HEAVY rain has forced today’s 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix to be suspended with Lewis Hamilton leading the race after eight completed laps.

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The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire started the season’s second Formula 1 race from pole position.

And, unlike last week in Australia, he managed to get to the first corner ahead of teammate Jenson Button, who also lined up on the front row of the grid.

There was rain and some water on the track as the race started but the weather deteriorated with thunder and lightning striking the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

Before the start, the McLaren pitwall told Hamilton: “We’ll deal with the conditions as they come, but if the rain comes down hard the race is likely to be red-flagged quite quickly.”

During the race, the McLaren team asked Hamilton: “Can we have an update on the conditions? How are the tyres?”

Hamilton replied: “The rain is getting heavier, but it’s okay. The car is aquaplaning in places, but it’s okay.”

Button was the first of the McLaren drivers to nip into the pits for full wet tyres, with Hamilton coming in from first place a lap later after starting to aquaplane.

He came out just ahead of Button.

The safety car was then deployed with the rain getting heavier and the race was red flagged and temporarily suspended on lap nine of 56 with Hamilton still leading.

Hamilton said over the team radio: “There’s a big river at Turns 5 and 6.”

Button said: “The last sector is like a lake!”

The team later told Button: “Jenson, that’s a red flag. Please follow the Safety Car around to the grid and form up. Lewis will be on pole, you will be in P2.”

The race was due to be restarted at 5.15pm local time – 10.15am BST – behind the safety car with all cars fitted with wet tyres.

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