In what was one of the best qualifying sessions I’ve watched in awhile, Mark Webber has helped Red Bull maintain its dominance of 2010 qualifying by taking his second career pole position in a rain-soaked, interrupted qualifying session at the Sepang track.

The rain that had threatened to impact the on-track action finally made its appearance on the stage, and it caught out several big name runners along the way. Amazingly, both Ferraris and both McLarens will start well down the field, throwing tomorrow’s race – and our Tipping Competition tips, might I add! – into the complete unknown.

Qualifying Top-3

Those hoping for a rain-affected Grand Prix weekend certainly weren’t left disappointed, as a heavy downpour lashed the circuit before the start of Q1.

Qualifying - Felipe Massa
An early bath for Felipe Massa, whose poor wet-weather form was only outshone by Ferrari’s inability to read the weather conditions. 

In a scenario almost identical to last year’s qualifying gaffes we saw several times in the early part of the 2009 season, many of the front-running teams elected not to hedge their bets and kept both drivers in the garages until later in the session, hoping that the abatement in the rain would allow them to post quicker times in the closing stages.

And were they wrong! While the rain briefly eased, it hit again before the end of the 20-minute session, and we found both Ferraris in addition to Lewis Hamilton failing to make it out of Q3. It was the first time, embarrassingly for the Scuderia, that they had suffered this double failure since elimination qualifying was introduced!

It almost turned out to be the situation of having both McLarens out of Q1, as Jenson Button spun into the Turn 6 gravel trap and beached his MP4-25. Although the defending champion had set a time quick enough to scrape into Q2, he would not participate as his car was craned off the circuit for the remainder of proceedings.

This meant that, with three of the seven cars booted out at Q1 being frontrunners, this meant that two rookie team drivers would have representation in Q2 for the first time this season! The honours fell to Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock, much to the delight of Lotus and Virgin Racing, respectively.

The second session of qualifying ran relatively smoothly, and it wasn’t a surprise to see the two rookie-team drivers out at the end of Q2, and they were joined by both Toro Torros, Pedro de la Rosa and Vitaly Petrov.

The meant that Q3 would feature both Red Bulls, Mercedes GPs, Force Indias, Williams’, in addition to Robert Kubica’s Renault and Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber.

Q3 was halted just three minutes in – and not before some very unsportsmanlike queue-jumping in the pit lane by Robert Kubica – as the rain became simply torrential. Despite no spins from the driver, visibility was appalling and there was standing water galore.

The session was resumed some 17 minutes later, and all drivers scrambled out onto the sodden circuit. Of the ten left in this session, just Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg took the huge gamble of running intermediate tyres, while the other eights opted for the use of the full wets.

Many thought this a risky, if not outright stupid, decision.

Although Adrian Sutil’s Force India predictably and brilliantly headed the timesheets early on in the session, by its close the track had started to dry and the decision of Webber and Rosberg to run on the intermediate tyres started to pay dividends.

Webber duly stormed to his second career pole with a great lap of 1:49.327, some 1.3s clear of Rosberg in second place. It was a brilliant tactical decision by the pair, who have typically always performed well at Sepang.

The last time Webber started from pole (Germany 2009), he had a Brawn GP car alongside him, nearly ran it into the wall off the start and he won the race. The similarity to this weekend could not be more apparent!

Can Webber make amends for his atrocious and embarrassing Australian GP just a week ago? Or will we see some great recovery drives from the McLarens and Ferraris? Will we see Force India spoil the party? It’ll be 56 very long laps at Sepang tomorrow, and I simply can’t wait!

2010 Malaysian GP Qualifying Times:

Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:51.886 1:48.210 1:49.327
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:52.560
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:47.632
4. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:49.479
5. Nico Hülkenberg Williams 1:49.664
6. Robert Kubica Renault 1:46.283
7. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:50.301
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:52.239
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:48.467
10. Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India 1:49.922
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:47.952
12. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber 1:47.153
13. Sébastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:48.945
14. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:48.655
15. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:52.875 1:52.270
16. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:52.398 1:52.520
17. Jenson Button McLaren 1:52.211 no time
18. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:52.884
19. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:53.044
20. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:53.050
21. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:53.283
22. Karun Chandhok HRT 1:56.299
23. Bruno Senna HRT 1:57.269
24. Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 1:59.977

[Image from GP Update]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.