Lewis Hamilton has narrowly won pole position in a rain-interrupted qualifying session at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Englishman narrowly beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to top spot by 0.074 seconds, while Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was third-fastest.
The all-important qualifying session at Sepang started under heavy clouds, with the forecasted rain ultimately arriving a few minutes in Q2.
Not unexpectedly, the opening phase of qualifying saw both Manor Marussia and McLaren entries eliminated. Will Stevens wasn’t able to get his car fired up with a fuel system issue, while Roberto Merhi lapped outside the 107% cut-off. Despite neither driver managing to qualify for the race, both should be given the green light to start after managing to post practice session times within 107% of the ultimate pace.
The McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso locked out the ninth row of the grid, although both drivers were pleased to have closed the gap to those ahead of them in terms of one-lap pace. The pair finished three-tenths slower than Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, who failed to make the Q2 cut by 0.27 seconds.
With the rain threatening to hit the circuit any minute, the remaining fifteen runners were all queued up at pit exit to try and post a banker lap before the heavens opened. The cloudburst came just a few minutes in, and worst hit was Kimi Räikkönen, who was held up by Marcus Ericsson at the final corner and thus failed to make the shootout.
Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado, the Force India duo of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. were the other drivers to be knocked out of Q3 contention.
The final session was delayed thanks to the thunderstorm. Once the track was declared safe enough to run on, the top-ten drivers started on full Wet Pirelli tyres, switching to the Intermediate rubber as the track quickly began to dry. Hamilton hustled his Mercedes F1W06 to a 1:49.834 at his first attempt, which ultimately proved unbeatable – but only just.
Vettel was particularly impressive in his Ferrari SF15-T, managing to split the Mercedes duo thanks to a rapid first sector on his final flying lap, leaving Rosberg (who was fastest in the second phase of qualifying) a frustrated third.
The Red Bull Racing pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat showed the RB11’s improved form by qualifying fourth- and fifth-fastest respectively, while Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen claimed a sensational sixth-fastest.
The Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualified lower than the FW37’s ultimate pace would suggest, however it would appear that the cars were set up for dry conditions in anticipation of a precipitation-free race on Sunday. The pair claimed seventh- and ninth-fastest respectively.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson were eighth- and tenth-fastest, however Grosjean was docked two grid places for a pit lane infraction in Q2.
Sunday afternoon’s 56-lap Malaysian Grand Prix gets underway at 3:00pm local time (GMT +8).
|2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix – Qualifying Results|
|Pos||Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:49.834||13|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:49.908||+ 0.074||13|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:50.299||+ 0.465||13|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:51.541||+ 1.707||16|
|5.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:51.951||+ 2.117||16|
|6.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:51.981||+ 2.147||16|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:52.473||+ 2.639||17|
|8.||Romain Grosjean^||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes Ere Hybrid||1:52.981||+ 3.147||18|
|9.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:53.179||+ 3.345||14|
|10.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:53.261||+ 3.427||17|
|Pos||Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Laps|
|11.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:42.173||+ 2.796||7|
|12.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes Ere Hybrid||1:42.198||+ 2.821||11|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:43.023||+ 3.646||9|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:43.469||+ 4.092||11|
|15.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:43.701||+ 4.324||9|
|Pos||Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|16.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:41.308||+ 2.039||18|
|17.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:41.636||+ 2.367||13|
|18.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:41.746||+ 2.477||13|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|DNQ.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:46.677||+ 7.408||7|
|DNQ.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||no time||0|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:39.377 posted by Nico Rosberg.
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:39.269 posted by Lewis Hamilton.
^ Grosjean was issued a two-place grid penalty for a pit lane infraction, demoting him from P8 to P10.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team