Hamilton grabs pole in rain-hit F1 qualifying

Lewis Hamilton of team Mercedes AMG Petronas (centre) with second placing Sebastian Vettel of team Scuderia Ferrari and Nico Rosberg after the qualifying session at Sepang F1 circuit Saturday. - S.S.KANESAN / The Star

SEPANG: World champion Lewis Hamilton held off Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to claim pole position for Mercedes in the rain-affected Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix qualifying at the Sepang International Circuit.

The final qualifying session (Q3) was delayed for 30 minutes due to rain, which came half-way through Q2 (second qualifying session).

But Hamilton kept his cool to assert his dominance when the rain stopped.

The Briton’s first flying lap on intermediate tyres produced a 1:49.834 and it was good enough for him to secure pole position.

German Vettel tried hard to dislodge Hamilton. He failed in his attempt as he clocked 1:49.908, but he managed to deny Mercedes a 1-2 on the grid. Finn Nico Rosberg posted 1:50.299 for third spot to line up alongside Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who clocked 1:51.541 for Red Bull.

Russian Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull posted 1:51.951 for fifth place.

Dutch teenage driver Max Verstappen enjoyed an impressive outing for Toro Rosso as he snatched sixth spot in 1:51.981, finishing ahead of experienced Felipe Massa of Brazil, Romain Grosjean of France and Valtteri Bottas of Finland.

The rush for places was frantic and veteran Finn Kimi Raikkonen failed to make it to Q3. The 2007 world champion ended up 11th fastest with a time of 1:42.173.

Hamilton, the winner of the season-opening race in Australia two weeks ago, was relieved that his “banker” lap proved to be good enough to secure his 40th career pole. 

“I think the first lap was quite good. It is always difficult and none of us have driven in the wet this weekend,” said the 30-year-old. 

“You don’t want to take too many risks that you don’t get the lap, but you need a banker. My lap was feeling pretty good and so I was pushing.

“The next one, I was up at one stage and then just lost a little bit on the lap. The team did a fantastic job to have us both up here again,” said Hamilton, who won the race here last year.

Rosberg was not too pleased with his performance.

“I just did not drive well enough. I’m annoyed by that. Third place is not good,” said Rosberg, who finished second in Australia.

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