Saturday, 29 March 2014 | MYT 8:41 PM
Hamilton grabs pole in rain-hit Sepang
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was fastest to grab pole position at the Malaysian Grand Prix. - S. S. KANESAN / The Star
SEPANG: A downpour delayed the start of the Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix qualifying for 50 minutes. But not even the delay nor the wet track could stop Mercedes from continuing with the dominance it had shown all weekend as Lewis Hamilton chalked up back-to-back pole positions.
Hamilton’s first flying lap of 1:59.431 was good enough to secure pole position, which also saw him tying the record for most pole positions by a British driver in F1.
It was his 33rd pole position and he is now level with former world champion Jim Clark.
But Hamilton will not have it easy as reigning world champion and Red Bull ace Sebastian Vettel will start alongside him after clocking the second fastest time of 1:59.486.
Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg, who won the season-opening race in Melbourne two weeks ago and was fastest in the final practice in the morning, showed disappointing pace at the start but managed to improve to be third quickest in 2:00.050 as track conditions became worse in the closing stages.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start in second row in fourth place with 2:00.175, although the Spaniard was lucky to make Q3 after surviving a collision with Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat earlier during Q2, which resulted in a broken suspension.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest while Alonso’s team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, qualified sixth.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and McLaren’s Jenson Button rounded out the top 10.
But all eyes will be on Hamilton – to see if he can get off to a good start as he chases down his first win at Sepang.
Hamilton is hoping to make up for his early retirement from the season-opener in Australia due to an engine misfire.
“It was very, very tricky out there, particularly at the end, it was almost impossible to see on the last lap,” said Hamilton.
“I’m really happy with the job the team has done and just generally how well we have done throughout the weekend.
“But today was just incredible, considering how much it rained before qualifying and then during the session.
“During my first lap, I could not see a thing behind (Nico) Hulkenberg. I could not see where the track went, didn’t see where the corners were, when to brake,” added Hamilton, who stressed that the focus today will be to get points on the board.
“The priority is to try and bag as many points, collectively, me and Nico.
“I think we have a great opportunity, we got a great car, so fingers crossed, we both see our way through to the finish line.”
On Sunday, the drivers will pay tribute to the passengers and crew on board missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
The drivers will have stickers bearing the MH370 sign on their helmets and there will be a minute’s silence before the start of the race.