Vettel on top after thrilling Q3 in Malaysia
Sebastian Vettel has snatched pole position from Lewis Hamilton for tomorrow’s Malaysia Grand Prix.
Vettel took his RB7 around the Sepang Circuit in 1m 34.870s, one tenth from his P2 sitter Lewis Hamilton and only two-tenths from Button in P4.
Webber split the two McLarens with P3, starting directly behind his team-mate, mimicking the top-four from Australia.
The two teams set up a thrilling conclusion to qualifying for the second round of the season, with drivers from both manufacturers trading fastest sector times for much of the session.
‘I don’t think that we can be disappointed. We did a fantastic job to even be up there with the Red Bulls,’ said Hamilton in the post-race press conferences.
‘We always suspected that they might have a little bit in hand. They obviously picked up a little bit of pace towards the end of Q3.’
‘The gap is quite a lot smaller than it was in Australia. It shows how quickly things can change by the next race,’ added Vettel. ‘I’m very happy that we’ve proven that we can do it.’
It was yet another disappointing start to the weekend for Ferrari who failed to make good on their pre-season testing times. Stefano Domenicali admitted before qualifying that the team were still unsure why their winter performances weren’t translating into race pace. Alonso managed 4th position, whilst Massa could only manage 7th place.
Heidfeld went some way to answer his critics after his horror run in Australia two weeks ago. He failed to make Q2 then, he placed his Renault at P6 this weekend, leading home Vitaly Petrov who only managed 8th.
Rosberg and Kobayashi completed the top ten starters.
Sebastien Buemi caused some early drama in Q1 when his Toro Rosso shed its sidepod to cause a red flag eight minutes into the 20-minute session.
Maldonado was the first driver of the established teams to fall, missing out on a Q2 berth by one-tenth to his Williams team-mate Rubens Barrichello. He joined Kovalinen, Trulli, Gock, d’Ambrosio, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan on the sidelines, all of whom qualified for tomorrow’s race.
The second session saw the three-time Malaysian GP winner bow out with a P11, displaced by his compatriot and fellow Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.
Neither STR drivers could haul their cars into the final qualifying session, whist Force India’s outright pace failed to impress yet again, with di Resta leading the team in P14, with Sutil back in 17th position.
Despite late runs towards the end of the session, Barrichello couldn’t put his Williams into the shootout, and there were fewer signs of Perez’s impressive Australian pace, taking P16 into the race.
The weather failed to play a part in today’s qualifying session, despite forecasts suggesting rain may interrupt running.
Pirelli’s motorsport division, however, have suggested than rain will almost certainly affect the race tomorrow afternoon, potentially providing the first opportunity for teams to use their intermediate- and wet-compound tyres this year.
The lights go out for the Malaysia Grand Prix at 6PM AEST (4PM local time).