Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang in a rain-affected session.
The track was flooded ahead of Q3, and the session was delayed to allow the standing water to drain away. Cars went out on a mixture of wet and intermediate tyres, but the track dried quickly once Q3 began and those on wets quickly bailed for inters.
Rosberg set an initial 1:51.066 before Hamilton responded with a fantastic 1:49.834, which put him over a second clear at the top and 2s ahead of Max Verstappen in P4 at the time. The laptimes were always going to tumble as the surface dried, but surprisingly nobody could beat Hamilton's time.
On a second set of inters, Rosberg cruised to save his rubber for the final moments of the session, while Hamilton went for a flying lap straight away. Rosberg hampered Lewis through the double right-hander, so he backed out of the lap.
Vettel was the first car to take the chequered flag on 1:49.908, which was enough for second place on the grid, and Rosberg wasn’t able to beat that and his lap was only good enough for third.
Hamilton had the Williams of Felipe Massa in front of him, and didn’t improve on his last flyer. Daniel Ricciardo qualified fourth, ahead of Red Bull teammate Daniil Kvyat.
Max Verstappen was an impressive sixth for Toro Rosso, ahead of Massa, Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Valtteri Bottas (Williams) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber).
Raikkonen fails to make Q3
The threat of rain ahead of Q2 meant the entire pack of remaining cars rushed out, as the wind picked up and blew a huge thunderstorm across the track. Drivers only had time for one flying lap before it became drenched, and they were led by Rosberg on 1:39.377.
Vettel was only three tenths behind, just ahead of Bottas, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Massa and Verstappen.
Hamilton was only eighth fastest on his first flying lap: “Got traffic, you guys got us out too far behind everyone,” he complained. Hamilton was then told that a problem firing up his engine delayed his run.
Kimi Raikkonen was the big casualty, as he got stuck behind Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber, who just made it through by a tenth by running ahead of him on the road.
Kvyat also made it through in the second Red Bull, while those who fell were Pastor Maldonado (Lotus), the Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz – who had starred in Q1.
McLarens go out in Q1
Melbourne hero Felipe Nasr could only manage the 16th fastest time, so he failed to progress to Q2 for Sauber.
Both McLarens fell victim in Q1, although Jenson Button believes they will have stronger relative pace in the race than in qualifying. Button beat the returning Fernando Alonso by a tenth, but reported: “We have made progress and we’ll be more competitive on higher fuel, we’ve made a massive step with the engine.”
Hamilton set the fastest time in Q1 of 1:39.269, which set the 107% time way too low for Manor to have a chance of making the grid on merit.
Merhi went off briefly at Turn 4 trying to improve, and failed to make the cut-off point by 0.4s, while teammate Will Stevens failed to get out of the garage with a fuel pressure issue.
Manor will now have to apply to the stewards for an exemption to race.
“We’ve got to go through the maths, we just missed it by a few tenths,” said team chief Graeme Lowdon. “But it’s the stewards’ decision, not ours.”
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