Hamilton clinches pole in Malaysia

    The Briton maintained McLaren's qualifying superiority, leading Button in P2 while Schumacher produced his best qualifying performance in third.

    Published On Mar 24, 2012 08:40:00 PM

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    Hamilton clinches pole in Malaysia

    Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button maintained McLaren's 2012 qualifying superiority as they repeated their Melbourne grid result and filled for the front row for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    Michael Schumacher produced the best qualifying performance of his Formula 1 comeback as he took third for Mercedes, while world champion Sebastian Vettel chose to run the harder tyre and will start fifth for Red Bull.

    Just as had been the case in Australia, Hamilton's first pole shot in Q3 was sufficient to secure the top spot, as his 1m36.219s proved unbeatable.

    Button was second fastest after those runs, but was pushed back by Schumacher. Mercedes had left it late in Q2 and looked in danger of being eliminated before surging into the top 10, and then went for just one run in Q3.

    That meant Schumacher was back in the pits by the time Button launched his retaliation, the McLaren edging the Mercedes off the front row by just 0.023 seconds. Schumacher beat his team-mate Nico Rosberg by five places and a little under 0.3s.

    The Q3 battle was incredibly close, with just 0.4s covering pole to eighth place.

    Red Bull was not a pole threat again - Q1 pacesetter Mark Webber qualifying fourth, and Vettel choosing the harder Pirelli and setting the sixth-quickest time. They were split in the results by Kimi Raikkonen, but the Lotus - which was fastest in Q2 - will drop to 10th on the grid due to its five-place penalty for a gearbox change. Raikkonen's team-mate Romain Grosjean was seventh quickest.

    Against the team's own expectations, Fernando Alonso got Ferrari into Q3 - although he could only manage to beat Sergio Perez's Sauber to ninth. Felipe Massa was closer to Alonso's pace than he had been for most of the Melbourne weekend but he missed the Q2 cut and was 12th.

    Several of the underdog stars of Melbourne qualifying fell back into the midfield in Malaysia. Pastor Maldonado briefly got into the top 10 despite an early trip through the gravel in Q2, but he was pushed back to 11th as the Mercedes delivered their late laps. Maldonado will start two places ahead of Williams team-mate Bruno Senna.

    There were no Force Indias or Toro Rossos in Q3 this week either. The closely-matched Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg claimed 14th and 16th for Force India, just 0.013s apart and split by Daniel Ricciardo, whose Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne locked-up in Q1, flat-spotted a tyre and consigned himself to 18th. Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber brought up the rear of the Q2 pack.

    Both HRTs made the 107 per cent cut this time, and will not even start last, as Heikki Kovalainen's penalty for passing under the safety car in Australia will drop the Caterham from 19th to last.

     

    Pos  Driver                Team                 Time         Gap  

    1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.219s

     2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.368s   + 0.149

     3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m36.391s   + 0.172

     4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.461s   + 0.242

     5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m36.461s   + 0.242

     6.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m36.634s   + 0.415

     7.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m36.658s   + 0.439

     8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m36.664s   + 0.445

     9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m37.566s   + 1.347

    10.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m37.698s   + 1.479

     

    Q2 cut-off time: 1m37.477s                                   Gap **

    11.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m37.589s   + 0.874

    12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m37.731s   + 1.016

    13.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m37.841s   + 1.126

    14.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m37.877s   + 1.162

    15.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.883s   + 1.168

    16.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m37.890s   + 1.175

    17.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m38.069s   + 1.354

     

    Q1 cut-off time: 1m38.437s                                   Gap *

    18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m39.077s   + 1.905

    19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m39.306s   + 2.134

    20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m39.567s   + 2.395

    21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m40.903s   + 3.731

    22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m41.250s   + 4.078

    23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m42.914s   + 5.742

    24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m43.655s   + 6.483

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