Vettel snatches pole in Malaysia

Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix. It was no cakewalk, however, as he was forced to push hard to beat his teammate and the McLarens of Hamilton and Button. Nick Heidfeld was 6th, Michael Schumacher was knocked out of Q2, while the HRT cars managed to qualify.

Q1

The moment when Buemi's sidepod came off

The moment when Buemi's sidepod came off

Despire the threat of rain hitting the track during the session, no car went out at the start. Vitantonio Liuzzi was the first out, setting a 1.43.1, which is just within the probable 107% limit.

Lewis Hamilton took top spot with a 1.37.4, with Vettel and Button close behind. The session was soon stopped for the loss of a sidepod from Sebastien Buemi’s car.

With 12 minutes to go, several cars were disadvantaged by the red flags. The Lotuses went straight out at the green flag to set their first laps.

Felipe Massa went 7 tenths faster than Hamilton on the softer tyres, and was followed by Alonso and Kobayashi. Nick Heidfeld was half a second off Massa. Webber went out again, but failed to improve on his previous lap.

 

Another look at Buemi's sidepod

Another look at Buemi's sidepod

With 2 minutes to go, Michael Schumacher was in trouble, having struggled on the hard tyres. A last-minute run on the softs saved the Mercedes from being knocked out of Q1.

Amazingly, Webber languished in 15th, while it was a battle between Barrichello and Maldonado to survive Q1, with the experienced Brazilian coming out on top. Lotus improved dramatically, getting within 2 seconds of the fastest lap.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Pastor Maldonado

19) Heikki Kovalainen

20) Jarno Trulli

21) Timo Glock

22) Jerome D’Ambrosio

23) Vitantonio Liuzzi

24) Narain Karthikeyan

Q2

Sebastien Buemi returned to the track after the loss of his sidepod in Q1. Mark Webber was back on form for Q2, setting a 1.36.0. Vettel soon followed with a 1.35.9. Jenson Button was very impressive, going 3 tenths quicker than Vettel.

The Mercedes cars went within 1 tenth of each other in 6th and 7th, with Schumacher leading Rosberg. Jaime Alguersuari went 10th in the Toro Rosso, while Petrov was 4th.

With only a few minutes remaining, Hamilton appeared to be the big-profile casualty of Q2. However, a high-speed final run propelled the McLaren up to 2nd, despite a lock-up at Turn 1, and 3 tenths slower than Button.

Paul di Resta could only improve to 13th. Kobayashi went 8th, while Nico Rosberg moved to 6th to knock his teammate out of Q2.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Michael Schumacher

12) Sebastien Buemi

13) Jaime Alguersuari

14) Paul di Resta

15) Rubens Barrichello

16) Sergio Perez

17) Adrian Sutil

Q3

With the McLarens surprisingly well on the pace, Q3 was going to be a 4-horse race for pole position. Lewis Hamilton’s first run brought a 1.35.000, with Button 3 tenths behind.

Webber was 2 tenths off, while Vettel was within one tenth of Hamilton. The Red Bulls had split the McLarens, but a fierce lap from Hamilton kept him on top.

The rest of the field waited for the last 3 minutes, to head out with the Red Bulls and McLarens. Fernando Alonso was the first of the 10 to set their final lap, but struggled with grip and went 5th.

Webber, Vettel and Hamilton after qualifying

Webber, Vettel and Hamilton after qualifying

Webber just got to 3rd place, while Hamilton improved by 2 hundreths to keep his lead. Button retained 4th place, while Sebastian Vettel went one tenth faster, a 1.34.8, to snatch pole position in the dying seconds.

Nick Heidfeld was fastest of the rest of the field in 6th, ahead of Massa and Petrov. Nico Rosberg and Kamui Kobayashi failed to impress in 9th and 10th.

It was a fantastic lap by Vettel to take his second pole in as many races. There was nothing in it between McLaren and Red Bull, while the body language by Fernando Alonso said it all for Ferrari.

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