Malaysian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Rain or shine
Rain or shine, the Mercs have the best time. Or to be accurate the best time - Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole in the wet qualifying sessions - and the third best time as Nico Rosberg gridded third in the other Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel qualified his Red Bull second.
Torrential rain delayed the start of qualifying by 50 minutes. Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton lined up at pit exit to be the first out. The track had dried enough so that the intermediate Pirelli wet weather tire was an option, but the McLaren drivers had the extreme wet tire fitted.
The ambient temperature at the start of the session was 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Centigrade.)
More rain was expected, so the drivers had to get in some quick times while the rain held off. Everybody headed out except Marcus Ericsson whose Caterham had stalled in the pit lane.
Hamilton, on inters, posted the first time: 1:57.309 and then Rosberg crossed the line with a time of 1:57.189.
McLaren radioed Kevin Magnussen that the inters were the best option and told him to pit for tire switch.
With 11 minutes remaining in the session, Rosberg shaved his time down to a 1:57.183 and Hamilton was down to a 1:57.202.
The rain was getting heavier on some sections of the circuit.
Daniel Ricciardo had snatched third place while his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel was 10th.
With minutes remaining in the session,
With 7 minutes remaining in the session, all 22 drivers were on track as Nico Hulkenberg moved his Force India into third place. McLaren's Jenson Button and Jan Magnussen had managed to claw their way into the top 16.
With 4 minutes remaining in the session, Vettel got up to third with a 1:57.654 and then slid off at Turn 9.
With 2 minutes remaining in the session, only the Mercedes duo was not on track.
With just under a minute remaining, Ericsson lost control of his Caterham and hit the barriers. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) just missed hitting the Caterham.
The top six at the end of Q1 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Ricciardo.
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Pastor Maldonado (Lotus), Adrian Sutil (Sauber), Jules Bianchi (Marussia), Kamui Kobayashi (Caterham), Max Chilton (Marussia) and Ericsson.
It started to rain heavier during the break between Q1 and Q2 but not enough to cause any delays. But the track was wet enough for Hamilton and Rosberg to have the extreme wets on their Mercedes. The other drivers except the inter-shod Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams) followed suit.
Once again everybody was out trying to get in a time before the rain increased. But then Alonso clipped Daniel Kvyat's Toro Rosso and the red flags stopped the session after just two minutes. The left front suspension on the Ferrari was damaged.
After a 6 minute delay the Q2 session restarted. Everybody was on extreme wets except for Bottas. Everybody but Alonso headed out. But within two minutes Alonso joined them.
Hamilton set the mark: 1:59.419. Bottas was 10 seconds off the pace.
With 7 minutes remaining in the session, Daniel Ricciardo put his Red Bull into second place with a 2.00.147.
With 6 minutes remaining in the session, Sebastian Vettel took second with a 1:59.879 while Hamilton improved to a 1:59.241.
With 4 minutes remaining in the session, Magnussen spun off in the final turn.
With minutes 2 remaining in the session, Hamilton improved to 1:59.041 while Rosberg moved up to second with a 1:59.445. Then at the least minute Vettel snatched second with a 1:59.399.
The top six at the end of Q2 were: Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Alonso.
The six drivers eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Kvyat, Gutierrez, Felipe Massa (Williams), Sergio Perez (Sauber), Bottas and Romain Grosjean (Lotus.)
Raikkonen was the first out for the 12-minute Q3. The question now was intermediate or extreme wet tires? Most drivers opted for the latter. Magnussen and Button were on inters, which was the wrong choice. Magnussen pitted for extremes.
Raikkonen set the first time: 2:01.218, only to have Hamilton beat that with a 1:59.431.
With 4 minutes remaining in the session, the track was starting to dry off but was it enough to warrant a switch to inters? Raikkonen pitted for new extremes. That was the way to go.
Vettel moved into second and Alonso third. Rosberg was fourth and Ricciardo fifth.
On his final fast lap Hamilton went off at Turn 4 and continued.
Just as the checkered flag came out, Rosberg grabbed third from Alonso. But the rest of the drivers failed to improve.
The top 10 qualifiers at the end of Q3 were: Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Ricciardo, Raikkonen Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Button who had stayed out on inters for the entire session.