F1 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position

PUBLISHED: 20:23 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:52 30 March 2014

Lewis Hamilton ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton goes in qualifying for the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix looking to make it back-to-back pole positions.

Sepang – the stats you need

* Race distance: 56 laps (310.408km/192.888 miles)

* Start time: 16:00 (local)/08:00 (GMT)

* Circuit length: 5.543km/3.444 miles

* 2013 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB9) 56 laps in 1hr38m56.681s (188.231km/h)

* 2013 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB9) 1m 49.674s (181.946km/h)

* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m24.125s (226.933km/h)

Round two of the 2014 Formula One World Championship takes place at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday, with qualifying starting at 8am on Saturday.

Hamilton, the 29-year-old F1 star from Hertfordshire, was fastest in first practice in Malaysia today (Friday) as Mercedes AMG Petronas once again showed their impressive early-season form.

The Stevenage-born racer claimed pole position in qualifying for the sport’s curtain-raiser in Australia and will be looking for a similar result at the circuit near Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.

Hamilton is favourite with bookies Boylesports to win in Sepang at 11/8, with Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg, the 2014 Australian GP winner, next in the betting at 2/1.

Lewis Hamilton driving around the Sepang circuit in practice ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Lewis Hamilton driving around the Sepang circuit in practice ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

After his retirement in Melbourne, Hamilton is looking to take the chequered flag, having never won in Malaysia before.

The Silver Arrows star said: “I finished second on my Formula One debut here in 2007 and have been on the podium at the last two Malaysian Grands Prix but I’ve yet to win here.

“It would be amazing to stand on the top step at one of our home races and I’m looking forward to bouncing back after a tough weekend in Australia.

“Although it was not the result we were hoping for, every setback is a chance to learn more about this new car, which is important as they’re incredibly complex machines.

“I know the team at Brackley and Brixworth is pushing harder than ever and I’ll be doing the same.”

Hamilton bids for a front row grid position in qualifying and explained how to nail the perfect lap in Malaysia.

Of the Sepang circuit, he said: “The first corner comes at the end of a long straight, so you have to pick your braking point carefully to avoid overshooting the turn.

“This leads into another slow corner, with the pair of them seeming to go on forever. Turns 5 and 6 are high-speed and fantastic to drive; similar to the Maggots / Becketts section at Silverstone, but with slightly more space between each corner.

Lewis Hamilton on track in Sepang ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Lewis Hamilton on track in Sepang ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

“You need a little lift going into Turn 5 to get the front end turned in, good balance on the power through Turn 6 then onto the brakes for Turn 7.

“There’s a bit of a bump as you power through Turn 8 before easing the car over to the right-hand side of the track for Turn 9.

“A good exit from this corner is important but an even better one is required from Turn 11, as this is crucial to carrying good momentum through the high-speed Turns 12 and 13.

“Picking your braking point correctly for Turn 14 is both tricky and essential. Getting it wrong can prove costly, as this leads down the second long straight of the lap and into the final corner; one of the best overtaking opportunities.”

"It would be amazing to stand on the top step at one of our home races and I’m looking forward to bouncing back after a tough weekend in Australia."

Lewis Hamilton

Rosberg was fastest in second practice on Friday, with Hamilton fourth on the timesheets, and he achieved his first podium for Mercedes in Sepang at the start of the 2010 season.

After winning in Melbourne, Rosberg said: “Australia was the perfect start to my season, but it also highlighted that we’re not 100 per cent there yet in terms of reliability.

“We’ve had two weeks before this race to identify all the things that we can do better, so hopefully we can bring both cars home for a good result this weekend and continue our strong start to the year.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, is looking for both his drivers to finish Sunday’s grand prix.

“As one of our home races, we are extremely motivated to get a good result here,” he said.

“The first race in Australia left us with mixed emotions. Neither of our drivers put a foot wrong all weekend but unfortunately only one came away with the result he deserved.

“We know that reliability will be crucial to this long season and we have been working hard to improve the situation for the race in Malaysia.

“We made a solid start to the year in Melbourne, but we are very aware that not one per cent of effort can be dropped if we are to remain competitive.”

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg on track in Sepang ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Mercedes' Nico Rosberg on track in Sepang ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Technical executive director Paddy Lowe explained the challenge Sepang presents.

Lowe said: “This race presents a very different set of challenges in terms of both the climate and the demands of the circuit layout.

“Sepang is a permanent race track which is generally a lot more differentiating of the cars; particularly with regard to aerodynamics.

“As always, reliability and endurance will be crucial, but we believe this venue will provide a more accurate representation of the relative pace between teams.”

Nico Rosberg on track in Sepang ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Nico Rosberg on track in Sepang ahead of the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Of the Malaysian Grand Prix venue, Hamilton said: “Sepang is a fantastic circuit and it’s always an exciting challenge here with the heat and humidity.

“During my first race here in 2007 I didn’t have a drinks feed available during the race, so by the end I was totally exhausted and had lost about four kilos in weight.

“As a driver it’s a weekend you have to be well prepared for physically, as it can be very easy to lose concentration towards the end of a long race in these conditions.

“Then there’s the rain which, when it comes, is just incredible. In a matter of minutes you can find yourself at the centre of a monsoon, which adds to the challenge.”

The medium and hard compound tyres have been nominated for Malaysia, an allocation one step harder overall than in Melbourne.

This pairing has been chosen by Pirelli to match the demanding, high-speed characteristics of the Sepang circuit.

The layout is tough on tyres, with high-speed corners frequent and considerable loads being put through the rubber.

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