Hamilton lays down blistering lap in Malaysia for pole, Rosberg salvages P2 at last moment; Verstappen P3 for Red Bull
Lewis Hamilton responded to the loss of his championship points lead two weeks ago in Singapore with a blindingly fast lap for pole at the newly re-surfaced Sepang circuit in Malaysia. Hamilton was the only driver to break into the the 1:32s with a stunning 1:32.850, over half a second ahead of his teammate and closest pursuer, Nico Rosberg. That puts Hamilton in prime position to get back on the front foot in tomorrow’s race and try to overhaul Rosberg one again for the Driver’s Championship lead after a string of excellent post-summer break results from his German archival . To his credit, however, Rosberg was able to vault himself up to P2 from deep in the pack with a solid run after the checkered flag had fallen in Q3, ensuring the first-ever Mercedes’ team front row lockout in Malaysia. Victory could come down to the start of the race for both drivers and lately Hamilton has had crucial difficulties getting away cleanly when the lights go out, costing him valuable finishing spots and championship points.
The two Red Bulls proved once again that they are Mercedes’ nearest competitors this year, continuing to show marked improvement from the beginning of the season and rewarding the big team’s decision to promote wunderkind Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso, their B-squad. Verstappen showed outstanding pace yet again, with the now 19-year-old taking P3 and his more senior teammate Daniel Ricciardo slotting into P4. So once again Ferrari find their aspirations impeded by Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel only good enough for P5 and Kimi Raikkonen P6. The fabled Sucderia has got to be praying for rain to shake up the field come Sunday but in truth that could help Red Bull’s supremely balanced RB12 chassis more than Ferrari’s faltering SF-16H.
Force India continued their strong showings of late and saw Sergio Perez grab P7 and Nico Hulkenberg fast enough for P8. Jenson Button was impressive for a man who is not going to race in F1 next year, putting up a P9 time in his McLaren. And Felipe Massa came home P10 in his Williams. His teammate Valtteri Bottas was only good enough for P11, however, and the team desperately need a strong result tomorrow after scoring zero points at the last race in Singapore.
Top 10 qualifiers in Malaysia:
|3||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:35.443||1:33.775||1:33.420||15|
|4||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:35.079||1:33.888||1:33.467||12|
|7||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:35.068||1:34.538||1:34.319||17|
|8||27||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:34.827||1:34.441||1:34.489||15|
Tomorrow’s race airs live at the ungodly hour of 3AM Eastern here in the States on NBC Sports Network. Either brew a lot of coffee or set your DVR and hope to see you then!