Lewis Hamilton is the pole man at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Flying in qualifying and on pole again, Hamilton tops the timesheet at the Malaysian Grand Prix. With Rosberg able to come home in second for a Mercedes one-two, despite a poor first run and error to follow in Q3.
Qualifying begun with the Mercedes duo heading out on the soft tyres as they opened the session with a 1:34.444 via Hamilton. But as the hour progressed, no driver could get close to either Mercedes. In the
In the end, Rosberg too could not come close to his flying team-mate. With an error of his own making allowing Hamilton to secure his eighth pole of the year – despite a mistake of his own.
Furthermore, Hamilton’s rapid pole lap smashed the 1:39.269 best time posted in qualifying for last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix by six seconds. With next years cars still expected to go nearly five seconds faster.
As the lights went green and the session begun, Wehrlein was straight out of the pits and onto a lonely track. With the Manor breaking the silence at the Sepang International Circuit as he posted a 1:36.999.
Qualifying for the Manor, though, would not end well. With Wehrlein out-qualified by Ocon for the first time, in what is the Frenchman’s fourth Grand Prix. Whereas while Haryanto was his team-mate, Wehrlein was out-qualified by his team-mate five times in their 12 races together.
At the start of the session, cement dust remained in part at the exit of the pit lane – where Hamilton pulled into for a practice start. This had been laid down following a support race prior to qualifying, with a large area of the start line also covered.
As for the Q1 action, Button found the early going tough as he caught multiple patches of traffic. One instance in particular cost Jenson, as he spun while closing in on the Renault of Magnussen who himself had run wide & drifted off the track at turn 15.
While in the battle to be P1, Hamilton and Rosberg were out for the first runs on the soft tyres.
With the early lead a psychological advantage for the later stages, Rosberg returned to the pits knowing he was already down on his team-mate. For Hamilton’s 1:34.444 left him clear of the Ferraris – who nestled into third and fourth, albeit a second down on the medium tyres.
Ferrari was not alone in running the middle compound of the available three in their first run. With Verstappen also running on the mediums as he demoted Vettel and Raikkonen for fourth. Tucking in behind the newly third placed man, Hulkenberg, after the Force India lapped quickly on the softs.
As Magnussen and Grosjean slotted in between the two Ferraris while they lapped on the softs, Ferrari’s place in Q2 nearly came into question with the duo slipping further down the leaderboard.
Despite Raikkonen pushing on to move up from 12th and into 7th, ahead of Vettel, he felt it necessary to head back out on a fresh set of softs as he found himself back down in 10th place.
Vettel too rejoined the action with himself now in 9th, Both Ferrari’s leapt up to third and fourth – just one-tenth of a second down on Hamilton’s benchmark.
Now with the Ferrari’s safely through, the fight to survive kicked on behind – with Kvyat narrowly improving from 14th to 13th.
Next to improve came Jenson Button as he popped up to 10th from 15th, as the chequered flag began to wave.
Still to come, however, were both Sauber’s. With both improving to knock Palmer into the drop zone. But Ericsson’s slender lead over his team-mate meant Nasr joined the Renault. Who locked up into the final corner, meaning he could not improve to regain a Q2 slot.
With Gutierrez next to jump out of the drop zone, albeit for 15th, Kvyat now found himself on the cusp. But with no one left on track improving, he was safe.
With their race tyres fitted, Rosberg and Hamilton were straight out the pits at the start of Q2. With Rosberg first to lap, but as the rear stepped out at the final corner he could only post a 1:33.609.
Through the middle sector alone, Hamilton was up on Rosberg by four-tenths of a second. And with Nico’s error, he crossed the line to take P1 away from his stablemate by half a second.
But with the tyres he will start the race on fitted, Rosberg did not try to push on and reduce the gap – settling for second best at this stage.
With Rosberg settling as the second-best Mercedes in Q2, a chance to spit the Silver Arrows was there for Red Bull or Ferrari’s taking. But at the end of their first runs, Verstappen could only lead Ricciardo for third, seven-tenths of a second down on Hamilton.
At the start of the second runs, Button looked in danger of missing the cut once again as he sat in 11th place – 5-hundredths of a second down on a top 10 place. But for Button’s 300th Grand Prix start, he will be in a top 10 place as he moved his way into eighth prior to the flag.
Eight place was by no means a secure top 10 place when Button crossed the line. But with Grosjean unable to improve and Hulkenberg only improving for 9th, the drivers with a chance of eliminating Button were decreasing.
Hulkenberg’s jump from 11th to 9th came at a cost for Bottas. With the Williams driver unable to improve to join his team-mate in the top 10. Valterri, however, felt he should have made the cut – missed out by 0.039 seconds – claiming after the session that an error on his part to switch into his qualifying engine mode too late cost him his place.
Perez, the man to take 10th in Q2, was the man first to start his penultimate qualifying run. But when nine names were on the leaderboard, he would only have lapped faster than his team-mate for 8th – with Button not posting a time as of yet.
Also lapping faster than his team-mate in the penultimate stage of qualifying was Max Verstappen. As the Dutchman lead Raikkonen and Vettel on a 1:33.420, before Ricciardo tucked in a tenth down.
Still to come, though, were the Mercedes duo. With Rosberg out first but only able to take fifth with his first run as he struggled to settle the car in the middle sector.
Hamilton, on the other hand, was snatching provisional pole without giving Verstappen’s benchmark a chance. Moving into P1 by 5-tenths of a second.
Once again, Rosberg came out first for Mercedes when the second runs begun. But a lock-up into the first corner saw Hamilton throw away his final chance to solidify his pole bid.
As for Rosberg, his second run was returning him with gains. Going one-tenth down on Hamilton’s benchmark in sector 1, maintaining the one-tenth deficit in sector 2. But running wide again at the final corner cost Rosberg again, crossing the line four-tenths of a second down on Hamilton but still strong enough for second place.
Verstappen’s second run was not as fortunate for him as Rosberg’s was for Mercedes. With Max unable to improve on his third place.
As for both Force India’s, Perez and Hulkenberg improved with their final qualifying runs to out-qualify Button and the retiring Massa.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1’33.420||0.57|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’33.467||0.617|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’34.319||1.469|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1’34.489||1.639|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’35.369||2.519|
|16||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||1’35.374||2.524|