Lewis Hamilton secured the 21st pole position of his Formula 1 career for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
The McLaren pilot registered his quick time – 1:36.219 – in his opening run in Q3; however it proved quick enough to not necessitate a second fast stint.
Hamilton’s teammate, Jenson Button, made it an all-McLaren front row thanks to a faster second run toward the end of Q3. Indeed, it was an effort that kept the Briton only one-tenth ahead of the resurgent Michael Schumacher (Mercedes, 3rd) and Mark Webber (Red Bull, 4th).
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen initially took 5th, but will start 10th after he picked up a five-place grid penalty for an early gearbox change.
Raikkonen’s penalty promoted Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to 5th, with the other Lotus of Romain Grosjean filling out the third row. In what could prove to be a key move for Vettel, the German set his time on the harder Pirelli tyres – a tactic avoided by the rest of the top ten.
Qualifying 7th, Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) finds himself in rather familiar territory. The German pilot set a time well up on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (8th) and Sergio Perez (Sauber, 9th) – all whom completed only a single run.
Pastor Maldonado just missed out on Q3, despite having a major off-track excursion on his opening Q2 run. The Venezuelan flung his Williams FW34 across the turn ten gravel, damaging the car’s bargeboards in the process.
Despite this, Maldonado took 11th, just two-tenths ahead of the disappoint(ed / ing) Felip Massa (Ferrari, 12th).
Led by the second Williams of Bruno Senna, the following quartet were split by a mere five-hundredths of-a-second. In the scramble for minor placings, Senna nudged in front of Paul di Resta (14th) and Nico Hulkenberg (16th), with Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo splitting the Force India duo.
Kamui Kobayashi’s difficult weekend continued, with the Sauber man finishing Q2 in 17th position, more than half-a-second shy of the cut-off time.
Memories of the Toro Rosso’s startling performance in Australia faded somewhat, as both Ricciardo and teammate Jean-Eric Vergne struggled in the Malaysian heat. It would see Vergne lose out in Q1 – the Frenchman destroyed his tyres on his “fast lap”, leaving him six-tenths away from the cut-off.
Unsurprisingly, Caterham led the regulars once again; however Vitaly Petrov will assume 19th, following a penalty for Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn was handed with five-place grid drop for passing under the safety car in Melbourne – Kovalainen will now start last.
At Marussia, Timo Glock out-qualified new teammate Charles Pic, while both HRT’s – headed by Pedro de la Rosa – made the race comfortably.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m36.219s 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m36.368s + 0.149 3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.391s + 0.172 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m36.461s + 0.242 5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m36.634s + 0.415 6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m36.658s + 0.439 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.664s + 0.445 8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.566s + 1.347 9. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.698s + 1.479 10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m36.461s + 0.242* Q2 cut-off time: 1m37.477s Gap to Q2 11. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m37.589s + 0.874 12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.731s + 1.016 13. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m37.841s + 1.126 14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m37.877s + 1.162 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m37.883s + 1.168 16. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m37.890s + 1.175 17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.069s + 1.354 Q1 cut-off time: 1m38.437s Gap to Q1 18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.077s + 1.905 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m39.567s + 2.395 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m40.903s + 3.731 21. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.250s + 4.078 22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m42.914s + 5.742 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m43.655s + 6.483 24. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m39.306s + 2.134* 107% time: 1m43.974s *Raikkonen and Kovalainen receive 5-place grid penalties ^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.