Lewis Hamilton has survived a rain-disrupted qualifying session at the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix, narrowly edging out Sebastian Vettel in the final phase to claim the thirty-third pole position of his career, equalling the tally of Jim Clark and Alain Prost.
Nico Rosberg qualified third-fastest, while a collision between Fernando Alonso (who qualified fourth-fastest) and Daniil Kvyat in Q2 will be investigated by the FIA Stewards.
A huge downpour arrived at the Sepang International Circuit exactly one hour before qualifying was due to start, and the conditions worsened as the top of the hour approached, leaving officials with no choice but to delay the start of Q1.
The delay last almost an hour, before conditions improved enough for the session to get underway, but the still-damp track made conditions – and the art of picking whether to run Intermediate or Wet tyre compounds – tricky for the entire field.
Marcus Ericsson found this out to his peril in the dying seconds of Q1, as his Caterham had a mild tank-slapper that pitched him towards the barriers on the outside of Turn 3. The contact deranged his front suspension and he was pitched back into the middle of the track, although mercifully avoided being collected by another unsighted driver.
The red flags were thrown, ensuring that Adrian Sutil’s prospects of sneaking into the second phase of the session were finished. Also joining he and Ericsson on the sidelines were Pastor Maldonado, Kamui Kobayashi and the Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.
Vettel was lucky to survive the period, having been called into the pits to have his power unit reset after the team’s telemetry indicated a problem with his Red Bull RB10.
The marshals were quick to bring normal service with Q2 getting underway smartly, although the rain started to fall once more. The biggest incident came when Daniil Kvyat attempted to pass Fernando Alonso at Turn 9. The slower Alonso had approached the corner with a very wide line, and perhaps thinking that the Spaniard was giving him room, the rookie Kvyat slid up the inside, leading to contact between the two that pitched Alonso into the air, breaking the Ferrari’s front left suspension.
The session was halted once again for the debris to be mopped up, and Ferrari was able to work miracles on Alonso’s car to get the damaged wishbone repaired and have him up and running before the end of Q2 – he delivered a lap time good enough to get him into Q3, but Kvyat joined the likes of Esteban Gutiérrez, Sergio Pérez, Romain Grosjean and both Williams drivers in failing to qualify inside the top ten.
As the rain continued to fall, the tyre choice gamble continued to prevail, although the sensible move appeared to be the Full Wet tyre compound. McLaren took a risk with Intermediates for both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen – a decision that was quickly reversed as they both returned to the pits.
Hamilton’s pole-winning lap was almost usurped by Vettel, who revelled on the damp track surface which allowed his Renault engine’s power deficit to be somewhat negated. Vettel might have been able to challenge Hamilton one last time, but mistimed his approach to the start/finish line and failed to commence another lap before the chequered flag was unfurled.
Rosberg managed to vault ahead of Alonso to snatch third place, while Daniel Ricciardo was fifth-fastest in the second Red Bull, sandwiched by the sister Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen, who was outqualified by Alonso despite proving to be quicker in the earlier dry-weather practice runs.
Nico Hülkenberg again impressed with a Q3 outing for Force India, lining up ahead of Kevin Magnussen – who survived a late slide into the Turn 15 gravel – Jean-Éric Vergne and Jenson Button.
2014 Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Results Results:
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||1:59.431||22|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:59.486||+ 0.055||20|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||2:00.050||+ 0.619||23|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||2:00.175||+ 0.744||22|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||2:00.541||+ 1.110||20|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||2:01.218||+ 1.787||21|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||2:01.712||+ 2.281||23|
|8.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||2:02.213||+ 2.782||20|
|9.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||2:03.078||+ 3.647||23|
|10.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||2:04.053||+ 4.622||22|
|11.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||2:02.351||+ 3.310||16|
|12.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||2:02.369||+ 3.328||16|
|13.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||2:02.460||+ 3.419||16|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||2:02.511||+ 3.470||15|
|15.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||2:02.756||+ 3.715||17|
|16.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||2:02.885||+ 3.844||17|
|Q2 Cut-Off: 2:01.689||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|17.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||2:02.074||+ 4.891||8|
|18.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||2:02.131||+ 4.948||8|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||2:02.702||+ 5.519||7|
|20.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||2:03.595||+ 6.412||8|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||2:04.388||+ 7.205||8|
|22.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||2:04.407||+ 7.224||7|
* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:59.041 by Lewis Hamilton
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:57.183 by Nico Rosberg
Images via FOM and Sutton Images