Hamilton claims pole in rain-hit Malaysian GP qualifying
Lewis Hamilton edged a resurgent Sebastian Vettel to claim pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver taking his second pole in a row by just five hundredths of a second in a session defined by the wet conditions.
Nico Rosberg finished third in the second Mercedes. The German seemed to struggle on full wet tyres in the difficult conditions in Q3 but delivered a lap of 2:00.050, which was good enough to push Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso out to fourth.
“I’m really happy, firstly with the job the team has done and just generally how well we have done throughout the weekend,” said Hamilton after claiming his 33rd career pole with a lap of 1:59.431.
“Today was just incredible, with how much it rained before qualifying and then during the session it was very, very tricky out there for everyone,” he added. Particularly at the end it was almost impossible to see anything. During my last lap I just couldn’t see a thing behind [Nico] Hulkenberg. I couldn’t see where the track went, didn’t know where the corners were, when to brake. These guys [Vettel and Red Bull Racing] are definitely a little bit too close, so happy to be here.”
The hour-long session was delayed by 50-minutes due to torrential rain before the 4pm local start and when Q1 eventually got underway on a damp track, most teams opted for the intermediate tyre.
With more on its way a number of teams called for ‘banker’ laps from their drivers but five minutes into the 18-minute session that looked like being problematic for world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was called back to the garage to investigate a problem with the RB10’s energy store.
“The heartbeat was definitely rising very quickly when we realised there was an issue,” said Vettel afterwards. “But we restarted the car, which seemed to solve the problem. After that it was fine, so it was good to go out and get another feel for the car, in the wet, with the conditions.”
It was left to Rosberg to top the session with a time of 1:57.183, two hundredths ahead of Hamilton. Vettel finished four tenths down on the Mercedes.
The opening segment was red-flagged with just 35 seconds remaining when Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson spun off into the barriers and slid back on track, almost into the path of Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez.
The result was that out went 17th-placed Maldonado, Force India’s Adrian Sutil, the Marussias of Jules Bianchi (P19) and Max Chilton (P21) and the Caterham’s of Kamui Kobayashi and Ericsson, who finished 20th and 22nd respectively.
The red flag reappeared within minutes of the start of Q2, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat sliding into the side of Alonso’s Ferrari.
The clash left the Spaniard’s F14 T with damage to the front left suspension but a lightning-quick fix by the Ferrari crew saw the Spaniard back on track just two minutes after the restart and Alonso was soon up to sixth with his first flying lap, behind leader Hamilton, Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg.
Further back, a clutch of drivers went into the final two minutes with a good chance of claiming a top 10 spot, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa looking well placed to make the move.
In the end it was only Vergne who claimed a place in the top-10 shootout, the Frenchman posting a lap of 2:02.096, which was good enough to claim 10th place, ahead to Kvyat, who was bumped to 11th. The Russian was also to be investigated after qualifying for his part in the early accident with Alonso. The matter was later ruled as requiring no further action.
At the top of the Q2 list were Hamilton and Vettel, the Mercedes man lapping in 1:59.041, over three tenths quicker than the Red Bull man. Rosberg was third, ahead of Ricciardo, who had earlier been blocked by Bottas,. The Finn was later given a three-place grid penalty for the offence.
That left the top 10 shootout. With Alonso an impressive fourth at the end, fifth spot went to Ricciardo. Behind him Kimi Raikonen took sixth in the second Ferrari, ahead of and Nico Hulkenberg, also in impressive form for Force India. Kevin Magnussen was eighth for McLaren, ahead of Vergne and the final top-10 place was taken by Jenson Button in the second McLaren.
2014 Malaysian Grand Prix – Qualifying Times
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:59.431 22
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:59.486 20
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:00.050 23
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2:00.175 22
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 2:00.541 20
6 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 2:01.218 21
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 2:01.712 23
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 2:02.213 20
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 2:03.078 23
10 Jenson Button McLaren 2:04.053 22
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 2:02.351 16
12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 2:02.369 16
13 Felipe Massa Williams 2:02.460 16
14 Sergio Perez Force India 2:02.511 15
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2:02.756 17
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 2:02.885 17
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 2:02.074 8
18 Adrian Sutil Sauber 2:02.131 7
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 2:02.702 8
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 2:03.595 8
21 Max Chilton Marussia 2:04.388 8
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 2:04.407 7