Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying: Vettel eases to pole, Raikkonen penalised

Sebastian Vettel has taken a comfortable pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, in tricky conditions where rain fell halfway through the session.

Championship leader Kimi Raikkonen initially qualified 7th, but received a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Rosberg. The Ferraris will start 2nd and 3rd, with Felipe Massa out-qualifying Fernando Alonso for the fourth race in a row.

Q1

Vettel came within almost 0.2 seconds of being knocked out of Q1. Himself, along with Mark Webber, showed little to no pace throughout the first part of qualifying, with the Australian only lying 11th, and Sebastian 15th.

There was an interesting split between drivers who were attempting to use the medium tyres to gain grid position, and those who were conserving them for the race. Adrian Sutil was one of the few drivers pushing hard in Q1, setting a 1:36.809 to finish fastest.

Jules Bianchi produced another impressive qualifying performance, coming within 0.5 seconds of getting into Q2. He beat teammate Max Chilton by over 1.2 seconds.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

17) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:38.157

18) Valtteri Bottas – 1:38.207

19) Jules Bianchi – 1:38.434

20) Charles Pic – 1:39.314

21) Max Chilton – 1:39.672

22) Giedo van der Garde – 1:39.932

Q2

Paul di Resta was the first driver to go out on track, and was the first to pit – which was a mistake.

Rain fell about halfway through Q2, rendering half of the track unusable on slicks, and the other half bone dry. Intermediates were required, and Di Resta wasn’t able to set a fast time because of this. Despite this, he valiantly tried to go out again, but spun twice in the process.

Once again, the Red Bulls struggled, with Vettel only getting into Q3 by the skin of his teeth. Romain Grosjean was eliminated in Q2, as it emerged this weekend that the Frenchman is not receiving parts that are going onto teammate Raikkonen’s car.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Romain Grosjean – 1:37.636

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:38.125

13) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:38.822

14) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:39.221

15) Paul di Resta – 1:44.509

16) Pastor Maldonado – N/A

Q3

With the rain still falling, Q3 was busy from the offset, as teams feared the conditions would get worse the longer they waited.

This wasn’t the case though, and with several minutes to go, the track had dried to the point where drivers began to consider the slick tyres. Vettel pitted, but took on a fresh set of intermediates. His teammate stayed out, which backfired later on.

Webber briefly went fastest, but was quickly beaten by Lewis Hamilton, and then Fernando Alonso. There wasn’t enough time for him to get a new set of inters, and his current set were too worn for him to set another lap, so he fell to 5th place.

Vettel, meanwhile, went almost a second faster by going out on track at the right time. Raikkonen and Hamilton had one last chance to unseat the Red Bull, but couldn’t improve on their previous times. Felipe Massa then pipped his teammate to 2nd place, for the 4th race in a row.

Raikkonen finished the session 7th, but was demoted to 10th after he was judged to have held up Nico Rosberg near the end of Q3.

Times from Q3:

1) Sebastian Vettel – 1:49.674

2) Felipe Massa – 1:50.587

3) Fernando Alonso – 1:50.727

4) Lewis Hamilton – 1:51.699

5) Mark Webber – 1:52.244

6) Nico Rosberg – 1:52.519

7) Jenson Button – 1:53.175

8) Adrian Sutil – 1:53.439

9) Sergio Perez – 1:54.136

10) Kimi Raikkonen (+3) – 1:52.970

 

 

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