Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday to tie the record for most qualifying wins by a British driver in Formula One.
Tropical rains delayed the start of qualifying for 50 minutes, but even the wet track at the Sepang International Circuit could not prevent Mercedes continuing the dominance it had shown all weekend as Hamilton made it back-to-back poles to start the new season.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel came close, but finished five hundredths of a second behind Hamilton and just in front of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who qualified third.
Hamilton’s pole was the 33rd of his career, bringing him level with former world champion Jim Clark for the most by any British driver. It also puts him in an ideal position to make up for his early retirement from the season opener in Australia due to an engine misfire.
“It was very, very tricky out there, particularly at the end. It was almost impossible to see on the last lap,” Hamilton said.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso recovered from a crash that broke his front suspension in the second session of qualifying and will start from fourth on the grid. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen qualified sixth, behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and McLaren’s Jenson Button rounded out the top 10.
There was standing water on the track from a pre-qualifying downpour, and lighter rain continued throughout the sessions to make things difficult for all drivers, who switched back and forth between the intermediate and full-wet tires as they tried to find the right setup for the conditions.
The first session of qualifying was held up after Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson went off the track, into a wall, through a brake marker and back onto the track where he was almost hit by Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez.
There was also a red flag in the second qualifying session, when Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat tried to pass Alonso on the inside of a corner but collided with the Ferrari, leaving debris on the track.