Vettel pips Hamilton to Sepang pole

Sebastian Vettel denied Lewis Hamilton pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix in an extremely close battle at Sepang

Vettel pips Hamilton to Sepang pole

Hamilton had held provisional pole early in Q3 with a 1m35.000s lap, which put the McLaren a tenth clear of Vettel's Red Bull at that stage.

The Briton then improved to 1m34.974s on his final run, but Vettel managed to dig deeper still, producing a 1m34.870s to maintain his 100 per cent pole rate for 2011 - although the margin of 0.104 seconds was far tighter than in Australia.

Mark Webber was 0.309s off team-mate Vettel's pace in third, and 0.021s ahead of Jenson Button in the second McLaren.

That quartet had the pole fight to themselves, with the rest of the frontrunners a long way off the pace and without enough soft tyres to do more than one Q3 run.

Fernando Alonso led this 'best of the rest' group in fifth for Ferrari, with his team-mate Felipe Massa seventh.

Both Renaults made it to Q3 despite the team's tough start to the weekend. Nick Heidfeld put his Melbourne misery behind him with sixth on the grid, while Vitaly Petrov took eighth.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg pipped Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber for ninth.

For the second race in a row, Michael Schumacher missed out on a Q3 spot and will start 11th - this time after his Mercedes team-mate Rosberg's late improvement knocked him out.

Neither Toro Rosso reached Q3 at Sepang, Sebastien Buemi recovering from losing a large chunk of sidepod bodywork (the retrieval of which required a brief red flag) in Q1 to qualify just ahead of team-mate Jaime Alguersuari in 12th.

The Force Indias were 14th and 17th, with Paul di Resta outqualifying Adrian Sutil again. They sandwich Rubens Barrichello, on a disappointing day for Williams, and Melbourne hero Sergio Perez, whose Sauber was only 16th today.

Though neither of its cars got out of Q1, there was great encouragement for Lotus as Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli got within half a second of Williams - Pastor Maldonado joining them in an early exit - and beat the Virgins by two seconds. And Hispania had cause for celebration too: Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan made the 107 per cent qualifying cut very comfortably in Q1.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap  1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m34.870s 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m34.974s + 0.104 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m35.179s + 0.309 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.200s + 0.330 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.802s + 0.932 6. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m36.124s + 1.254 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.251s + 1.381 8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m36.324s + 1.454 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.809s + 1.939 10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.820s + 1.950 Q3 cut-off time: 1m36.811s Gap ** 11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m37.035s + 1.466 12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m37.160s + 1.591 13. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m37.347s + 1.778 14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m37.370s + 1.801 15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m37.496s + 1.927 16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.528s + 1.959 17. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m37.593s + 2.024 Q3 cut-off time: 1m38.163s Gap * 18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m38.276s + 1.532 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m38.645s + 1.901 20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m38.791s + 2.047 21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m40.648s + 3.904 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m41.001s + 4.257 23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m41.549s + 4.805 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m42.574s + 5.830 107% time: 1m43.516s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2
shares
comments
Hamilton tops final Sepang practice
Previous article

Hamilton tops final Sepang practice

Next article

Hamilton not disappointed to miss pole

Hamilton not disappointed to miss pole
Load comments
The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Plus

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Plus

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Plus

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Plus

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Plus

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Plus

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Autosport's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer explains

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021