Lewis Hamilton was the man of the moment as he claimed pole position for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
In a session delayed and heavily influenced by rain, the British driver posted his time of 1:59.431 at just the right time as Red Bull provided the biggest challenge to the dominant Mercedes in the wet conditions.
Indeed Sebastian Vettel will start alongside Hamilton after missing out on pole by just over five hundredths of a second. Nico Rosberg will start in third.
Fernando Alonso overcame a collision with Daniil Kvyat in the second part of qualifying to claim fourth ahead of the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo - who just couldn’t get a good lap together when the track was at its best.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth in the sister Ferrari as the Finn struggled to get to grips with the Prancing Horse as the ever-present Nico Hulkenberg again comprehensively beat team-mate Sergio Perez, taking seventh for Force India.
McLaren never really looked like threatening the front of the grid and that was proven as Kevin Magnussen was only eighth while Jenson Button’s gamble on intermediates in Q3 failed and was tenth.
After a 50 minute wait thanks to a long monsoonal downpour, the session finally got underway and it was a case of being on the right tyre at the right time.
Most went straight out on the shallower grooved intermediate tyres as the warm track temperature quickly began to dry out the circuit.
McLaren were the only team not to go out on the green-marked tyres as they opted to go conservative on the full wet Pirelli Cincuratos and initially that seemed to cost them as both Button and Magnussen were near the back as more rain arrived.
However the track stayed dry long enough for both to make it into the second segment before Marcus Ericsson brought the first 18 minutes to an early end after crashing his Caterham quite heavily on the exit of turn three.
As a result the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil’s Sauber were unable to improve and were knocked out joining the two Caterham’s and two Marussia’s with Jules Bianchi and Kamui Kobayashi ahead of Max Chilton and Ericsson in last.
The second session began with most taking to the blue-marked extreme wet tyres as the rain towards the end of Q1 intensified.
The big surprise was Williams who again proved they cannot replicate their dry pace in the wet conditions.
Both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas failed to make the cut for the final segment with the Brazilian only 13th and Bottas 15th.
Toro Rosso had failed to make the top 10 in any qualifying session at Sepang before, but it was the two junior Red Bull drivers fighting for the final place in the top ten with Jean-Eric Vergne just beating Kvyat in the final seconds leaving the Russian 11th as Vergne would later take ninth splitting the two McLaren’s.
Esteban Gutierrez had a good session in 12th for Sauber with Sergio Perez again disappointing in 14th while Romain Grosjean will start just ahead of his team-mate in 16th for Lotus.
Back at the front, however, and just like in Australia, the domination Mercedes had shown in the dry disappeared in the wet - leaving us with a very competitive grid heading into tomorrow’s race.
Questions remain over tyre wear, with Mercedes looking quite aggressive on the Pirelli rubber – particularly when compared to the Red Bull.
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