F1 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix: Hamilton chases 50th victory

PUBLISHED: 05:41 02 October 2016 | UPDATED: 12:20 02 October 2016

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang [Picture: Dailmer AG/Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang [Picture: Dailmer AG/Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton chases his 50th career victory in today's 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix.

The 31-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas driver from Hertfordshire produced a stunning lap around the Sepang International Circuit in qualifying on Saturday to claim his 57th pole position.

An in-form Hamilton clocked 1m 32.850s in Q3 after dominating the qualifying session near Kuala Lumpur.

He will start Round 16 of the FIA World F1 Championship from the front row alongside Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg.

It is Hamilton’s 100th front row start.

Hamilton has qualified on pole three times before in Malaysia, but only won the race once – in 2014.

He crossed the finish line second in his rookie 2007 season and again last year.

He also finished on the podium in third place in 2012 and 2013.

After his struggles in Singapore, Hamilton is looking to convert his latest pole into victory in Malaysia – and cut Rosberg’s world championship lead.

Hamilton said: “Singapore was a difficult weekend for me, so to come away with a podium in the circumstances was pretty good damage limitation.

“When I’m on top of it like I have been this weekend, it generally goes my way on a Sunday. Let’s hope that pattern continues.”

Lewis Hamilton

“Ultimately, Nico did an exceptional job and I didn’t have my best weekend.

“But that’s the way it goes. We’re both fiercely competitive.

“Some weekends he does great, some weekends I do great. It’s a combination of things that all come together to make a strong weekend and every one is different.”

He added: “We still have six races left, so I just have to keep giving it my all and hope for the best. That’s all you can do as a sportsman.

“It’s going to take some good results to get back in front and stay there – but I’ve had plenty of those in the past, so there’s no reason to think they won’t come back to me again.

“Sepang is my first shot at it. It’s a track I usually go pretty well at – plus we have some really fantastic support from the Malaysian people, including all the guys and girls from Petronas.”

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix event stats

• Start time: 15:00hrs local/08:00hrs BST

• Race distance: 56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/42 laps)

• Safety Car likelihood: Low. There is only a 20 per cent chance of a Safety Car

• When to press record: The start. It’s a long drag to the first corner, which is a slow 180-degree right-hander, immediately followed by a left-hander. There’s always a good scrap through this section on lap one, with the outside line through Turn One sometimes proving to be the more successful

• Don’t put the kettle on…Vettel won last year’s race on a two-stop strategy, while Hamilton and Rosberg stopped three times en route to second and third places. The addition of the Soft tyre to this year’s compound list is likely to increase the number of stops, with most drivers trying to complete the race distance on three stops. Expect pitlane action on or around laps 10, 25 and 40

• Tyre choices: Soft / Medium / Hard, a combination that has only been used twice before this year, at Barcelona and Silverstone

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said of the Malaysian GP: “To win in what feels like our second home, in front of thousands of friends and partners from Petronas, would be very special.

“But, like Singapore, this was a race where we underperformed last year, so we will need to push hard to put that right. We can guarantee that the drivers will be doing just that.

“This year more than ever, we’ve seen that they are pushing each other to new heights.”

Sepang was the first F1 track to be designed by Hermann Tilke, whose company has helped to design 11 of the 21 circuits on this year’s calendar.

It was opened in March 1999 and it hosted its first grand prix later that year, since when it has been a permanent fixture in F1.

This year the race is taking place in October, for the first time since 2000.

The track has an interesting mix of medium and high-speed corners, but the biggest single challenge for the teams is cooling.

The ambient temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees at this time of year, which places added pressure on the cooling of the power unit in particular.

The circuit has been re-surfaced this year, so grip levels will depend on how the asphalt has cured since it was laid six months ago.

The fast corners have high levels of grip due to the aerodynamic downforce created by the cars, but the new surface will be the biggest single factor influencing grip levels.

Sepang is a modern racetrack, with excellent run-off areas.

There are more gravel traps than asphalt run-off areas because they are the preferred safety option for bike racing, which also takes place at Sepang.

At 310.408kms/192.879 miles, the Malaysian Grand Prix is the longest race of the season in terms of distance.

Having qualified on pole, Hamilton hopes to take the chequered flag after 56 laps of racing.

Hamilton said: “It’s too soon to say how the race will go.

“When I’m on top of it like I have been this weekend, it generally goes my way on a Sunday. Let’s hope that pattern continues.”

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