Malaysia GP: Webber wins pole as rain hits Sepang
Both McLarens and both Ferraris were caught out by the weather and will start outside the top 16.
There are a lot of smart people in Formula 1 but that may not include the McLaren and Ferrari teams as neither one made it out of Q3.
At the start of Q1, all the cars chose intermediate tires but Vitaly Petrov was the first to succumb to the conditions, spinning on his first flying lap. Sebastien Buemi followed him shortly afterwards. It was a sign of things to come. Bruno Senna beached himself in a gravel trap.
Both Mercedes just managed to squeeze into the top 17, as did Jenson Button. But Lewis Hamilton spun at the last corner on his first flying lap - and just moments later Button spun off in the gravel.
As the rain failed to abate the teams called their cars in for full wet tires. Hamilton almost spun again on his way into the pits while Alonso did three complete loops in a desperate bid to find enough time to make it out of Q3.
In the end both Hamilton and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari improved as the rain finally stopped in the final two minutes but not enough, they paid the price for their stupidity. They were out, along with Felipe Massa - alongside the two Hispanias, Lucas di Grassi and Jarno Trulli. The fastest in Q1 had been Robert Kubica's Renault, Pedro de la Rosa's Sauber and Vettel's Red Bull.
With rain again forecast during the Q2 session, all the remaining teams knew that full-wets were necessary. It was another exciting session because the rain eased off in the middle of the session, allowing many drivers to make major gains. In the end Michael Schumacher just made it into Q3 in P10, while Petrov missed the cut along with Pedro de la Rosa, the two Toro Rossos, Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock, who had a spin.
At the head of the times in Q2 were Vettel, Robert Kubica's Renault and Adrian Sutil. Nico Hulkenberg, Nico Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Mark Webber, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Rubens Barrichello and Schumacher completed the top ten. Force India and Williams both did well to get both cars into Q3 - as, in the end, did Mercedes and Red Bull.
In Q3 all the cars went out at the start to make sure they had enough time to get enough laps in but conditions were so bad that the red flag came out after just three minutes.
The great news for the spectators is that there will now be an upside down grid for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix, and regardless of whether it is wet or dry, we are in for a thoroughly exciting race.
Jenson Button (17th, 1:52.211): "We thought the first rainstorm was it, and there was nothing else coming, so we waited. I guess events proved it was the wrong thing to do. My first lap on Inters felt okay. The thing is, you get no real warning; the first sector of the lap was quite dry, then you get to the fast left-right and it's really wet. I just aquaplaned off and got stuck in the gravel. I couldn't do anything about it. I just hope I haven't damaged anything on the car because I was sat in the gravel with the engine running for some time, hoping to get pulled out. It was a strange, disappointing session - both Lewis and I went out early. But, even so, I'm in front of three of my world championship rivals on tomorrow's grid, and I suppose that's the best way of looking at it."
Lewis Hamilton (20th, 1:53.050): "This was just one of those days. It had been a very good weekend for us up until qualifying started, and the simple fact is that we didn't expect it to rain any more. We went out at a similar time to the other top teams, and as a result quite a lot of us were all out of luck. By the time I got out there, there were lots of yellow flags about, so you just couldn't nail it - and then it started to rain more heavily. You couldn't feel a thing -, it was so, so slippery. It was easy to come off - I had a spin on my first lap, in fact - but I did the best job I could in the circumstances. I'd been fastest all weekend, but what can we do? We've just got to shrug it off. And, as I always, say, I'll never give up. That's why I'm not only focusing on the fast cars around me, I'm focusing on everyone - including those who are quite a few rows in front of me. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and I'm going to race my heart out."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "To qualify only 17th and 20th with what today's final practice session had clearly demonstrated was a highly competitive car was of course very disappointing for all concerned. So why did it happen? It happened because several teams, having consulted the weather radar, believed that the rain that was falling just prior to the start of Q1 would pass through and that the end of Q1 would be therefore by much drier. As we now know, it didn't turn out like that. With hindsight it would therefore have been better if we'd sent our cars out at the beginning of Q1, instead of waiting for what the weather radar had told us would be drier and faster conditions. Having said all that, we're now looking forward to a very exciting and hopefully very eventful race in which Jenson and Lewis, who are two of the most determined racers in the sport today, can produce a result for us that's significantly better than our qualifying performance this afternoon."
Nico Rosberg (2nd, 1:50.673): "I'm really pleased with my first front row start and it's great for me, the whole team and PETRONAS to have such a good qualifying result in Sepang for one of our home races. It was very difficult out there today and hard to keep it on the road at times. My run in Q3 was definitely my best of the day and I put in a good time on the first quick lap. By the second lap, the tires started to degrade so it just wasn't possible to go any quicker from there. As soon as we went out, I thought intermediates were the way to go and maybe I should have come in but in the end it worked out well for us. I'm confident that we can have a strong race from here tomorrow, if it is wet or dry, and I'm looking forward to it."
Michael Schumacher (8th, 1:51.717): "I am obviously a little disappointed with my result today as it was evident from the earlier qualifying sessions that we looked pretty good and I clearly could have achieved more. On my last run in Q3, I wanted to secure a lap time and then go for the second lap but after I finished my first quick lap, the tires were already gone so I could not go for it anymore. Though it is good to know the limits of the wet tires for tomorrow, now I have to concentrate fully on the race. Congratulations to Nico today for scoring our first front row qualifying result."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "An excellent performance from Nico today to achieve his first front row grid start in what were very challenging conditions for all of the drivers. In these situations, it is important to keep a cool and calm head and I'm very pleased with how the team worked together to ensure that we competed in all three sessions. It was a bit close on occasion but we reacted well and the drivers did the most important job of keeping the car on the track. In Q3, Nico had a great first lap to achieve his time for second position, however the wet tires degraded very quickly and Michael suffered particularly on his second quick lap and was not able to improve. It's very pleasing to have achieved our best grid position of the season here in Sepang for PETRONAS's home race."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Today was a qualifying session where anything was possible and we saw some surprising results like three World Champions starting the race from 17th, 19th and 20th positions. Michael did the best job amongst the Champions finishing in eighth place whilst Nico was superb in posting the fastest time of the drivers on wet tires in Q3 and finishing the session in second position on the front row. Michael decided to do a 'safe' lap and wanted to push hard on the lap afterwards but the wet tires unfortunately only lasted one lap at their peak. I am particularly pleased that five German drivers finished this thrilling and challenging qualifying session in the top eight. All of them have, in one form or another, been supported by Mercedes-Benz during their junior careers, be it in karting like Nico and sportcars like Michael, or in the Formula 3 Euro Series. Well done to all of them! It gives everybody in our team great pleasure to start from the front row for the PETRONAS Malaysian Grand Prix and our target is to achieve a similar result tomorrow."
Mark Webber (1st, 1:49.327): "It was tricky today. When you look at the amount of standing water there was in places during Q1 and Q2, trying to get everything right and a clear lap was difficult, especially as there is a fair difference in pace between some of the cars. My Q2 lap on intermediate tires was a bit of a three point turn round Pedro (de la Rosa) and that was my quickest, so you knew you had to keep pushing; the conditions were changing so quickly. A few big names went out in the first session, which was a surprise, but it just goes to show how sensitive everything is to timing. The pole goes to Ciaron, my engineer, as he made the call for inters in Q3. I said 'have a look at the track, what do you think?' and he said 'yeah let's go for it'. It was tricky in places, in the last corner there was a bit of aquaplaning, but I kept it on the black stuff and got the job done."
Sebastian Vettel (3rd, 1:50.789): "Good job to Mark today. It was very tricky at the start of Q3, there was a lot of water and it was the right thing to call the red flag - it was just impossible. I think there was too much water - the cars are quite low, so you end up swimming more than driving. In Q3 I think we did the right thing putting on extremes. The water disappeared quicker than the majority of people thought and Mark was on the better tire in the end, but I think third is a good result for the team. It was a tricky session - it was important to get into the next round and then qualify as high up as we could, which we did. It's a shame as I had some moments on my fastest lap - I was close to Nico (Rosberg), only about one tenth off I think, but if you look back there wasn't that much margin. I think we can be very pleased with third today and everything is possible tomorrow."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A very tricky qualifying, as there was a lot of opportunity to get it wrong rather than right, but both drivers kept cool heads, along with their engineers and car crews. In the end there was quite a lot of risk associated with splitting the strategy for the last run in Q3, but it was the right thing to do. The option of the intermediate tire had a one lap window that Mark fully exploited and first and third is a great job from both drivers."
Fabrice Lom, Renault: "What a great pole position. It was a very difficult session in the wet - Mark made a good call on tires and along with his good skill, he claimed pole. He erased the issue from yesterday when his engine blew, so we're happy he could recover and get pole. Sebastian is third, which is a good team result. Now we concentrate on the race tomorrow."
Fernando Alonso (19th, 1:53.044): "We were expecting the rain to stop and that's why we stayed in the garage longer than the others. When we went out, in fact the conditions got worse and even on the extreme wets, we were unable to improve our time. Rain might make things more spectacular, but the session just turns into a lottery. Today, it went badly for us and we found ourselves in the wrong place - the track - at the wrong time. However, the result of qualifying is only worth the paper on which it is written, because the points are assigned at the end of the race. Of course, starting from the back puts us in a difficult position but, as we saw last Sunday in Melbourne, anything can happen and we have to trust in our abilities. We must do our best to bring home a points finish."
Felipe Massa (21st, 1:53.283): "We are very sorry about what happened. We waited a bit before going out, because it was raining hard and the forecast was for an improvement, however we found ourselves out on track where there was more water than predicted. We made a mistake and we were caught out by the weather forecast. Now we must do our best for tomorrow's race. It will be tough, as always when you start from the back of the grid, but we will have to try and score at least a few points. It's hard to say whether it's better to hope for rain or sunshine: maybe with the former there might be more chance of the tables being turned, but it's equally true that there are more chances of ending up out of the race."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "We are very disappointed with the way qualifying went. We made an error of judgment in trusting the weather forecast: when we went out on track the rain, rather than dying down, suddenly got even stronger. With hindsight, it is easy to say we should have gone out immediately. It's a real shame because all the signs were that we could have done well and now we will have to prepare for an uphill fight in the race. But there's no point in crying about things before they have even happened, because the race is not until tomorrow. And as we saw today, anything could happen. We will try and pick up as many points as possible, making the most of any opportunity that presents itself."
Chris Dyer: "Obviously, we are very disappointed. Yesterday, we did a good job of preparing for the weekend and this morning, the F10 was clearly very competitive in the dry and we therefore hoped for a good result this afternoon. The way the weather changed caught us on the back foot. An improvement had been predicted up to the end of Q1 and, in those circumstances it made sense to go out in the late stages. We went out at the mid point and after a few laps, some of them spoiled by yellow flags, the rain got heavier and we could no longer improve our performance, even if Fernando got very close right at the end. A real shame, as tomorrow's race now becomes a case of damage limitation because of our grid positions. All the same, we are confident that we have a competitive car and we also have faith in our drivers, therefore we will try and make the most of this situation."
Nico Hulkenberg (5th, 1:51.001): "Finally we had a bit of a breakthrough today. It was very tight out there and my lap wasn't perfect so I could have done a little better, but I'm happy where I am and I'm happy for the team as well. The car has proved to be good in wet conditions and I like driving in the wet, so I'm looking forward to the race. A lot will depend on what the weather will do tomorrow though."
Rubens Barrichello (7th, 1:51.511): "There are two ways to look at qualifying. The positive is that we are happy as a team, but I don't think we would have achieved P5 and P7 in a dry session. In hindsight, I should have chosen intermediates for my last run, which would have given me a better lap time. I'm still pleased as we are better prepared for tomorrow."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "That was a great qualifying result for the team. Both drivers drove well in the conditions and it was encouraging to watch. Furthermore, the engineers made good calls with the windows that they chose to send the cars out in. We'll now look to converting our position to a good race result tomorrow."
Robert Kubica (6th, 1:51.051): "Today's weather made for quite a challenging qualifying session, but the car felt good in the wet and I made it easily through Q1 and Q2. For the final part of qualifying we thought the rain would get heavier so I pushed really hard on my first timed lap in Q3, which destroyed the tires and made it difficult to improve as the track continued to dry. However, sixth place is a good place to start and I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow. I think the weather could play a big role, and if it's like today the race could become a lottery."
Vitaly Petrov (11th, 1:48.760): "It was difficult to predict the weather today, so we decided to go out as early as possible, which was the right decision because the rain kept getting heavier in Q1. In Q2 the car felt good on the intermediates and I pushed hard throughout the session, but I just missed out on Q3, which is a shame. Still, 11th is a good place to start and if we get more rain tomorrow, anything could happen. I will be aiming to finish the race and hopefully score some points."
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: "With the changeable weather today it was a difficult session to call with lots of possible strategies going through our minds. Overall the team made the right decisions with the tires for both cars and the drivers did a great job. For the race tomorrow the forecast suggests we can expect some more rain so it's good to be starting towards the front of the grid. This is our best qualifying performance as a team this year and I think we have a good opportunity to get both cars in the points tomorrow."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Today's session was great fun from the pit wall and I'm pleased that we got the tire choice right for both Robert and Vitaly in the first two sessions. Robert made it easily through to Q3, but Vitaly just missed out, which is a shame because he has been quick today. With quite a mixed up grid for tomorrow, we should be in for an interesting race and I think we are well placed to score some good points. The weather could play its part again, but as we have seen today our car works well in the wet and the dry, and the team has reacted well to the conditions. We're probably a bit more competitive in the wet, but I don't mind if it's wet or dry."
Adrian Sutil (4th, 1:50.914): "It was a great qualifying again for us. As I expected it rained at 4pm, I said that yesterday I think! It was challenging and the conditions changed a lot over the sessions. Sometimes it was a lot of rain, sometimes half wet, half dry so it was very important to choose the right tires. I think we did a great job in those conditions and every session we did the optimum. I am so happy to be in this position now. It's a great achievement and my team really deserved it. They did a fantastic job: being there on the right time on the right tire was very important. My time in the end was good for P4: a great job all round."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (10th, 1:52.254): "We can be happy about getting through to Q3 as this was our target for this weekend. It was a good qualifying, Q3 started very wet, very similar to Brazil last year, and then it dried up very quickly at the end. I had a problem on the last lap with a locking front brake and lost the last run but that's how it is in these conditions: you have to get the right spot at the right time. Tomorrow will be a tough race from where we are. We have a lot of quick cars around us but as we've seen today we are strong in all conditions. I'm looking forward to it."
Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal: "Today was a really brilliant team performance, not just from the drivers but from the pit wall and the garage. The interpretation of the data and weather forecast, the implementation in the garage and the calls from the drivers all came together beautifully to give our best qualifying performance this season. It sets us up well for the race, but as we know tomorrow's result is all that counts. We've got to keep this spirit up, keep our heads down and go for the maximum we can. I don't want to tempt fate with predictions, but I would hope we could convert this into a serious points haul."
Sebastien Buemi (13th, 1:49.207): "I'm angry because I did not make the most of Q2. But there's nothing I can do about it and so we will have to tackle the race from where we are. I started Q2 on full wets because we felt the conditions demanded it, but I stayed on track too long and then, after I came in and switched to the Intermediates, it was too late because the rain had started to get stronger again."
Jaime Alguersuari (14th, 1:49.464): "When you look at what happened to some of the quicker guys, I would say this qualifying result is reasonably okay for me. However, maybe if I had come in earlier in Q2 to switch from full wets to intermediates, then maybe I could have had a chance of seeing Q3. If the conditions are similar to this tomorrow and I believe that is the forecast, then you never know what could happen, although personally I would prefer a dry race."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "Malaysian rain is like English tea: it comes around five and it's the same temperature. Seriously though, we got our tactics right in going out immediately in Q1. But in Q2, if we had more confidence in the forecast, we should have gone out earlier on Intermediates, but we thought it was too risky. We called Sebastien in at the right minute, but he did not come in and we missed the best slot. Jaime was very lucky not to run out of fuel in Q1 as he stayed out for one lap too long and in Q2, I would say he is pretty much where we would have expected. Therefore, something of a missed opportunity today."
Heikki Kovalainen (15th, 1:52.270): "I'm so pleased! I really like these conditions - it's very hard to judge your speed and you really have to take some risks, and all the time you're feeling like you might lose the car, but that's the challenge and I love it! On some parts of the track it was very wet and raining hard, and on others it wasn't so much. Getting to Q2 really exceeds expectations for me and the whole team - yes of course we've been a little bit lucky today for sure, but it means we beat the other new teams, again! Although we were lucky, we played our strategy just right -if you look at the McLarens and Ferraris they didn't think it was going to rain that much and look what happened. They missed their window at the beginning of the session and we took full advantage of it. Now I can't wait to race tomorrow!"
Jarno Trulli (18th, 1:52.884): "It was disappointing because I was doing very well. Unfortunately on my quickest lap a car spun in front of me, which impeded me through the second and third sector so I couldn't close my fast lap; and then the rain was getting worse, so there was no chance to improve on lap time. Still - we'll do our best tomorrow and we'll see what happens."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: "I'm speechless! What a day! To get 15th place in our home country, in front of our home crowd is amazing. I'm over the moon and just so excited. We gave the Toro Rossos a run for their money today and Jarno was just unfortunate to get blocked, otherwise he'd have been in Q2 as well. Tomorrow's another day, and we'll see what happens, but it's a good step forward. Today we'll enjoy it, and we'll live for the day, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "Obviously we're all very very pleased to get a car into Q2 and Heikki did a tremendous job to get us there! I'm disappointed for Jarno as he got traffic on the lap that would have got him in. I think we got all the calls on the tires right on the pit wall and in Q2 we ran the whole session on intermediates, which was clearly the thing to do. We made a change five minutes before the end, and Heikki got in a good clear lap to get P15. Well done to the whole team, and especially to Tony, for such success at one of our two home races - I know he's very very proud."
Karun Chandhok (22nd, 1:56.299): "I will start tomorrow's race just behind Trulli, Alonso, Hamilton and Massa. The weather was not looking good in the afternoon before qualifying and I was not sure if it would hold until the qualifying session as well. It didn't and that gave us our first wet experience driving the car for the first time in heavy rain. I made the best of it."
Bruno Senna (23rd, 1:57.269): "It's been a bit of a difficult day. Conditions were very tough and it was our first experience of these conditions. I covered five laps before sliding off on the very wet track and unfortunately the engine stalled. Luckily I could go out of the gravel, going back to the garage and do more laps after it."
Colin Kolles, Team Principal: "I will start tomorrow's race just behind Trulli, Alonso, Hamilton and Massa. The weather was not looking good in the afternoon before qualifying and I was not sure if it would hold until the qualifying session as well. It didn't and that gave us our first wet experience driving the car for the first time in heavy rain. I made the best of it."
Kamui Kobayashi (9th, 1:51.767): "I am very happy to have made it into Q3 for the first time. Last year in Brazil, also in wet conditions, I was close but then I spun on my last lap in Q2. I learnt this lesson. In dry conditions our performance seemed to be rather difficult, therefore I am even happier with my position. It is not easy to drive in the wet because of aquaplaning, which obviously will get worse if it rains tomorrow because of the heavy cars for the race start. But I am determined to score points tomorrow."
Pedro de la Rosa (12th, 1:48.771): "It was a quite difficult qualifying because of the changeable conditions. You never knew how much water to expect when braking into a corner. The car was pretty good in the wet, and I could have made it into the top ten if I just had a single clear lap. But even on my fastest lap I had to overtake two cars in the last sector. However, certainly we can look forward to a very exciting race tomorrow!"
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "It's nice to have one car in 12th and the other one in the top ten. The engineers and drivers did a good job today. This result is motivating for the whole team. We are looking forward to a thrilling race."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "After free practice three we made some changes to the cars. We decided not to run the new rear wing system on Kamui's car. Due to the constantly changing weather conditions it was an exciting qualifying in which we made the best decisions with regard to strategy and timing. The team was rewarded with a solid result. Kamui's performance was strong and he managed to make it into the top ten."
Timo Glock (16th, 1:52.520): "It's been a very good weekend for us so far. We've had no real problems with the car and we've been able to do proper work during every session. Qualifying went quite smoothly considering the rain at the start of the session. It was critical to get out on time and my lap in Q1 was really good, getting me into Q2. It was good to see us do a better job than some of the top teams and as a result they will be starting behind us. Q2 wasn't perfect though as we came in too early and that cost us the place against Heikki. In general though we have to be happy with what we have achieved today. It's great for the team and there is now a lot of motivation for tomorrow. It looks like it could be a crazy race tomorrow, so we have to stay focused - and stay on the track - and we'll see how it all ends."
Lucas di Grassi (24th, 1:59.977): "Once more some problems affected us today and we had to rebuild parts of the car between Free Practice and Qualifying. It was touch and go whether we would even get the car out at all for Qualy, but the mechanics did an incredible job and because of that we were able to do at least a couple of laps to make sure the car was working well. While it has been a disappointing day for me personally, it has been a good day for the team so we all have to be pleased for that. We look forward to the race tomorrow and hope that brings better things, including achieving our target of finishing our first race."
Nick Wirth, Technical Director: "Today has been a great day for everyone involved in Virgin Racing - a clear step forward for the team. P3 this morning was yet another smooth session with both cars, during which we continued set-up work with encouraging results. Despite still not running Qualifying fuel loads, it was nice to again demonstrate the underlying potential of this car and its unique design process. At the end of P3 we were unhappy with the consistency of fuel pressure on Lucas' car and we elected to perform a very challenging fuel filter change before Qualifying in order to maximize our chances on Sunday. Lucas' crew did a great job in getting the car out to record at least some timed laps in Q1. I'm just sorry for Lucas that we didn't get him out at the beginning of the session when the track was drier. Timo continued to demonstrate our potential in Q1 and whilst some of our more experienced competitors elected to stay in the garage at the optimum time, Timo made it through to Q2. The Q2 session was tricky. We were running with all our weather prediction services warning us of an imminent downpour, so unfortunately we ran our last set of Intermediates a little bit early, which costs us a place. Looking at our times from earlier today though, that won't matter in the race."
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