30 September 2017Hot off the Press
Lewis Hamilton will be first on the starting grid at what will be the last Malaysian Grand Prix for the foreseeable future. A solid qualifying performance saw the Briton take pole position in his Mercedes, while his closest title rival, Sebastian Vettel, failed to set a time due to issues with his Ferrari’s power unit.
Despite Mercedes’ noticeably poor performances in the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, Hamilton held off the Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen by less than 0.05 seconds. Räikkönen came close to snatching pole position from Hamilton, but a lock-up on the final corner of his last qualifying lap meant the Finn will have to settle for second.
The second row of the grid is locked out by Red Bull, with birthday boy Max Verstappen out-qualifying teammate Daniel Ricciardo by a similar margin of 0.054 seconds. Behind them are the second Mercedes of Valterri Bottas in fifth, and the Force India of Esteban Ocon in sixth, marking Ocon’s career-best start.
Suggesting that their performance at the Singapore Grand Prix a fortnight ago wasn’t a fluke, both Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso made it into the top-10 for McLaren-Honda. Vandoorne secured his career-best qualifying result of seventh, out-qualifying his teammate, who will start in 10th. Between them are the Renault of Nico Hülkenberg, who is making regular Q3 appearances something of a habit, and the second Force India of Sergio Peréz.
Both Williams’ cars were eliminated in Q2, with the 11th-placed Felipe Massa and 13th-placed Lance Stroll being separated by the Renault of Jolyon Palmer. Carlos Sainz Jr qualified in 14th, and, in his debut Formula 1 qualifying session, Pierre Gasly brought the second Toro Rosso across the line to take 15th on the grid. A former GP2 champion, Gasly is standing in for Daniil Kvyat for an unknown number of races — it is understood that Gasly is being evaluated by Toro Rosso with a view to his replacing Sainz at the team when the latter departs for Renault next season.
At the rear of the grid, it was a disappointing qualifying session for Haas and Sauber, with both teams having all cars eliminated in Q1. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will start 16th and 17th for Haas, while Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson will start 18th and 19th for Sauber.
Sebastian Vettel’s qualifying session was over before it properly began, and the driver will start last on the grid. Suspecting a broken or malfunctioning turbo, the four-time World Champion limped back to the pits without completing a single timed lap in Q1. Vettel’s Ferrari power unit had already been changed as a precaution after a possible electrical problem in the third free practice session, and may now mean a grid-place penalty later in the season if Ferrari is required to replace further components.