Lewis Hamilton secured his second consecutive pole position for Mercedes in what turned out to be a very difficult qualifying, run only on intermediate and full wet tyres. Sebastian Vettel got close but will start from second place, ahead of Rosberg and Alonso.
Qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix got underway 50 minutes late due to several rain delays. With more rain expected soon, lots of drivers were out immediately. As with the on-track performance, Mercedes are again ahead, having come out of their pitboxes more than 4 minutes ahead of the start of the session.
Most cars, including the Mercedes and Alonso are on the intermediates which soon proved to be the best choice. Although Hamilton was the first on track, it was Rosberg who set the best initial lap, going round in 1:57.189, one tenth ahead of his team mate. Ricciardo goes third fastest a minute later, ahead of Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Alonso.
Vettel slots in behind Alonso but is soon ordered to return to the pits due to an issue with the energy store. Others who were on the full wets decided to come in rapidly, changing to the inters in an attempt to get a competitive lap in before the next rain arrives.
Halfway into the session, Rosberg and Hamilton are still ahead, followed by Ricciardo, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Raikkonen, Perez, Grosjean and Vettel.
The latter returned on track in the closing stages as the team managed to resolve the power unit issues. The German managed to set the fourth fastest time. It came just in time as Marcus Ericsson went a bit too wide on a kerb and ended into the barriers 30 seconds from the end of the session. His Caterham stopped in the middle of the track with a broken front suspension and effectively ended running in FP1.
Two minutes into Q2, with again the same weather conditions as light rain continues to prevent the track from drying, Alonso collides with Kvyat. The Russian tried to overtake Alonso, taking a clean line. Unfortunately for him, it appeared like Alonso did not see it. The Spaniard turned into the corner as is normal but found the Toro Rosso there, breaking his own front left suspension.
The FIA decided to red flag the session while Alonso limped back to the pitlane. Kvyat got a new front wing and the Ferrari mechanics managed to repair the Ferrari F14 T within the next 5 minutes to get Alonso back out on track. With only the steering rod dislodged, the fix turned out to be fairly straightforward.
In Q2 the track is considerably more wet than in Q1, requiring full wets on every car. Hamilton immediately set the pace and improved further 4 minutes from the end, even though he wasn't really challenged by anyone. Vettel is second fastest, ahead of Ricciardo, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Raikkonen, Massa, Perez, Button.
Little more than three minutes from the end Hamilton shaves another 2 tenths off his time while Kevin Magnussen ends up into the gravel trap at the final corner. He is however able to return his car to the pits.
A late attempt by Vergne got him through to Q3, ousting his teammate Kvyat and eliminating Gutierrez, Massa, Perez, Bottas and Grosjean with him.
Q3 is somewhat of the same story as Q2. Magnussen for one attempted to go out on intermediates but soon found it was too wet, reverting to full wets when back in the pits. At the same time, Raikkonen is the first to start a lap on the full wet tyres and ends up with a 2:01.218. Hamilton is up next and nearly 2 seconds faster than the Ferrari driver.
Down the road are Alonso, Vettel and Ricciardo, with Vettel coming out on top, slotting into second place, ahead of Alonso, Rosberg, Ricciardo. Hulkenberg is 7th behind Raikkonen and Vergne goes into 8th.
4 minutes from the end, Button decided to go for intermediates whereas Raikkonen tells his engineer he needs new full wets as the current set's rear has worn badly.
In the closing stages, Vettel is just a few seconds short at the finish line to start another flying lap. Raikkonen completes his last lap 30 seconds later but fails to improve. In fact, nobody improved, except for Rosberg who moved up into third place, relegating Alonso to fourth.
All in all, it's perhaps an expected pole for Hamilton but Sebastian Vettel got very very close in the difficult conditions that somewhat hide the difference that is still there in pure engine power.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:57.202||1:59.041||1:59.431||22|
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:57.654||1:59.399||1:59.486||20|
|3||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||1:57.183||1:59.445||2:00.050||23|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:58.913||2:00.147||2:00.541||20|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:58.883||2:00.839||2:01.712||23|
|14||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||2:00.076||2:02.511||15|
|15||77||Valtteri Bottas (*)||Williams-Mercedes||1:59.709||2:02.756||17|
(*) A 3-place grid penalty for Bottas was handed after qualifying for blocking Daniel Ricciardo. Bottas therefore starts from 18th while Grosjean, Maldonado and Sutil move up one spot.