Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his surprise after sweeping to pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, having struggled for pace throughout practice.
Hamilton finished over a second behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in FP2 on Friday and was still behind in final practice despite switching back to the old aerodynamic package for his Mercedes W08 car.
Hamilton rallied in qualifying, eventually taking pole by 0.045 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as Vettel suffered an engine issue that resigned him to the back of the grid for Sunday’s race.
“Today we had no idea how it was going to go and I am sorry for whatever happened to Sebastian because he was very quick through practice,” Hamilton said after qualifying.
“Somehow we turned it around. The engineers did such a great job yesterday. The car felt great so it is a real surprise to be up here with these guys but I am really grateful.
“We are going to have a tough race against these guys, particularly the Red Bull pair as they had good long run pace yesterday and today.
“I hope our car has moved in the right direction for the race run but we will see tomorrow.
“It is a long run down to turn one so a lot can happen.”
The Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET on Sunday.
Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.
Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.
Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.
A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.
A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.
Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.