McLaren notched a second front row lockout in a row as Lewis Hamilton took his first Malaysian Grand Prix pole position and team-mate Jenson Button stole into second ahead of Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher.
“It’s been a good weekend so far,” said Hamilton. “It’s been a tough day to be honest with the changeable weather conditions and the temperatures climbing. We made some set-up changes to the car, nonetheless we still managed to do some good times, but obviously we’ve got these guys (Mercedes) pushing very hard behind.”
Hamilton took the top spot with his first Q3 run, despite minor mistakes in turn one and the final corner, but the 2008 champion insisted that the errors hadn’t compromised his lap. “I think that first lap was quite good,” he said. “I lost a bit of time in the last corner but the first corner was fine. I think I had a small oversteer moment but it didn’t cost me any time. Then the rest of the lap seemed to come together quite well. “I pushed probably a little too much in the last corner and went a bit wide, but fortunately I was able to minimise the amount I lost.”
Button, meanwhile, will start from second place for the second year in a row and professed himself happy with his performance. “I was pretty happy with the lap,” he said. “I think with the heat it is very difficult to get a good lap out of the car as the car is moving around a lot but I was pretty happy but obviously not as happy as the guy sitting alongside me. Lewis did a great lap at the start of Q3 and we edged closer but couldn’t quite get there.”
Last time out, in Melbourne, where the pair lined up in the same formation, Button managed to pass his team-mate into turn one and Hamilton admitted the start in Malaysia could be another tough battle. “I don’t know if (pole position) is the best place to start here, it’s a long haul down to Turn One, but no, I think there are going to be interesting strategies tomorrow and the key is looking after your tyres,” he said. “This is a very tricky circuit because of the track temperatures and obviously the humidity outside. It’s going to be tough tomorrow. These tyres are having a seriously hard time around here, especially under 150 kilos of fuel. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know how it’s going to go but I’ll do everything I can to make sure we’re as competitive as possible.”
Button concurred, saying that the competition would be fierce. “I think we have to be very good with everything. The pace has to be there, the consistency, the pit stops need to be key, because these guys are very quick – Mercedes – and also the Renaults and Red Bulls. Their pace seems to be better in race trim than in qualifying, so it’s going to be a busy afternoon for the strategy guys and the engineers and obviously for us out on circuit.”