Hamilton takes Malaysian GP pole, Vettel to start last after engine drama

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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.

F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.