Lewis Hamilton just edged out Sebastian Vettel to take pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a rain-affected qualifying session.
The start of Q3 was delayed by 35 minutes due to a heavy downpour during Q2, with a number of drivers aborting their first runs on full wet tyres to put on intermediates. Hamilton set a time of 1:49.834 on his first flying lap, putting himself a massive 1.2s clear of team-mate Nico Rosberg and the rest of the field.
With the track improving, Vettel so nearly beat Hamilton with his final attempt, missing out on pole position by just 0.074s as he split the two Mercedes, beating Nico Rosberg by 0.3s as Hamilton failed to improve. However, the Briton’s impressive first lap proved sufficient to give him the 40th pole position of his career.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull ahead of team-mate Daniil Kvyat, but both cars were over 1.7s slower than Hamilton to highlight the advantage enjoyed by the top three. There was an impressive wet weather performance from Max Verstappen as he qualified in sixth place directly behind the two Red Bulls, with Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas and Marcus Ericsson completing the top ten.
Q2 saw a queue of cars waiting to get out on track as the rain threatened, and only one flying lap was possible before a heavy downpour hit the circuit. Hamilton only made it through in eighth place, but Kimi Raikkonen was caught out in 11th after being held up by Ericsson at the final corner.
Following a period at the start of the second laps where drivers were racing each other in an attempt to post a time, Pastor Maldonado, the two Force Indias and Carlos Sainz Jr also failed to make it in to the final part of qualifying.
McLaren once again failed to make it in to Q2 as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were 0.6s away from making it through. However, Button’s pace relative to the fastest Q1 time - 2.4s slower than Hamilton - displayed an improvement of half a second since Australia.
Also dropping out in Q1 were both Manor cars, with Will Stevens failing to run and Roberto Merhi 0.4s outside the 107% time as Mercedes ran the medium compound in the first part of qualifying. Felipe Nasr was the last driver to miss out in 16th place as he failed to get a clean lap together and finished 0.3s shy of Sergio Perez.
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