L ewis Hamilton has been since second free practice in Sepang a force. In qualifying, the defending champion underlined his good form and raced for eighth pole position this year. It was the 57th overall in his career so far.
Hamilton easily ahead, Rosberg with a mistake
At 23 degrees lower track temperatures (30 degrees air temperature) than on Friday - over the track hung a dense band of cloud - Hamilton circled his Mercedes around the course in 1: 32.850 minutes. With that he hummed Nico Rosberg over four tenths behind. “The car was fantastic. As good as never here, 'said Hamilton. Despite the new asphalt strip and softer tires, it wasn't enough for the lap record. It stands at 1: 32.582 by Fernando Alonso from 2005.
Hamilton shouldn't care. On Sunday he is aiming for his 7th win of the season. Nico Rosberg will mind. “I was at Lewis's time on the second run at times. Then unfortunately I made a mistake in the last corner and lost a few tenths. I had oversteer, ”complained Rosberg, who wants to fight back at the start. With a double victory, Mercedes would easily secure the title in the team championship early. But watch out: Red Bull could also have a say in the battle for victory. In the long run, Max Verstappen made a strong impression in training.
The speed of the RB12 was not enough for one lap. 'Mercedes still packs 3 tenths of a second in qualifying,' said Helmut Marko before qualifying. Therefore the second row was targeted. And both pilots achieved the target. Verstappen defeated his Australian team-mate, who took over the Dutchman's setup after difficult training sessions, by 47 thousandths.
Both Red Bulls in front of both Ferrari
Ferrari had to be content with the third row. Sebastian Vettel had the better end against Kimi Räikkönen. The Reds should be very disappointed not to have beaten at least one of the Red Bulls. Vettel has already lost over 7 tenths on the pole from Hamilton. “We knew it was going to be very tight. After the first segment, we noticed that we were a little behind. In the end, Red Bull wasn't missing much. Of course you always have the feeling that the one and a half tenths behind were still somewhere. Let's see how it goes in the race. With the strategy and theHarder tires could get some movement in tomorrow. ”
Behind Ferrari comes the next double pack. Sergio Perez was in front of stable rival Nico Hülkenberg in his Force India. “That went okay. The top 6 were out of reach for us anyway. At the end of qualifying, I didn't feel that comfortable anymore. The track cooled down a bit when the clouds came, ”explained Hülk. Jenson Button, who drives his 300th GP on Sunday, put his McLaren in ninth position. Felipe Massa held up the Williams flag in 10th place.
Bottas fails in Q2
Valtteri Bottas missed the final qualifying round by 39 thousandths compared to Hülkenberg. In the last sector in particular, he lost crucial time. The Finn is the first driver to have a free choice of tires at the start of the race, which will run over 56 laps. For Bottas it was one of the very rare defeats against Massa this year. Otherwise he had his garage neighbor under control during qualifying.
As expected, both HaasF1 racing cars ended after Q2. Romain Grosjean recovered from his weaker weekend in Singapore and brought his car ahead of Esteban Gutierrez. There was a curious scene at the beginning when the right rear-view mirror of the US racing car broke off while driving through the target curve. The other places went to Kevin Magnussen in the Renault, who turned the 14th fastest lap ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz (both Toro Rosso).
Wehrlein lost to Ocon for the first time
For Sauber after the first 18 minutes of work. Both Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr failed on the hurdle to Q2. After all, the Swede had the better end to himself in the team duel and distanced the Brazilian by one and a half tenths of a second.
In contrast to Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer in the Renault missed the promotion to the second qualifying part. He lost over 4 tenths in a direct duel. So Palmer will only start from 19th place. Before qualifying, Renault wanted to go one lap further with both cars. Because in the long run the yellow cars are faster and therefore expect a better result in the race.
Pascal Wehrlein suffered his first defeat in the fourth meeting with Esteban Ocon. Nevertheless, there was praise on the radio for the young German, who had to struggle with engine problems at his Manor in the third training session and was therefore unable to optimally prepare for the qualification and shoot in. “In my second run, two cars out of the pits drove right in front of my nose and I couldn't improve as well as my team-mate,” said Wehrlein.
Fernando Alonso took his from last place 268th Grand Prix in attack. The Spaniard reeled 5 rounds on the medium rubbers and then climbed out of his McLaren. The last position was already sealed.McLaren built a new Honda engine, for which two tokens were sacrificed, and other components of the drive unit were exchanged. The bottom line is plus 45 penalties.