Hamilton grabs 70th career pole while Vettel forced to withdraw

Lewis Hamilton scored his 70th career pole position with an important qualifying session at Sepang, as his championship rival Sebastian Vettel was forced to withdraw with Ferrari power issue.

It was a solid qualifying result from Hamilton as Mercedes was struggling to get its upgraded Formula 1 car working properly throughout the free practice sessions, but turned things around just in time for Hamilton to get the job done in qualifying.

Hamilton’s first flying lap in Q3 proved just enough in the end, as Kimi Raikkonen – who was fastest of all in Q2 – fell short by just 0.045 seconds after locking up at the final corner.

The other Silver Arrows of Valtteri Bottas was not so comfortable as Hamilton in qualifying, experiencing trouble in particularly through the second sector. Bottas ended up only fifth fastest, behind both Red Bulls.

Max Verstappen split Raikkonen and Hamilton in Q2, but fell back in Q3, ending up third fastest, almost half a second away from pole. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was only half a tenth further back in fourth.

Vettel should have been among the fight for pole, having set the pace in Friday’s practice session, but his Ferrari suffered an engine problem in final practice, so the team worked through the break between sessions to change his engine.

Vettel made it out for the start of Q1, but reported a loss of drive, which he described as feeling “like I have no turbo”, that he couldn’t fix with the switch changes suggested by his team.

Vettel was forced back to the pits without setting a time and couldn’t return to the track, leaving him last in the classification.

Esteban Ocon took advantage of Vettel’s absence to post the sixth fastest time for Force India, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren-Honda, Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault, Force India team-mate Sergio Perez, and the McLaren-Honda of Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa and Jolyon Palmer were both knocked out of the top ten in the final moments of Q2, as Perez, Vandoorne and Alonso all leaped ahead with quicker lap times.

Massa ended up an agonising 0.024 seconds away from making the cut in P11, ahead of Palmer, Williams team-mate Lance Stroll – who complained of a bad out-lap compromising his second run – and the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly.

Neither Toro Rosso driver found time on their second Q2 runs, and Gasly ended up qualifying just 0.156 seconds behind Sainz for his Formula 1 debut, though by lapping slower than he managed in Q1.

Haas team-mates Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen failed to make it through to Q2, by more than three tenths of a second, as faster rivals made late improvements and knocked them into the drop zone.

Pascal Wehrlein got his Sauber to within half a tenth of a second of beating Magnussen to 17th place on the grid.

Marcus Ericsson was almost half a second slower for Sauber and slowest of those to set a time.

Such a contrast between the championship contenders. Lewis Hamilton achieved a new lap record at Sepang and scoring his 70th pole position in Formula 1. While Sebastian Vettel was unable to compete due to engine issues. Hopefully the Ferrari driver can fight back in the sake of the title.

Qualifying standings for the Malaysian Grand Prix:
1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m30.076s
2    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m30.121s
3    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m30.541s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m30.595s
5    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m30.758s
6    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m31.478s
7    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m31.582s
8    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m31.607s
9    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m31.658s
10    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m31.704s
11    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m32.034s
12    Jolyon Palmer    Renault    1m32.100s
13    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m32.307s
14    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m32.402s
15    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m32.558s
16    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m33.308s
17    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m33.434s
18    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m33.483s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m33.970s
20    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    No time

5 thoughts to “Hamilton grabs 70th career pole while Vettel forced to withdraw”

  1. Championship contender Sebastian Vettel will start the Malaysian Grand Prix last after engine trouble. This is going to be a difficult fight back for Ferrari especially with Lewis Hamilton on pole position. Motorsport.com has the full story.

    Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 championship hopes suffered another major blow on Saturday when an engine problem left him at the back of the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    With Ferrari having proved to be so strong in practice, Vettel had gone into the qualifying day as a clear favourite for a top slot on the Sepang grid.

    But Vettel’s day turned quickly when a suspected electrical problem in final free practice cut his running short and forced a late engine change.

    Although Ferrari was able to fit Vettel’s fourth and final power unit of the season ahead of qualifying, a fresh problem hit him during his first attempt at a lap in Q1.

    Vettel’s engine appeared to stutter as he said over the team radio that he suspected he had lost his turbo – but he was able to make it back to the pits.

    Mechanics began working on the car and, although it appeared at one point he was going to head back out on track to try to get through the session, in the end the team ran out of time.

    On a weekend when Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes appeared to be on the back foot, Vettel now faces an uphill task to not lose further ground to his title rival who is 28 points clear.

    “Obviously I lost power, just after sector one, and then limped back,” said Vettel. “We were planning [to go back out again] but obviously we have live telemetry on the car so as soon as the engine is running we see all the pressures and temperatures etc, and I guess something wasn’t there, we couldn’t fix it, so it made no sense to go back out.

    “We need to see now what was the problem, but we managed to do the change successfully in time. We thought we would be late, but we made it, so the guys did a miracle today. They have worked like crazy today. They fixed it up so quickly. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get out and get it where it belongs from them.

    “It’s not ideal, not what you want, especially on a day where you feel you’ve got it in you, you’ve got it in the car, but unfortunately we won’t be able to prove that.

    “Tomorrow should be a little more exciting then. It’s a shame, because the car is quick and I think today we could have got pole, or have a word at least.

    “You never know, and [the race] is fairly straightforward – we’ve saved some tyres, which helps us. For sure the starting position doesn’t help, but you never know what can happen tomorrow. So I’m fairly open minded, focus on the race and not what it means for the points. Step by step.”

  2. Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    After struggling in practice, championship leader Lewis Hamilton delivered when it mattered on Saturday evening to take his fourth consecutive Malaysian pole position, the Mercedes driver fending off the challenge of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – by just 0.045s – and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

    However, there was bitter luck for Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel, who failed to set a time after early power unit problems on his Ferrari.

    Fifth in the final order went to Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, the Finn followed by the Force India of Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. Force India’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.

    As Hamilton set the early pace with 1m 31.605s on the soft Pirelli tyres, ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen and Ricciardo, there was a major shock in Q1 when Vettel, having had an engine change after his problems at the end of final practice, reported that he was limping home. It seemed that his turbocharger had gone awol, and though his crew had him apparently readied for a desperate last-moment run, it came to nothing. The title contender will thus start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.

    Other notable Q1 moments were rookie Pierre Gasly impressively in eighth place ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, and quicker too than his Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz…

    As Fernando Alonso just scraped into Q2 with 1m 33.049s, out of luck were the Haases of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen on 1m 33.308s and 1m 33.434s, and the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson on 1m 33.483s and 1m 33.970s.

    Bottas jumped up to the top on his second run in a close Q2 session, with 1m 30.803s to former pacesetter Raikkonen’s 1m 30.926s. The Finn didn’t do a second run, while Verstappen didn’t improve on his 1m 30.931s from his first outing. Hamilton did, cutting down to 1m 30.977s ahead of Ricciardo.

    Once again, Alonso scraped through, 24 hundredths ahead of Felipe Massa, who lapped his Williams in 1m 32.034s. Palmer also failed to make it, with 1m 32.180s, as did Williams’ Lance Stroll on 1m 32.307s, and the Toro Rossos. This time Sainz led Gasly, but only marginally, with 1m 32.402s to 1m 32.558s. A great effort from the young Frenchman.

    Could Raikkonen take his first pole since Monaco? Would Verstappen celebrate his 20th birthday in style, or could Hamilton find that extra time? Q3 was pregnant with possibilities, as they went into battle with Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez and Ocon, Hulkenberg and Vandoorne and Alonso.

    Hamilton wasn’t messing about, and slammed in a 1m 30.076s to displace Bottas from the top slot after the Finn had just got there with 1m 30.945s. Then Raikkonen moved up too, but not enough, with 1m 30.308s. Then Ricciardo and Verstappen jumped up to third and fourth with 1m 30.595s and 1m 30.634s apiece.

    Hamilton didn’t improve on his second run, but though Raikkonen did, 1m 30.121s wasn’t quite enough, though he stayed second. Verstappen improved to 1m 30.541s to displace Ricciardo, who didn’t, and Bottas’ 1m 30.758s left him fifth.

    Behind them, Ocon moved to sixth with 1m 31.478s ahead of Vandoorne on 1m 31.582s, Hulkenberg on 1m 31.607s, Perez on 1m 31.658s and Alonso on 1m 31.704s.

    With currently no penalties to take into account, the provisional grid lines up thus: Hamilton, Raikkonen; Verstappen, Ricciardo; Bottas, Ocon; Vandoorne, Hulkenberg; Perez, Alonso; Massa, Palmer; Stroll, Sainz; Gasly, Grosjean; Magnussen and Wehrlein; Ericsson and Vettel.

  3. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted he was left feeling very “surprised” following that Malaysian Grand Prix pole lap. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Formula 1 world championship leader Lewis Hamilton says he “surprised myself” with his Malaysian Grand Prix pole lap, as Mercedes turned the corner after a rough start at Sepang.

    Hamilton was only sixth in both Friday practice sessions, ending the day some 1.4s off the pace set by his title rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

    But while Hamilton’s pole bid on Saturday was helped by an engine issue ruling Vettel out of contention, he still had to prevail in a closely-fought duel with Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen – beating the Finn by just 0.045s.

    “We had such a difficult day yesterday, difficult to know where we stood,” Hamilton recalled. “I didn’t sleep very well, just like all my engineers, we didn’t know whether we would fix the issue or not.

    “Today we arrived and the car was much better, still it looked like the Ferraris were a bit ahead.

    “The [pole] lap was very well put together, very nice lap, I don’t really know where it came from, I surprised myself. So, it’s a surprise to be up here, but I am very grateful.”

    Hamilton had been close on pace with teammate Valtteri Bottas for much of the weekend, yet beat the other Mercedes man by almost seven tenths in Q3.

    Bottas stuck with Mercedes’ new-for-Malaysia aero updates despite team’s disastrous Friday showing, yet Hamilton reverted to the older specification overnight.

    “Before qualifying I thought about going back to new package, times [in FP3] were similar and Valtteri was happy,” Hamilton said.

    “I didn’t want a [performance] penalty, but there wasn’t enough time and there was a risk of changing the car again and maybe getting something wrong. That is why we ended up staying on it.

    “I was comfortable with it, and it provided a stepping stone in terms of set-up. Ultimately we were down on performance, but it didn’t make much difference.”

    Hamilton believes, on evidence of Saturday morning practice, that Mercedes is still lacking long-run pace compared to rivals.

    “In P3, we did a long-ish short run, only five laps. I think the car was much better position [than on Friday], but we were something like four or five tenths off the other guys.

    “We will see tomorrow if that is still the case. We made some changes into qualifying that should suit the car tomorrow so I am hopeful we will be there or thereabouts.”

  4. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo says podium is “up for grabs” even in a dry race at Sepang. Motorsport.com has the story.

    Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull doesn’t need rain to score a podium finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix, but thinks he can challenge for his second win of 2017 if it is wet on Sunday.

    Ricciardo qualified fourth at Sepang on Saturday, and was frustrated to be just 0.054s slower than teammate Max Verstappen.

    “Realistically, in the dry we’re not in the fight [for pole], but in the wet we’d have expected to be,” said Ricciardo.

    “To be half a second off pole, we can’t really ask for more than that – especially as Lewis in a Mercedes around here is always pretty strong.

    “Obviously half a tenth from Max, it’s never nice, it’s been half a tenth a few too many times. I think generally, we got the most out of the car today.”

    Of his race chances, Ricciardo said: “I think the podium is there, up for grabs, because Vettel is down the back and Bottas hasn’t had… Well, Mercedes’ long run pace has been hard to read.

    “In the dry, the podium is still on, but in the wet, then you’re talking more about a win. I think we can make something happen and spray some more champagne.”

  5. Valtteri Bottas says he regrets sticking with the aerodynamic upgrade that Mercedes brought for the Malaysian Grand Prix, after qualifying almost seven tenths slower than teammate Lewis Hamilton at Sepang.

    Hamilton decided to ditch the new package – which includes a wider ‘nose cape’ just behind the front wing – ahead of today’s sessions, while Bottas opted to plough on and try to make it work having beaten Hamilton while using it in FP3.

    While Hamilton took pole position with a lap of 1m30.076s, Bottas could only manage a Q3 best of 1m30.758s.

    “It’s easy to say afterwards, but if I could do the qualifying again for sure I’d go for the other package,” Bottas told NBCSN.

    “For sure, we need to review everything. We need to see what are the actual differences. Obviously the gap in Q3 was huge. It’s difficult to say [for the race], we will see tomorrow.

    “We will look into everything to fully understand what’s going on with the car because it’s so much work sometimes to get it working right, and sometimes we get it working and sometimes not. I didn’t get it today.”

    When asked if he thought Mercedes might need to use him to cover Sebastian Vettel’s expected charge for Ferrari from the rear of the grid on Sunday, Bottas claimed he was more focused on what will be going on ahead of him.

    “Hopefully we have enough pace that we can focus ahead, and try to beat both of the Ferraris rather than just one,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

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