualifying started the high temperatures started to plummet, the clouds gathered and the thunder and lightning arrived. By the time Q2 started the priority was to bank a lap time before the rain arrived – and when it rains here it really means business.

When the heavens did open and the session was aborted it was particularly bad news for Kimi Raikkonen. He had been held up by Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and was in 11th place when the driving came to a halt, putting him out of Q3. He said: “We got it wrong. We should have been out earlier but that is how it is. The lap time is there or thereabouts so we expected to be strong in qualifying. We finally find some speed and this happens, that’s part of the game but it is disappointing.”

There was also a close call for Hamilton, who was in eighth place. And he was annoyed by it. “You got us out too far behind everyone,” he told his team.

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Fernando Alonso finished last of the 18 cars that ran in Q1, when he was out-qualified, in the final seconds, by his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. Alonso said: “We know we are struggling with the pace but we are much closer now and I don’t think I will be [giving interviews] after Q1 for long.”

Beating Alonso was at least some consolation for Button on another difficult day for the Woking team. He said: “It is a lot closer than in Australia and I think our race pace is better than our qualifying pace. We should be happy with the step taken, but there is still a long way to go.”

But it was even worse for Manor, for whom Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi did not even get onto the track. Stevens’ car was still in pieces a short time before the start of qualifying. He said: “It’s been a tough day. Not getting out in qualifying was disappointing. There was a fuel issue. We will have to see if we can get sorted overnight.” The other driver to miss out was Felipe Nasr in his Sauber.

The Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat line up fourth and fifth on the grid, with 17-year-old Max Verstappen sixth for Toro Rosso. The Dutch youngster becomes the first teenager in 54 years to start in the top six.

The eye-catching performance in the first session was that of Carlos Sainz, who was fourth. But the eye-catcher of the afternoon was once again Lewis Hamilton.

Final Positions after Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1min 49.834sec, 2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:49.908, 3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:50.299, 4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:51.541, 5 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:51.951, 6 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:51.981, 7 Felipe Massa Williams 1:52.473, 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team 1:52.981, 9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:53.179, 10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1:53.261, 11 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:42.173, 12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus F1 Team 1:42.198, 13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:43.023, 14 Sergio Pérez Force India 1:43.469, 15 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:43.701, 16 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.308, 17 Jenson Button McLaren 1:41.636, 18 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:41.746, 19 Roberto Merhi Manor Marussia F1 1:46.677, 20 Will Stevens Manor Marussia F1 No Time