Lewis Hamilton achieved his second successive pole position in the new era of Formula 1 at Sepang, following a rain-delayed qualifying session.
The heavy rain caused a 50-minute delay to the action. Once Q1 was underway, the call on using the right wet weather tyres was crucial in getting track position and speed.
Hamilton’s first flying lap of one minute, 59.431 seconds was respectable enough to secure pole position.
By securing pole, Lewis Hamilton has now equalled Jim Clark’s record of 33 pole positions in Formula 1. An impressive achievement.
His margin over the four-time world champion was small though, just 55 thousandths of a second faster than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
Nico Rosberg showed disappointing pace on his first flying lap, ending up only fourth fastest, but with track conditions a little worse in the closing stages, he did enough to improve to third.
Fernando Alonso was the driver he bumped down to fourth, although the Spaniard was fortunate to make Q3 after surviving a collision with Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat at Turn 9 during Q2.
The Spaniard suffered front-left suspension damage in the clash, which happened when he was struggling back to the pits on the intermediate tyre while most were on full wets.
The Russian had closed rapidly on Alonso and dived to the inside of the slow left-hander, but Alonso turned in and Kvyat slid into him.
That race incident will be investigated by stewards after the session.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was the only driver other than Hamilton to head the times during Q3, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg seventh.
Behind him was Kevin Magnussen, who started Q3 on intermediates but pitted to change to wets, salvaging eighth position while team-mate Jenson Button stuck with the inferior tyre and ended up slowest in tenth.
Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne was the other driver to reach the top ten shootout, ending up ninth.
Williams pairing Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were the big-name casualties during Q2.
With everyone setting their times using wet Pirellis during the middle segment of the session, the Williams FW36 again struggled for traction in the low-grip conditions. And the pair ended up P13 and P14 respectively.
Vergne prevailed in a tense battle for the final Q3 slot, bumping his Toro Rosso team-mate Kvyat from the position in the final seconds of the session.
Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez ended up P12 ahead of the Williams duo, with Lotus driver Romain Grosjean suffering a late spin and unable to do better than P16 after making Q2 for the first time this year.
Pastor Maldonado was unable to join his Lotus team-mate in the second phase of qualifying, ending up the fastest of those to miss the Q2 cut 0.385 seconds slower than Vergne.
After the delayed start, every team apart from McLaren opted to send their drivers out on intermediate rubber in wet conditions, with the majority of the order dictated by pace during the first half of the session.
Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, Marussia pairing Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton and the Caterhams of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson were the others to fall in Q1.
The session was brought to a premature close when Ericsson lost it on a wet kerb at the exit of Turn 3 after what the Swede described as a “silly mistake” and spun into the barrier, rebounding and coming to rest on the track.
Qualifying positions, Malaysian Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m59.431s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m59.486s
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2m00.050s
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2m00.175s
5. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 2m00.541s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2m01.218s
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 2m01.712s
8. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 2m02.213s
9. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault 2m03.078s
10. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2m04.053s
11. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 2m02.351s
12. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 2m02.369s
13. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 2m02.460s
14. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 2m02.511s
15. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 2m02.885s
16. Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 2m02.074s
17. Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 2m02.131s
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 2m02.756s*
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 2m02.702s
20. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 2m03.595s
21. Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 2m04.388s
22. Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 2m04.407s
107 per cent time: 2m05.385s
*Five-place grid penalty for impending Kimi Raikkonen