Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton made it two poles in two races after emerging unscathed from an incident-packed and rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
The Briton saw off Red Bull’s quadruple Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel by 0.055 of a second in a session with two red flags, grid penalties, a 50 minute rain delay and more downpours throughout that left drivers struggling for visibility. The pole was the 33rd of Hamilton’s career, equalling the British record held by the late Jim Clark since 1964, and was secured in a time of one minute 59.431 seconds.
Vettel’s lap was an impressive turnaround for the German, who retired in Melbourne two weeks ago, after he was called back to the pits after only three laps of the first phase of qualifying with an energy store problem.
The champion re-emerged after a reset of the system and became progressively competitive as the rain grew stronger and felt he could have taken pole had he been able to get in another lap in the final 15 minute session.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, winner in Australia, will start from third place with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso joining him on the second row despite an earlier collision with Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso that required hurried repairs.
Alonso was on the outside and turned into Kvyat with the incident reviewed by stewards, who opted against any penalty.