Lewis Hamilton boosted his hopes for a fourth Formula 1 world championship in 2017 by taking pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, with chief title rival Sebastian Vettel set to start the race last on the grid.
Vettel suffered an electronic issue on his power unit in FP3 that forced Ferrari to change the engine on his car, with the team working rapidly to ensure the German did not miss any of qualifying.
Vettel ventured out to set an early lap in Q1, only to suffer a loss of power that forced him to return to the pits so that Ferrari could try and resolve the issue.
With the team’s efforts proving fruitless, Vettel set no time in qualifying, leaving him 20th overall and handing Hamilton another break point in their F1 title match-up.
Hamilton took full advantage of Vettel’s demise by sweeping to his fifth pole at the Sepang International Circuit and the 70th of his entire F1 career, turning in a best lap of 1:30.076.
Hamilton struggled on his second flying lap in Q3, giving Raikkonen the chance to snatch pole back away for Ferrari.
A rapid effort through the first two sectors put Raikkonen in a good position, only to make an error at the final corner and lock up, leaving him 0.045 seconds short of Hamilton and left to settle for P2.
Red Bull locked out the second row of the grid with Max Verstappen third and Daniel Ricciardo fourth, while Valtteri Bottas took fifth for Mercedes, six-tenths of a second behind his teammate.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon headed up the midfield battle in sixth, while Stoffel Vandoorne delivered a surprising result for McLaren in P7 ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso failed to match their teammates at Force India and McLaren for pace, finishing P9 and P10 overall.
Williams had a difficult session as both Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were knocked out in Q2, despite having shown signs of being able to fight inside the top 10 earlier in the session, finishing 11th and 13th.
Carlos Sainz Jr. led Toro Rosso’s charge in P14, closely followed by debutant Pierre Gasly, who will start his first F1 race from 15th place on the grid after a solid first outing.
Haas’ hopes of getting back in the fight at the front of the midfield fell flat as Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were both eliminated in Q1, qualifying 16th and 17th respectively ahead of Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, with Vettel propping up the order.
The Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET on Sunday.