Lewis Hamilton seized pole position in a breath-taking, close qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix, as McLaren maintained their dominance of the new Formula One season.
In spite of a last-corner wheel-spin, the 2008 world champion timed a lightning one minute, 36.219 seconds lap at the start of the final qualifying shoot-out to shade it from teammate Jenson Button and German great Michael Schumacher.
McLaren have now led in qualifying for the first two races after Hamilton also led a one-two last week in Australia, before finishing the grand prix third behind Button and Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber was fourth fastest and Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, but the 2007 world champion was penalised five places for a gearbox change — promoting sixth-placed Vettel one spot on the starting grid.
“It’s been a good weekend so far,” said Hamilton. “It’s been a tough day with the changing weather conditions and the temperatures climbing. We made some changes to the car but we still managed to do some good times.”
Six former champions in current season
This year’s Formula One series features an unprecedented six former world champions, with Vettel, 24, bidding to become only the third driver in the sport’s history to win three titles in a row.
Five of the six world title-winners have been victorious at Sepang, a fast circuit known for its strength-sapping humidity and frequent heavy rain. Vettel won the 2010 and 2011 races. Button, meanwhile, will be looking to win the second race of the season after his win in Australia.
1 L Hamilton (GBR) McLaren
2 J Button (GBR) McLaren
3 M Schumacher (GER) Mercedes
4 M Webber (AUS) Red Bull
5 S Vettel (GER) Red Bull
6 R Grosjean (FRA) Lotus
7 N Rosberg (GER) Mercedes
8 F Alonso (ESP) Ferrari
9 S Perez (MEX) Sauber
10 KM Räikkönen (FIN) Lotus
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.