The Malaysian Grand Prix grid has been topped 4 times by Lewis Hamilton, including the last two years. The stage was set in the tropical conditions of a southeast Asian evening.
The qualifying session began with dry, but very hot conditions, leading to a long, slow out lap being a necessity for the drivers, to ensure optimum heating of tyres. 10 years ago to the day, Alonso claimed Renault’s 50th grand prix pole. Today, he finished in last place for McLaren Honda, with little or no motivation to do better, after a 45 place grid penalty. Ahead of the Spaniard is Pascal Wehrlein. For the first time this season, he failed to beat his teammate, Esteban Ocon, who was in P20 ahead of Wehrlein. Ocon was in the wrong place at the wrong time for Jenson Button, and it was clear that Jenson showed frustration.
Button himself also took a spin into the back straight, but managed to stay on track. Jolyon Palmer once again struggled in qualifying, he complained persistently throughout FP3 and Qualifying about his Renault’s performance at high speeds, resulting in a P19 start for the Brit. With only seconds to go in Q1, it appeared that Sauber may escape elimination, but a flying Kevin Magnussen pushed Ericsson and Nasr into P17 and P18 respectively.
The second session saw a number of shocks, notably Kevin Magnussen, who has sometimes failed to get into Q2. However, rounding off the top 16 is Carlos Sainz, behind his teammate Daniil Kvyat in P15. Both Torro Rosso’s failing to significantly perform in qualifying.
Kevin Magnussen will start in 14th, beating his Renault team mate once again. The Haas’ finished in 12th and 13th, with Grosjean pipping Gutierrez to the bragging rights this time round. At the top end of the eliminated drivers, Williams’ Valteri Bottas failed to follow his teammate into Q3, and will start 11th in tomorrow’s race.
Qualifying culminated with a small amount of drizzle, but it didn’t affect the running in the final session.
Immediately, Max Verstappen seemed to assert his dominance, going fastest ahead of Ricciardo and Perez. Then, the Mercedes’ came round, with Lewis Hamilton going into first place, with a 1:33.046, and, after struggling, Rosberg could only manage fourth place. There was a mid session lull, after which Rosberg headed to try and beat his Mercedes counterpart. He was on track, just under a tenth of a second slower in sector one and two, but a mistake into the last corner resulted in second place, meaning Lewis Hamilton claims his third consecutive pole here in Sepang! Verstappen improved and put his Red Bull third, ahead of Ricciardo in fourth. Fifth was Sebastien Vettel, ahead of Kimi in sixth. The force India’s of Perez and Hulkenberg will start in 7th and 8th, followed by the McLaren of Jenson Button. 9th place was a good result, he will start his 300th grand prix tomorrow. In tenth was Felipe Massa.