Lewis Hamilton will start the last ever Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position after beating Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by .04 of a second in qualifying. The Mercedes driver pulled it out on his final run in Q3 to take what could be a curial pole in his hopes of a fourth world title.
Hamilton’s championship rival Sebastian Vettel failed to qualify and will start the race last because of an engine failure at the start of Q1. Ferrari had fitted his car with a new engine to his car after a problem in final practice, however, a turbo issue meant he couldn’t set a lap time.
Hamilton said “This is the best crowd I have ever seen here. We had no idea what was going to happen today. I’m sorry for what happened to Sebastian and it is a real surprise to be up here with these guys. I’m very grateful. The car felt good.”
Raikkonen added “Obviously when you get that close it is disappointing. Let’s see what we can do. If you make a good start you will benefit quite a bit from it. We will try to make sure we do the first two corners well and go from there.”
Ferrari had looked in a strong position this weekend and Vettel needed a strong weekend as he hoped to close his defect to Hamilton in the championship following his retirement in Singapore. However, Ferrari opted not to change the turbo as that would have triggered an automatic ten-place grid penalty.
Vettel told Sky Sports “For sure, it’s not ideal, it’s not what we want, especially on a day where you feel that you’ve got it in you, you’ve got it in the car but we won’t be able to prove that. It’s a pretty bad day.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen out-qualified team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, with the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in fifth. Verstappen managed to close up to Hamilton to within half a second. The Dutchman could prove a threat to Hamilton should the conditions change for the race.
Mercedes decided to spilt the strategies on the cars, following the disappointing performance in practice, but despite him having the newer aero package.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon out-qualified the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne for sixth and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg ahead of his former team-mate Sergio Perez, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso tenth. It was a good qualifying for Ocon and Vandoorne who out-qualified their more experienced team-mates.
It was another disappointing afternoon for Williams, once again failing to make it into Q3 with Felipe Massa missing out by a few thousandths of a second. His team-mate Lance Stroll was thirteenth fastest, with the Renault of Jolyon Palmer in between them.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly will start his first Grand Prix from fifteenth, however impressed because he was a lot closer to Sainz than the man he replaced Danill Kvyat.
Also having a tough afternoon was Haas, both cars failed to get out of Q1 and only managing to be ahead of the Sauber’s.