Lewis Hamilton has registered the fastest ever lap of the Sepang circuit on his way to pole position at the Malaysian GP, four tenths ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg.
The world champion looked unbeatable all day as he eventually set a 1:32.850 on his first attempt in Q3, while it took Rosberg two attempts to get to the front row with a moment in the last corner ruining his chances of pole.
Max Verstappen qualified third as Red Bull seemed to find their feet on Saturday. The Dutchman was in a front row position for most of Q3 before being pipped by Rosberg and not being able to improve on his last run. He will be pleased however as he out-qualified team mate Daniel Ricciardo who managed 4th place in an all-Red Bull second row, six tenths off the pole sitter.
Ferrari trailed their championship rivals on the third row, Kimi Raikkonen beating Sebastian Vettel to fourth on the grid by one tenth of a second. The Italian team were expecting to be able to beat Red Bull on a single lap but now face an uphill challenge in the race as they could barely match the former world champions’ race pace.
Force India took an impressive fourth row lock-out. Sergio Perez lining up ahead of Nico Hulkenberg as both drivers beat their Williams championship rivals, with Felipe Massa in 10th and Valtteri Bottas just missing out on Q3 in 11th, the Finn getting out-qualified by his senior team mate for only the third time this season.
Jenson Button put in two stellar laps in Q2 and Q3 to line up ninth, the McLaren surprisingly beating Williams on the power-sensitive Sepang circuit. His team mate Fernando Alonso did one lap in Q1 to qualify within the 107% time and abandoned the session as he will start last with a 45-place grid penalty for taking on new parts. The Spaniard looking racy with a many new sets of tyres in his pocket.
Haas seemed somewhat on top of their morning issues with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez lining up 12th and 13th respectively. Behind them were Kevin Magnussen in the Renault and the Toro Rosso pair in 15th and 16th. Daniil Kvyat also overcoming his morning woes to out-qualify his team mate by 0.005s.
The Sauber pair again failed to reach Q2 with Marcus Ericsson heading Felipe Nasr in 17th and 18th ahead of Jolyon Palmer who will be very disappointed as his pace showed more promise all weekend. The rookie lost his car on the final corner and it cost him direly.
The Manors brought up the rear with Esteban Ocon ahead of Pascal Wehrlein by one tenth. The German having suffered from engine issues in the morning.
Image via Twitter – Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team