- BOTTAS – Hit with 3-place penalty for blocking Ricciardo
- VETTEL – Believes he could have been on pole
- MCLAREN – Risky strategy fails to pay off
- HAMILTON – Equals Jim Clark’s British record
Valtteri Bottas has been hit with a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Finn suffered a five place drop in Melbourne for a gearbox change, but this penalty appears to have been self-induced.
“We raced each other a lot in junior categories and I thought we had quite a lot of respect for each other, but it’s a bit ridiculous how many times he’s done it now. I’ll go and have a word to him.” fumed an unusally angry Ricciardo.
The Australian’s World Champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel was left to rue what might have been after Red Bull didn’t give him enough time to make a final flying lap, which the German believes would have been enough to demote Lewis Hamilton from pole.
“I knew after the first lap there was more to gain.” smiled Vettel, back on track after a disappointing weekend in Australia.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t finish the second lap…but we split the Mercedes so that was good.”
Polesitter Hamilton claimed his 33rd pole position in the torrential Sepang rain, equalling Jim Clark’s longstanding British record that has stood ever since the Scotsman was killed in a tragic F2 crash at Hockenheim in 1968. Hamilton took full advantage of the edge his equipment gave him and beat Vettel by 0.055 seconds, though he remains wary of the threat posed by the relentless German.
“These guys [Vettel] are definitely a bit too close, so happy to be here.” he summed up in Parc Ferme.
There was little to be happy about down at McLaren though, as the team muddled through a confused qualifying strategy that saw Kevin Magnussen spin, Jenson Button all at sea and the cars lucky to be starting 8th and 10th tomorrow.
Button, widely recognised as ‘the man’ when it comes to wet conditions and making tyre choices in changeable conditions, reacted to information from the pitwall that the rain during Q3 would ease and stayed out on intermediate tyres. That never happened, and the Briton ended up 10th but refusing to blame the team. Magnussen meanwhile looked a little more comfortable than his World Champion team-mate, but span during Q2 and damaged his diffuser which impacted his pace in Q3. Nevertheless, the MP4/29 was too far off the pace for him to hope for better than 8th anyway.
The race begins at 09:00 GMT tomorrow morning.