Singapore was a weekend that Ferrari was supposed to battle back and Sebastian Vettel was going to erase his three-point deficit to Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes. Turn one changed all of that and left Vettel and the folks from Maranello in the unenviable position of floating south with a 28-point delta as they landed in Malaysia.
The Malaysian Grand Prix is a power circuit and Mercedes was supposed to be dominant here but all practice sessions seemed to betray that notion. Ferrari looked very competitive heading into qualifying on Saturday morning. Setting fastest laps all through Friday.
When it looked as if Vettel and Ferrari could pull off an upset if only he would have made it to Q3. The Ferrari team did a 2-hour engine change to their latest iteration (version 4) of their 2017 power unit but niggles and an issue with the turbo left Vettel dead last in Q1 while Mercedes capitalized by taking pole position with Lewis Hamilton.
There was every chance Vettel may have beaten Hamilton to pole as his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, was just half a tenth off Hamilton’s pace and conventional wisdom would suggest that Vettel typically qualifies better than Kimi. Regardless, that’s all “could have” talk and in the end, Vettel’s championship bid for 2017 may have taken a mortal blow in Malaysia on Saturday.
Anything can happen in Formula 1 and perhaps Ferrari will take an option on a fifth turbo or engine component since they are starting in the back and any penalty for doing so would be mitigated? Now is the time that Ferrari could make any changes or add a fifth and this would give them the fourth (new) and a fifth engine meaning they’d have two new engines for the remaining races.
While Lewis Hamilton took pole, he did so by reverting to the previous package while his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, used a new upgrade kit and regretted the decision as he qualified no better than fifth for Sunday’s race behind the two Red Bull’s.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne out-qualified Fernando Alonso to take 7th on the starting grid on Sunday.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m30.541s||0.465s|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m30.595s||0.519s|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m31.478s||1.402s|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m31.658s||1.582s|
|14||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m32.402s||2.326s|
|15||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m32.558s||2.482s|