Lewis Hamilton took pole position in a delayed wet qualifying session ahead of tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix, beating Red Bull’s reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel to the top spot by 0.055 seconds.
A torrential downpour hit the Sepang circuit around an hour before qualifying was set to start, delaying Q1 by forty five minutes before the drivers could take to a very sodden track. McLaren surprised everyone by opting for wet tyres while the rest of the field went for intermediates; they had chosen badly and were forced to pit for inters, making it through to Q2 by the skin of their teeth. The bizarre choices continued in the final session when Jenson Button was sent out on intermediates with rain continuing to fall – McLaren set it in their belief that the rain would ease but it never did and the Englishman was left floundering in 10th.
While McLaren squandered their chances, Mercedes and Red Bull made hay and Hamilton and Rosberg headed all three sessions between them with Ricciardo and Vettel challenging close behind. When it came to Q3 all the top runners opted to continue circulating with the unpredictable conditions making forecasting difficult, but Red Bull ran things close when they failed to give Sebastian Vettel enough time to complete his final lap, the German crossing the line a split second after the chequered flag had already waved. Fernando Alonso crept ahead of Riccardo for 4th after surviving a clash with the over-optimistic Daniil Kvyat during Q2, while Kimi Raikkonen beat the metronomic Nico Hulkenberg into 7th. Kevin Magnussen slid off the track in Q2 but managed to out-qualify Jean Eric Vergne for 8th place, ahead of the consigned Button.
Williams saw their hopes blown by a similarly risky strategy to McLaren in Q2, sending Valterri Bottas out on inters on a wet track and the Finn couldn’t make it work where compatriot Kimi Raikkonen could; Felipe Massa fared no better and ended the day in 13th.
Q1 was red flagged to a halt after a crash involving Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, but the Swede thankfully walked away unharmed.
More to follow.
CLASSIFICATION – QUALIFYING – 2014 Malaysian GP