McLaren's Hamilton takes pole position in Malaysia
British driver Lewis Hamilton dominated a thrilling qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand-Prix on Saturday, seizing his second consecutive pole position since the start of the Formula One season.
AFP - Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren on pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, as the team locked up the front row of the starting grid for the second race in a row.
The Briton clocked one minute 36.219 seconds in the third round of qualifying to follow up his pole position in Australia last week and will line up alongside Melbourne winner Jenson Button, who finished 0.149 seconds behind.
“It’s been a good weekend so far. It’s been a tough day for all of us with the temperature and weather changes,” Hamilton told reporters at a humid Sepang Circuit.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and it’s very intense and probably the most exciting part of the weekend. But speaking for myself, I really enjoy it.”
Michael Schumacher was third fastest in his Mercedes with Red Bull’s Mark Webber completing the second row of the grid in fourth.
World champion Sebastian Vettel finished sixth but gets promoted one place above Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, who finished ahead of the German but loses five places on the grid for changing his gearbox this weekend.
Displaying the lightning pace his car had shown through Friday practice, Hamilton blazed out his fastest lap early in the final round of qualifying and one by one his challengers tried but failed to beat the 2008 world champion’s time.
“I think the first lap was quite good,” he said.
“On the first corner, I had a small oversteer moment but it didn’t cost me any time. The rest of the lap seemed to come together quite well. I pushed a little bit too much in the last corner, but was able to minimise the amount that I lost.”
The Briton last enjoyed two poles in a row in 2009 - in Italy and Singapore - and it will be the first time since 2007 that McLaren have taken the top two spots in qualifying in consecutive races.
“Qualifying has been pretty good to me in the last two races and I can’t complain too much. It’s good for us as a team to be on the front row again,” Button said.
“Lewis did a great lap at the start of Q3 and we edged closer but we couldn’t quite get there.”
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said both cars went out with a similar set-up and was full of praise for his drivers.
“Lewis did a great first lap, although he locked up into that first corner so he probably could have found about another tenth but he wasn’t going to go out and take any risks,” he said.
“The time he set there was probably, he thought, going to be good enough to be pole so he just took it easy and they both did a great job.”
With Raikkonen’s demotion to 10th, team mate Romain Grosjean backed up his third-place qualification in Australia with sixth, but Ferrari’s woes continued for the second race in succession.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso did well to make the final round of qualifying to start in eighth behind Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes, but Felipe Massa failed to make it out of Q2 and will start in 12th.
Schumacher was delighted with his performance and the seven-times world champion felt he had got the most out of his car.
“We are third here and if you look who is behind us and how close everything is going, we can be more than happy with what we achieved and look forward to tomorrow,” the German said.
Vettel is down in fifth place but he is the only driver near the front of the field who will start the race on hard tyres, offering the chance of a longer run before the first round of pit stops.
“There’s not much strategy behind it to be honest, I was struggling on the soft tyres and thought I had a better car on the hard tyres,” the German admitted.
“That’s why I made the call and I think maybe we could have gone a tenth or tenth-and-a-half (of a second) quicker also on the soft tyre but then we went significantly faster on the hard tyre.
“Whether that is an advantage tomorrow...we’ll see.”
Ferrari have spent the first two races of the season in damage-limitation mode and Alonso, who finished fifth in Melbourne, was happy with his overall performance in a sluggish car.
“It was good. Obviously it was tough with the conditions we have now and we are not competitive,” the Spaniard said.
“In Q3 we did one lap as we knew it was not possible to compete with the guys in front so ninth is okay. With Kimi’s penalty it will become eighth, so at the end of the day it is the best result possible.