'We had no idea how it was going to go' - Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Malaysian Grand Prix
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton took a surprise pole position for the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix, with even the driver admitting that he'd had no idea which way things would go in Saturday's qualifying session.

Mercedes had struggled in free practice on Friday after encountering 'fundamental' problems with a new package of updates on the car this weekend.

Although Hamilton looked stronger in the final Saturday morning session, he was still over six tenths off the two Ferraris. It certainly hadn't been looking promising when it came to qualifying itself.

"We had no idea how it was going to go today," Hamilton agreed. "It's a real surprise to be up here with these guys, but I'm really grateful.

"Somehow we turned it around. The engineers did such a great job yesterday. The car felt great for both Valtteri and I."

Hamilton's task was made slightly easier by the absence of Sebastian Vettel from the fray. The Ferrari suffered a loss of drive at the start of Q1 and was unable to set a time. That means Vettel will start from the back of the grid for the race on Sunday.

"I'm sorry for whatever happened with Sebastian," said Hamilton. "Obviously he was very quick in free practice."

Not that the session had been problem-free for Hamilton, either. He complained over the team radio about a battery power problem as he headed out for his crucial Q3 run.

“It was not as straightforward as some of the qualifying sessions go," he said. "We had some problems with engine de-rating.

"When you're accelerating, the battery power's kicking in and then it dies. It just switches off so you lose a lot of performance with that. It was scattered so much over the lap and it was really off-putting.

“I didn't know if there was something wrong, if I was on the wrong setting," he added. "It made it very, very tricky to put the laps together. But fortunately for the last two laps I think it was okay."

With Hamilton's car under parc fermé conditions, that must worry the team looking ahead to Sunday's race.

"Obviously we're going to have a tough battle," Hamilton was quick to admit. "Particularly the Red Bulls, they had really great long run pace yesterday and I think today [as well.]

"I'm hoping that our car has moved in the right direction for also the race run, but we'll see tomorrow.

"It's a long, long run down to turn 1 so lots can happen!"
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