If Friday was a disappointing day for Lewis Hamilton, then Saturday proved to be the total opposite. Taking pole position was good enough news but the fact his closest rival Sebastian Vettel starts at the back of the grid was the icing on the cake.
With a 28-point going into the Malaysian Grand Prix, that lead is likely to go well beyond the 30-point mark barring mechanical problems. It’s all something Lewis couldn’t have imagined after early struggles in Singapore and here in Malaysia.
The shift in fortunes began in the final practice session as Vettel’s Ferrari suffered an engine problem. That was changed in time for qualifying but there were still problems for the German.
Hamilton was fortunate though to claim his fifth pole position in Malaysia. He finished just 0.045 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen whose Ferrari wasn’t having any engine problems. The only difficulty he did have was lock-up at the final corner on his final qualifying lap costing him pole. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, respectively, were third and fourth with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas which was using the new aerodynamic upgrade in fifth.
That aerodynamic upgrade was top of the suspects list when it came to trying to work out just why Friday’s practice sessions didn’t go well. Bottas was sent out with the new parts, while Hamilton used an older version.
Sixth place on the grid went to Esteban Ocon in his Force India with the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne in seventh with his team-mate Fernando Alonso in tenth, so not a bad weekend for McLaren for a change and no sign of any grid penalties either.
It was one problem after another for Vettel on Saturday. Despite the work on his engine, he was complaining about a lack of power during the first qualifying session. He went back to the pits but there just wasn’t time to find out what the problem was and the writing was on the door for the German.
“I have no idea how the guys turned it around but I am really grateful,” a delighted Hamilton said. He will have the thought in the back of his mind though that despite this being his fifth pole in Malaysia, he’s only won the actual race once and he faces a tough battle against Raikkonen and the Red Bulls on Sunday.
Vettel was in defiant mood after qualifying, saying that although there wasn’t much to enjoy today they still have a strong quick car that could earn him some points on Sunday. Overtaking is possible on this track so that could well happen if his engine doesn’t cause further problems. If it does and the Ferrari fails to go the distance then this could be the weekend when Hamilton take an almost title-winning lead.
It’s an early start if you want to watch the race live but if you’re a Lewis Hamilton fan then it might just be worth it. Then you can celebrate with a gorgeous roast dinner or perhaps a nut roast if you want to follow in the British driver’s footsteps and perhaps eat it on one knee. I’ll be back soon with another blog, till then enjoy your racing.