A deluge of rain ahead of the final part of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix resulted in contrasting results for Red Bull and Williams at the Sepang International Circuit on Saturday.
Having endured a miserable start to the 2015 season in Australia, Red Bull put all talks of a possible withdrawal from Formula 1 to one side to rally to a strong result in qualifying in Malaysia.
Thanks to the wet conditions, the power deficit of the Renault power unit was less damaging to the team, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to qualify an excellent fourth for the team.
“In the dry I don’t think we would’ve been fourth today, so obviously we’re a little bit more competitive in these conditions,” the Australian said.
“But in saying that I think we’re close enough to the front so that even if it’s dry, if we get a good start – and I use my mirrors for 56 laps – we could be doing pretty well.
“I won’t be disappointed if it rains. It’s a little bit more tricky in the wet, but I can’t really complain.”
Ricciardo was joined in the top five by teammate Daniil Kvyat, who equalled his best F1 qualifying result on Saturday at Sepang.
“It was a decent qualifying for us, P4 and P5 is good for the team but I think on our lap we maybe went out a little early,” Kvyat said.
“It might have been better later on but it’s hard always to know with the conditions. Overall, there are a lot of positives to take from this weekend and we are seeing some improvements, it’s a good start.”
Just as the rain worked in Red Bull’s favor, it played against Williams, whose pace would have seen both of its drivers qualify towards the front of the grid.
Felipe Massa could only finish seventh on Saturday, with Valtteri Bottas in ninth place for the British team. The Finn has made up a position on the grid by virtue of Romain Grosjean’s grid penalty, though.
“Changeable conditions made it a tough session,” head of performance engineering Rob Smedley explained. “We were on the right tire at the right time and attempted to be the last car across the line knowing the track was improving every lap.
“We need to consider why our performance wasn’t there in the wet conditions but we have a very good car in race trim as we saw on Friday.
“We have a lot to do tomorrow but the temperature is looking like it will be very hot during the race so we must make the right strategic decisions.”
The Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2:30a ET tomorrow.