Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton takes pole in Malaysia after long rain delay

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Lewis Hamilton took pole with a time of 1:49.834 from Sebastian Vettel by 0.074 seconds in very wet conditions in qualifying at the Malaysian Grand Prix after a long rain delay.

Hamilton survived a scare in torrential rain in Q2 to comeback emphatically and take pole position, just as he did in last year's race, followed by Vettel and Nico Rosberg in third.

Towards the end of Q2, heavy rain and lightening engulfed the Sepang circuit, leaving many cars rushing to get a decent time and catching a few out in traffic, including Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen.

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Both Mercedes went well in Q1, Hamilton finishing first and Rosberg second, however it was a disaster for McLaren, as both Button and Alonso went out in 17th and 18th. Yet another poor start for the new relationship with Honda that promises so much.

Also out in the first session was rookie Felipe Nasr, which was disappointing considering he finished fifth last time out in Melbourne.

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Alonso said on qualifying 18th for the race: "It's no surprise, we're struggling with the pace. Hopefully I won't be going out in Q1 for much longer!"

Q2 started as Q1 ended, with a massive threat of a thunder storm which meant all 16 remaining cars were queuing to get out on track to post a good lap time.

Due to the sudden heavy rain, each car did in fact only get one timed lap and led to some cars getting caught out - most notably Raikkonen, who went out in 11th. Also out were Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz. Marcus Ericsson set a very good time and got into Q3 for the first time ever.

Raikkonen knew what was to blame for being eliminated in Q2: "Obviously the traffic was the problem, we got it wrong. We had good speed and then this happened so it's disappointing."

Sainz said: "I'm disappointed. Q3 was more than in our sights. I made a rookie mistake and locked up on turn 14 when it was drizzling. I certainly hope I can do a lot of overtaking tomorrow."

Nasr mentioned: "The problem has been the whole weekend. The rear end is really unbalanced. Hopefully we can get in the points tomorrow but we will see."

Hamilton criticised his team after they sent him out too far behind the other cars and left him trailing in 8th behind rookie Max Verstappen. Rosberg claimed first and Vettel second, a whole second ahead of Williams' Valteri Bottas.

Niki Lauda was relieved Hamilton got into Q3: "Lewis was stuck in traffic and he did well to get a time, there's no problem. But now in Q3, everything goes to zero and with the wet conditions we have to plan well."

Q3 was delayed by at least 30 minutes as the heavy rain continued, seemingly without end, before eventually slowing and allowing the remaining ten cars to go out on the intermediate and full wet tyre.

The cars went out, tentatively, feeling the conditions and testing out how far to push the car early in Q3. Unsurprisingly, most cars came back in to change to intermediates as the track dried out in the searing heat and humidity.

Hamilton went fastest early on with a 1:49.834, with Rosberg 1.2 seconds behind and 17-year-old prodigy Verstappen by a further 1.8.

That first lap time stuck for Hamilton as he claimed his second pole position from two races, ahead of Vettel and Rosberg. The outstanding performer of qualifying was Verstappen, who qualified in an impressive sixth place behind the two Red Bulls of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo.

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