The first part of a vital weekend in the F1 title race went to Lewis Hamilton as he clinched pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix that takes place on Sunday. He finished 0.414 seconds ahead of his Mercedes team-mate as he bids to close the gap at the top of the table.
Hamilton was in top form during qualifying and he seems to be back to his best and that’s always worrying news for any of his opponents.
Ferrari had been doing well in Friday’s practice sessions but it was the two Red Bulls that finished third and fourth behind the Mercedes. Max Verstappen finished ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. As for the Ferrari’s they filled the fifth and sixth spots with Sebastian Vettel ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
Seventh spot went to Sergio Perez who confirmed that he’s signed a new deal with Force India for next season. His team-mate Nico Hulkenberg was eighth, Jenson Button made it into the top ten in his McLaren despite a spin during Q2. Fernando Alonso, who did so well in practice on Friday, has a 30 place grid penalty for tomorrow. There wasn’t much point in him doing too much today so he did just the one lap to officially qualify himself for the race.
Moan of the day came from Jolyon Palmer. The Renault driver finished 19th and wasn’t at all happy with what his day. “It was crap, I drove terribly. I made a wrong choice on the set-up. Terrible.” Hopefully he’ll have a better day tomorrow.
Hamilton really loves it round here; this is the third year in a row he’s taken pole position at Sepang. It’s his fourth in total so next year he’ll be trying to equal the record currently held by Michael Schumacher.
He certainly was in top form throughout the qualifying session and it was Rosberg who had the struggles. The German driver was continually behind Lewis and running wide off the track through Turn Five during Q3 didn’t make it the smoothest of qualifying performances. Those problems continued as he was only fifth after his first run in the final qualifying section. Just before the end of the session he managed to grab that vital second place behind the defending world champion.
Lewis was deservedly upbeat after qualifying saying, “It’s been a difficult few weeks with Nico’s wins but today the car felt fantastic. I really enjoyed the lap – but could have been faster.” Rosberg wasn’t quite so happy and seems to have a few worries floating around in his head, “Lewis’ lap was very quick so it was always going to be difficult. I would have come close but I had a mistake in the last corner. Something just wasn’t going right there.
The Malaysian Grand Prix is probably the most important one of the season so far. Nico Rosberg leads the drivers’ championship by eight points coming into this race. If he was to win here, then that’s a lead of at least 15 points for the German driver. A win for Lewis Hamilton would see that lead cut to just a point and he’d be in the lead if Rosberg failed to fill that runners up spot.
Being on pole is great for Hamilton but so far this season he’s filled that position seven times but only won on three occasions. He needs to get a good start tomorrow, not something he’s consistently achieved so far this year. If he can do that then the title race is going to be even close come the end of this race.
Enjoy your racing and I’ll be back with another F1 blog next week.