Lewis Hamilton stormed to his fourth pole position in five years at the Sepang International Circuit after dominating proceedings in Formula 1 qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday.
Hamilton entered the race weekend trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by eight points in the drivers’ championship, having not won a race since the end of July.
After leading the second and third practice sessions, Hamilton made good on this pace in qualifying by topping two of the three stages in an emphatic display.
Hamilton’s display culminated in a lap of 1:32.850, the fastest at Sepang since 2005, to record his seventh pole of the season and fourth in Malaysia.
A mistake on Rosberg’s opening run saw him provisionally qualify fifth before hoisting himself up to P2 on his final lap, four-tenths down on his teammate’s time.
Max Verstappen led Red Bull’s charge in P3 ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, while Sebastian Vettel finished as the fastest Ferrari in fifth. Kimi Raikkonen will start alongside his teammate in sixth place.
Sergio Perez finished seventh for Force India, 0.7 seconds off Raikkonen ahead, with teammate Nico Hulkenberg finishing eighth. Jenson Button was McLaren’s sole representative in Q3 en route to P9 with Williams’ Felipe Massa in P10. Late improvements from Hulkenberg and Button in Q2 denied Valtteri Bottas a place in the top-1o shoot-out, resigning the Finn to 11th on the grid.
Haas continued its streak of getting both cars through to Q2 as Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez qualified 12th and 13th respectively, while Kevin Magnussen led Renault’s charge in 14th ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Sauber failed to repeat is charge to Q2 from Singapore as Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr fell short in Q1, finishing P17 and P18 respectively. Jolyon Palmer’s Saturday struggles continued as a mistake at the re-cambered final corner cost him time, leaving him 19th on the grid, while Manor’s Esteban Ocon outqualified teammate Pascal Wehrlein for the first time, finishing P20.
As expected, Fernando Alonso cut his qualifying session short in a bid to save his tires and car for the race after being handed a grid penalty earlier in the weekend. The Spaniard set a time good enough to finish within the 107% required to qualify before jumping out of his McLaren, ending up P22 in the final classification.
The Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET on Sunday.