Hamilton on pole in Malaysia; Vettel starts last

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Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

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.

Results:

POSDRIVERCARTIMEGAP
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m30.076s
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1m30.121s0.045s
3Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault1m30.541s0.465s
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1m30.595s0.519s
5Valtteri BottasMercedes1m30.758s0.682s
6Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes1m31.478s1.402s
7Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Honda1m31.582s1.506s
8Nico HulkenbergRenault1m31.607s1.531s
9Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1m31.658s1.582s
10Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Honda1m31.704s1.628s
11Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes1m32.034s1.958s
12Jolyon PalmerRenault1m32.100s2.024s
13Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes1m32.307s2.231s
14Carlos SainzToro Rosso/Renault1m32.402s2.326s
15Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Renault1m32.558s2.482s
16Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari1m33.308s3.232s
17Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1m33.434s3.358s
18Pascal WehrleinSauber/Ferrari1m33.483s3.407s
19Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari1m33.970s3.894s
20Sebastian VettelFerrari
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charlie white

I have to wonder if, just if, Ferrari is holding too tightly on a very competitive Kimi in favor of betting on Vettel solely to take the fight to LH and the Mercs. If Mauricio loosen the chain, maybe we see the Kimi of old-determined and aggressive.

jakobusvdl

Will Hamilton be able to start well enough to avoid being caught by a Raikonnen Verstappen pincer?

johnblair7

Even though I would like Lewis to take the title. I don’t want it to be boring, so I hope Seb does really well tomorrow so the gap in points doesn’t get to big and make it a formality.

Imraan Sallie

Not a Lewis Hamilton fan but I will admit he is damn good on a Saturday. I do hope Kimi gets his act together without Vettel close behind him but it will be nice seeing Seb slicing thru the field.

spleee

Does anybody know if Kimi was also on the new spec engine?

jakobusvdl

While Vettel’s p.u failure(s) are the big story there are so many other stories in this practice and qualfying. Hasn’t Gasley done well? in his first full F1 qualifying he’s on pace with Sainz. Isn’t it surprising that Mercedes aero upgrades were so unsuccessful? WTH for Haas? Horribly off the pace all through practice and qualifying (not helped by Grosjean’s awful accident in FP2 – fantastic that the safety cell protected him). The gap between the big 3 (Merc, Ferrari and RBR) and the ‘mid field’ remains in the order if 1 to 2 sec, but McLaren are consistently in… Read more »

Guy Fawkes

I wonder how Hamilton manages to walk normally with that golden horseshoe firmly planted in his posterior. That has got to be the luckiest bastard who ever drove a racecar. Certainly he’s a great driver but wow does he ever catch breaks!

jakobusvdl

Though he (and his many fans) would claim he was a bad luck magnet last year.

Guy Fawkes

There are four groups it doesn’t pay to argue with: the deeply political, the deeply religious, the insane and the committed sports fan.

jakobusvdl

LOL! The Hamilton-ista seem to combine all four elements, its a dangerous mix!