Malaysian GP: Vettel takes pole in the wet

Sebastian Vettel played the conditions just right

Sebastian Vettel, showed why he is the best driver in F1 today. Gunning for his fourth straight world title, the German took pole position by nearly a second on a drying track in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

With the circuit improving moment by moment in the final part of Q3, Vettel put on a fresh set of intermediates on his red Bull Renault to lap in 1m49.674s.

The two Ferraris will line up behind Vettel on the grid. Felipe Massa outqualified Fernando Alonso for a fourth straight race.

Lewis Hamilton held provisional pole for Mercedes going into the last minute, before being shuffled back to fourth by Vettel and the Ferraris.

Mark Webber will start fifth.

An on-form Massa will start 2nd

After the thrilling session, both Ferrari men suggested that the rain which affected the top ten shoot-out in Q3 might have helped their cause, but nevertheless, the F138 was good enough to be in the hunt throughout, with both Massa and Alonso comfortably getting through the first two parts of qualifying, while using as few sets of tire as possible. In the event of a dry race, then tire degradation will again be the key factor and tire management, as we saw seven days ago in Albert Park is the key that can unlock the door to the podium. Starting from third, Alonso has even suggested that one should not rule out being in the fight for outright victory, but as a three times winner here, the Spaniard knows as well as anyone how the weather can throw everything into confusion. However, from the second row of the grid, the Ferrari man can hope to have a reason to celebrate his 200th Grand Prix tomorrow.

When the rain came in time for the end of Q2 and stayed throughout Q3, it was the usual case of the times tumbling as a drying line appeared, even if everyone went for two sets of Intermediates in the final session. Alonso was quickest for a short time, but Sebastian Vettel asserted his and the Red Bull’s superiority over the single lap, to take his second pole in two races. Right at the end, Felipe’s well timed run was enough to put him in second place, while at the start of tomorrow’s 56 lap race, Fernando Alonso will have the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton outside him on the second row. Mark Webber for Red Bull and Nico Rosberg in the other Mercedes share the third row in fifth and sixth places respectively. If the weather is bad then starting from the front two rows also carries a visibility advantage and the current forecast is for thunderstorms at around 5 and 6 in the evening. When does the race start? 4pm!

"It was interesting qualifying session," Vettel said after winning the 38th pole of his career and second of the year. "We knew rain was in the way, we thought it would be at the start of Q1, so we had a different approach from other people. The rain helped us in Q2, otherwise we needed another run. In Q3 it was clear it was better to change tires for a second run, we didn't know if more rain was coming or not. I'm surprised for the gap, it was a decent lap. For tomorrow we saved some tires and that could be crucial."

"If you start on pole you want to finish at the front," he added. "I'm very happy with the balance of the car, it's a big step forward compared to where we were last year. Tomorrow managing the tires will be crucial; we know the pace is there and we hope to get to the checkered flag in the same position."

Massa said the rain helped Ferrari be more competitive.

"Maybe the rain helped us, because I don't know if we could be second and third in the dry," he said. "Kimi and the Mercedes would have been probably quicker. In Q3 we did the right thing by changing tires, because the track was drying up."

Alonso quick in changing conditions, will start 3rd

But Alonso was more upbeat for the race.

"Tomorrow we try to do a good race, score as many points as possible," he said. "In the long runs we've been inconsistent, but we didn't have big problems in the long runs. There's no reason not to be optimistic for tomorrow but we'll have to see. It's a long race and a lot of things can happen."


Red Bull-Renault

Sebastian Vettel (1st, 1:49.674): "It was very difficult as the circuit was half dry and half wet today – so it was difficult to find the right compromise between pushing hard and also saving the tires. It was the right strategy to come in and change the tires and the pace was there. It was a good session in Q3 and it was clear what we had to do, so I'm pleased with the result. It's a long race tomorrow and whoever wins will have done the best job. We managed to save some tires today which will help if the race is dry, but we will see."

Mark Webber (5th, 1:52.244): "It's disappointing to finish fifth. We didn't get the timing quite right in the last part of Q3, I thought I had more laps. We were quick enough, but we went too slow on the lap when we should have been going quick and it meant we didn't get a last timed lap in. The time doesn't represent how comfortable I felt in the car today and it's frustrating when you put so much work in and know you could have done better. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow – it should be interesting with the weather."

Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "A challenging qualifying, but in the end we were able to navigate both cars into Q3 when the rain came – it was then a question of getting the timings right. Sebastian elected to do two runs – it was always clear there was only time for one and one (timed laps) or five laps if you ran the whole session. Mark having not got his first lap in elected to stay out and, as the circuit continued to dry, the lap times continued to fall. Sebastian put together a fantastic lap in tricky conditions to get the pole. With Mark, it was a great shame as we thought he would be the last car to cross the line and get the last timed lap, but a miscommunication about the number of remaining laps meant that he was first car to get the checkered flag, missing a fifth lap by one second. It was a shame, but first and fifth for tomorrow's race is a good starting position. That said, I don't think pole will be the deciding factor of tomorrow's race; if it's wet it helps with visibility, but in the event of a dry race then tire degradation and tire strategy will be key."

Thierry Salvi, Renault: "It's always a joy to come here as the weather conditions are quite extreme, so it's interesting in terms of engine settings and engine set up. You can imagine that the engine can suffer quite a lot under these conditions and, in addition, you also have to work on drivability under dry and wet conditions. That means you have to be ready for the kind of qualifying we had today, when it starts dry and ends wet. The challenge here is to be able to cope with that weather and for the engine itself to be able to cope with these extreme conditions."


Felipe Massa (2nd, 1:50.587): "It was a great qualifying in which we managed to make the most of all the opportunities that came our way. In Q3, we decided to stop towards the end of the session to fit a new set of intermediates and this allowed me to do a lap good enough to take second place on the grid. I am very happy with this team result, which is down to the great job done over the winter months. The car has shown itself to be competitive in all conditions, both in the wet and dry, but we must continue to improve. Today, we were up against very strong opposition and maybe the rain helped us a bit, because in normal conditions it would have been harder to aim for this result. Now we can expect a long and difficult race in which anything can happen and in which strategy and tire management will be the key, while the uncertainty over the weather won't help anyone."

Fernando Alonso (3rd, 1:50.727): "I am very happy with this position as it's been too long since I qualified in the top three! Something I have usually managed to achieve in the race has been missing for quite a while: maybe the rain helped us a bit as we were not the quickest in the dry, but starting in the top three gives us a realistic chance of a podium finish and we can even dream about winning. In Q3, when we had seen the track was drying quickly, we had a moment's hesitation, because in the dry, the intermediates only last one or two laps before beginning to degrade. But in the end, it seemed the most sensible choice and it worked out well. Of the past three years, this seems to be the moment when everything appears to be working for the best: performance, strategy, pit stops. Now we must see how tomorrow will turn out, because it's always a lottery if it rains. Even if, in the current Formula 1, the start is not the most important thing, we will still try to make a good one in order to maintain position or even to try and get past Vettel at the first corner. Then we will see: our race pace in Australia and the long run here on Friday means we can be reasonably optimistic."

Pat Fry: "Like all the other teams, we tackled today's qualifying with the aim of using as few tires as possible to save them for tomorrow's race. It took just one run on the hard compound to get both drivers through to the second part, providing various options for the rest of the session. In Q2, we used just one set of Mediums and even without the rain, I think that we would have managed to get through to the final part without any trouble. From then on, as predicted, it started to rain, but not enough to complicate matters: even though the track was wet, it was clear that Intermediates were the right choice. Going for a pit stop change after the first few laps proved to be the right move: we had to evaluate a subtle balance between tire temperature and the amount of water on track and while at the time that can seem stressful, given the conditions, thinking back, it was relatively straightforward. If the rain holds off tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see how everyone exploits the tires. All the teams have a few more new sets, which will make for a fascinating race."

Luca di Montezemolo:


Jenson Button (8th, 1:53.175): "I don't think we can really expect to qualify any better than P8 right now – but, having said that, to be just two-tenths off the guy who won last weekend's Australian Grand Prix [Kimi Raikkonen] in Q3 can't be too bad. Q3 was wet today, of course, but during Q1 and the first half of Q2 it appeared that perhaps we're now a little more competitive in the dry than we were this time last weekend. We're still not quick, but the guys are doing a fantastic job to get everything they can out of our car. As for tomorrow's race, well, when you've got a quick car, you never want it to rain. When you've got a less quick car, you do want it to rain. Today, though, we didn't have great pace on the Intermediates [tires] in Q3, when it was raining, so all I'll say is that as always we'll battle hard and see what the race brings."

Sergio Perez (10th, 1:54.136): "Considering how our car was behaving at Albert Park just a week ago, I guess you could say that was an encouraging qualifying session. Jenson and I both got into Q3, which was a relief, but obviously we know we've still got a long way to go in terms of car development. Having said that, I can see how hard the team is working to improve our car, and it's a really good feeling to be a part of that. It often rains in the late afternoon here in Sepang, so I guess tomorrow's race may well be affected by wet conditions, given that it's scheduled to start at 4.00pm. But I really enjoy racing on this circuit, and, whatever the weather, I'll give my best tomorrow for the best team in Formula 1."

Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Both Jenson and Checo drove commendably solidly in qualifying here today, in tricky conditions in which it would have been all too easy for them to have made costly mistakes. In terms of car performance, while we'd never be even remotely satisfied with P8 and P10, it's fair to say that we've made a small amount of progress since last weekend's Australian Grand Prix, so I want to say thank you to all the guys, both on the road and back home in Woking [Surrey, UK], for their sterling efforts in that respect. Just as important, though, we've continued to gather useful data, which we'll now number-crunch intensively with a view to continuing our evolution of MP4-28. There's still a long way to go, because as I say we're not yet even close to where we want and need to be in terms of car performance, but it's probably fair to state that, although the gains we've made have been small so far, the development trend appears to be in the right direction."


Kimi Raikkonen (7th, 1:52.970): "We weren't quick enough on the intermediates so I don't think we could have found much more time in the wet today. For sure I wanted more but it is what it is and I hope we'll do better on Sunday. It's obviously disappointing to lose three places on the grid, but we'll have to see what happens in the race. I have no idea what the weather will do, but it will be the same for everyone."

Romain Grosjean (11th, 1:37.636): "The car felt better today for sure and we were looking good after free practice earlier this afternoon. We should have easily had both cars in the top ten, but unfortunately the skies opened at just the wrong time for me. My first run in Q2 was on scrubbed tires and then as soon as we came in to fit the new ones it started raining, so for now they stay new. It's a shame but there's a long race ahead of us tomorrow and we now have extra sets of fresh dry tires in our pocket so hopefully we can use them well."

James Allison, Technical Director: "It was a disappointing qualifying session for us. Rather like in Melbourne, we haven't placed our cars in the sort of positions our dry pace merits. Like last time, rain disturbed qualifying and we're not as effective in the wet as we are in the dry. That was qualifying; the race is tomorrow and we have potential for both drivers to put in strong performances. Unfortunately, it looks like the weather could be much like today, with further wet conditions. This sort of variable weather is what we frequently see in Malaysia and it's likely to be a stern test of driver and team, in that it's very difficult to make the correct strategy choice as the conditions develop. We haven't shown yet in the wet, but the higher fuel loads we will use tomorrow may make it easier for us to build heat in the intermediate tire. We are looking good on dry pace, especially on heavy fuel loads, so if someone could devise and deploy an effective anti-rain dance we'd be well-placed for a good result. A common Malaysia scenario is a dry track followed by extreme rain, followed by a safety car and it's in these conditions that bold decisions can bring big rewards. The trick is making the correct bold decision."

Mercedes GP

Lewis Hamilton (4th, 1:51.699): "I'm pretty happy with fourth place considering the conditions today. The car was not too bad in the dry but the balance could have been a lot better, then it was pretty tricky conditions in the wet during Q3. We did our lap with older tires than the guys in front, which was a bit unfortunate, but our pace was good overall so I can't complain. It's the second race on the second row for me and there are lots of positives to take out of the weekend so far. Our long run pace looked pretty good compared to the other teams so I'm hoping for dry conditions tomorrow."

Nico Rosberg (6th, 1:52.519): "In the dry conditions I had a great balance today and everything went perfectly which was nice to see. Once it began to rain unfortunately we weren't able to get the most out of the car and at the end of Q3, my tires were worn as some parts of the track were drying and I wasn't able to improve my lap time. We have a good car for the race and a strong starting position from the third row of the grid so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We should have some good opportunities and will need to make sure that we make the most of them."

Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "An exciting qualifying session this afternoon with the threat of the weather conditions changing. The car was well balanced on both dry compounds and the intermediate tires, and we made a pretty good job of judging the conditions. Clearly there was an opportunity at the end to put a second set of intermediates on and potentially go faster but it could have gone either way. Both Lewis and Nico are in good positions for the race and the car seems to be in reasonable shape so we look forward to tomorrow and whatever the weather decides to throw at us."

Toto Wolff, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "That was a tricky qualifying session, particularly in Q3 when it may have been better to run a second set of new intermediate tires – but it's easy to be wise after the fact. The reality today is that we have shown our trend is positive, we got a solid result with both cars in the top six and the team delivered a solid performance. We have spent the entire weekend working on our performance for Sunday, not Saturday, and we hope that we can confirm our positive trend tomorrow."


Nico Hulkenberg (12th, 1:38.125):

Esteban Gutierrez (14th, 1:39.221):

Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal:

Tom McCullough, Head of Track Engineering:

Force India-Mercedes

Adrian Sutil (9th, 1:53.439): "It's a shame that the rain arrived for Q3 because our pace in the dry had been very strong. I'm still not totally confident with these tires in the wet and the car was sliding around in the corners with too much oversteer. I will hope for a dry race because we have a competitive car and I'm happy with the balance. The target is to try and push to the front tomorrow with a good strategy and come away with points or maybe more."

Paul di Resta (15th, 1:44.509): "Quite a frustrating day because we got caught out by the weather. We've looked strong this weekend so felt quite confident heading into qualifying, but the rain arrived earlier than the team expected. Now we need to see what the weather does tomorrow, but I will certainly come back fighting. I've got lots of new tires, which is more than enough to complete the race and the car has been working well here so far."

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "We ended qualifying today feeling a little bit disappointed. Throughout practice we have been very competitive in the dry and Adrian demonstrated that once again during Q1 when he set the fastest time. In Q2 we misjudged the weather with the rain coming in earlier than anticipated, which proved very costly for Paul who didn't have time to complete his quick lap in the dry. Adrian progressed to Q3 but struggled in the wet conditions and didn't feel comfortable on the intermediates. Had it been dry, I'm confident he would have been higher up the grid. Going into the race we will keep a close eye on the weather and be pushing hard to get both drivers home in the points."


Pastor Maldonado (16th, No Time): "We were unlucky with the timing of the rain in Q2 which meant we were forced to abort the lap. The car felt better on track and there was a chance we could have been fighting to get into Q3. We still have work to do to improve the car and close the gap, but we will work hard now to prepare for the race tomorrow."

Valtteri Bottas (18th, 1:38.207): "It was disappointing not to get through into Q2 today, especially after we felt the car had improved since last week. The prime tire run felt good with the car responding well. We expected a much bigger gain from the medium compound but we didn't get any extra grip. The lap times were tight at the end so we just missed out on Q2, but our long-run pace will mean we will be aiming to gain some places from our grid position tomorrow."

Mike Coughlan, Technical Director: "We feel we've made some small steps forward which we were able to show in FP3 this morning. However, we were unable to capitalize on this during qualifying with Valtteri narrowly missing out on a place in Q2 and finishing in 18th. Pastor made it through, but we were then caught out by the rain which came earlier than predicted and so he was unable to set a time."

Toro Rosso-Ferrari

Daniel Ricciardo (13th, 1:38.822): "Coming into qualifying today, if I'd been told I could sign on the dotted line for thirteenth, I'd have taken it. It's a decent result and we haven't been that far up the time sheets all weekend in practice. Looking at it that way, thirteenth is quite good, but in Q1, we were quite competitive and only one hundredth of a second from the top ten. With the rain coming, maybe we missed an opportunity to do better. We have improved but I still want more. Tomorrow, I plan to move up the order in what could be an unpredictable race. I really want to be in the top ten and get some points on the board early in the season."

Jean-Eric Vergne (17th, 1:38.157): "I don't know how much better I could have done, but it's never nice to be out at the end of Q1. I was held up in the final sector by another car and lost between four and five tenths and that cost me the chance of getting to Q2. If we want to find positives, then at least I have saved a set of new tires for the race, which could be important as this track is very hard on tires. Being behind my team-mate? It means nothing today and the important thing is to be in front tomorrow! As usual, I am still being optimistic about tomorrow and hope to go after some points. Anything can happen in this race and in free practice we saw we had a good pace on a long run, which is encouraging."

James Key, Technical Director: "We knew the balance of the car would be very different to Melbourne and we adjusted the car accordingly for Friday, but the difference in car balance and tire behavior was greater than we had expected. Overnight, we wanted to take another step for this morning, but on both cars it was actually a step too far and the softer tires did not work well and the balance was not optimum. So we went back a bit for qualifying, making some additional changes. This did the trick, so we expected Q1 to be fine for us. Unfortunately, Jean-Eric encountered traffic and did not get a clean lap, which was a shame as both drivers have been evenly matched, so he looked likely to get through to Q2. Daniel did exactly what was required to secure a good Q2 position, especially considering how tight it is in the midfield. The changes we made for qualifying worked well and, from a race point of view, those changes will also be suitable for the race."


Charles Pic (20th, 1:39.314): "We had a very good FP3, really making progress, especially on the long runs, but I don't think there was a lot more we could have done today in qualifying. I had a lot of understeer on my first run so we adjusted the pressures for the second run but I still couldn't dial out the understeer so with the performance gap to the cars ahead we probably finished up about as well as we could have hoped. So now we focus on tomorrow. In FP3 we found a good direction to go in the race so I think it's going to be interesting. It'll almost certainly rain and I like it when the conditions are changing on track so let's see what happens."

Giedo van der Garde (22nd, 1:39.932): "Qualifying didn't go well for me today to be honest. I've had an issue with a lot of oversteer on the option tires all day and really couldn't get them to work as well as they did at the last race and that obviously hurt my pace. It's odd as the car felt good on the hard compounds in FP3 today but I just couldn't get the mediums to work so we'll have to look at that again tonight. However, with the car performing well on the primes and the pace we have on the inters I think tomorrow could be interesting. It's rained every day at about the same time as it'll be halfway through the race tomorrow so strategy's going to be really important. Physically I feel really good, totally prepared for the race, so we'll look at the plans for the race and hopefully pick up where we left off in FP3."


Jules Bianchi (19th, 1:38.434): "I am obviously thrilled with my qualifying lap today, but seeing how close we were to Q2 – just 0.5s – only left me wanting more. It has not been an easy time in practice, as we seem to have been struggling quite a lot with the tire degradation. In the break we worked to put all of that together into a single lap for this afternoon and it all came good in the end, especially with the weather, which stayed dry for us. I am not sure we can expect the same dry conditions tomorrow – we will see. I do feel we can have a very interesting – and maybe exciting – race and show some more progress from where we were in Melbourne. My thanks for the Team because it has been difficult to progress the car since yesterday, but to do so in this heat and humidity is very tough. I am not sure it will be any easier tomorrow but I hope we can bring home another good result for everyone as some reward."

Max Chilton (21st, 1:39.672): "Today has been a tough day for us and unfortunately it didn't get any better for qualifying. We've been dealing with some significant tire wear issues all weekend and these have hampered our progress quite a bit. This left me rather on the back foot going into qualifying and although the steps I was making to play catch up were satisfying, they were always going to be a step behind our true pace. It's disappointing because had we not suffered quite as much, the performance is obviously in the car and there to be taken advantage of. That's today done and dusted though and my thoughts now turn to tomorrow. I'm pretty confident that if we can get the Caterham off the line we can get into the right position and then start making an impression on the midfielders."

John Booth, Team Principal: "It was pleasing to get a dry qualifying session today to afford our two new drivers this experience after the difficulties of a wet session in Melbourne. The dry conditions also gave us the first true barometer of pace that we've been waiting for since pre-season testing and we have to be pleased with how things have shaken out in respect of where we are relative to the cars ahead. The morning session wasn't without its issues for Max, so unfortunately as a team we didn't prepare him in the best way for qualifying and this has undoubtedly compromised him today. However, as he demonstrated back in Melbourne, he can surely have a good race tomorrow and fight his way back up to a more representative position in the field. Jules has excelled himself today and worked well with his engineers to extract the maximum performance from the car. The good news is he came back still feeling a little disappointed in his own lap, which shows there is still more to come from him and the package in general. We look forward to what we feel sure will be an eventful race tomorrow. As today's more sustained dry window has shown, you can never predict anything in Sepang, but what we do have some confidence in after today is our ability to continue reeling in the midfield pack."


Pos Driver Team Time Behind
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m49.674s +0.000s
2. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m50.587s +0.913s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m50.727s +1.053s
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m51.699s +2.025s
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m52.244s +2.570s
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m52.519s +2.845s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m52.970s +3.296s
8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m53.175s +3.501s
9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m53.439s +3.765s
10. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m54.136s +4.462s
Q2 cut-off time: 1m37.342s Gap
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m37.636s +1.446s
12. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.125s +1.935s
13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.822s +2.632s
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.221s +3.031s
15. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m44.509s +8.319s
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault no time
Q1 cut-off time: 1m37.931s Gap*
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.157s +1.348s
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m38.207s +1.398s
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m38.434s +1.625s
20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m39.314s +2.505s
21. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m39.672s +2.863s
22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m39.932s +3.123s

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