Hamilton grabs pole in wet Malaysian qualifying
Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, staying calm on a wet Sepang Circuit. Sebastian Vettel came close towards the end of the session and splits both Mercedes on tomorrow's starting grid.
Max Verstappen and Roberto Marhi were the first to come out on track, about a minute after the session got started. With reports of showers building up over the circuit and posing a threat for the later part of qualifying, many more drivers follow up to set an early time.
Most drivers appear to have chosen for the medium tyre for their first laps while others, including both Toro Rosso's are on the hards.
Meanwhile, reports from Marussia say that Will Stevens is unlikely to compete in qualifying today due to an oil pressure problem.
Around halfway into the session, Hamilton has taken the lead with a 1:39.269, a tenth quicker than his teammate and another half a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The Mercedes did set their times on the medium while Vettel did so on the hard Pirelli compound.
Bottas, Raikkonen, Sainz and Massa similarly opted for the hard tyres and ended up 4th to 7th fastest, ahead of the usual moment when everybody dove into the pits, either to prepare Q2 or another run in the case of uncertainty to progress through Q2.
The times on the first runs are surprisingly close though, with Hulkenberg in 9th just 6 tenths faster than Button who is 18th after his first few runs.
As for the dropouts, Sainz quickly rectified that situation by going out on the softs and recording exactly the same time as Sebastian Vettel did earlier, slotting into 4th and secure of a place in Q2.
As the sky turns ever darker and lightning is seen alongside the track, more cars come out of the pits. Marcus Ericsson soon also secured his spot in Q2, for the first time in his F1 career. Grosjean similarly improved to 6th a few moment later, leaving Nasr eliminated, along with Button and Alonso. Roberto Merhi did set a time but will have to rely on the stewards to be able to compete in the race as his time is 4 tenths out of the 107% range. Marussia's Will Stevens didn't do any laps.
At the start of Q2, lots of drivers were queuing up to get out on track, wary of the showers that are bound to disrupt qualifying. Sebastian Vettel was the first man out, followed by Daniel Ricciardo. Nico Rosberg followes suit while behind them, Ericsson holds up Raikkonen and Hamilton.
At the next laps, Hamilton seized his opportunity and passed both through turn 1. It was a bit too late however, as rain started falling halfway through that lap. Still, the Brit somehow managed to make it into Q1, setting a laptime quicker than Raikkonen who crossed the finish line with the 11th best time, facing the elimination, along with Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Perez and Sainz.
As rain intensified, it was clear Q2 was done. Rosberg set the fastest time in that part, ahead of Vettel, Bottas, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Massa, Verstappen, Hamilton, Kvyat and Ericsson.
Following half an hour delay, Q3 got underway on a wet track, even though rain had stopped. Bottas and Massa lined up in front on the full wets while the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers chose the intermediates.
Hamilton though punched through on his first flyer and immediately set the benchmark in the wet, going round Sepang International Circuit in 1:49.834 on intermediate tyres. Rosberg was second fastest, a second off of Hamilton, ahead of Vettel while Max Verstappen impressed to go 4th fastest on his first attempt. Marcus Ericsson on the other hand recorded a time more then 5 seconds off of any other runner at that point.
Both Williams drivers soon realised they were on the slower tyres and returned to the pits for a pitstop to change to intermediates.
2 seconds from the end of the session, Rosberg decided to go for a slow lap before another flyer. Hamilton though came up from behind, topping his best in sector one. Rosberg however didn't bother to get out of the way, triggering Hamilton to slow down as well after passing his team mate, positioning him ideally to start his final flyer.
Vettel meanwhile recorded a better lap and came to within 0.074s of Hamilton's best. Hamilton failed to improve any further due to traffic while Rosberg did improve, but not enough to get to the front row of the grid.Times to follow