F1 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying result: Hamilton storms to pole position

PUBLISHED: 19:45 01 October 2016 | UPDATED: 12:20 02 October 2016

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang with Nico Rosberg second fastest and Max Verstappen third [Picture: Dailmer AG/Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang with Nico Rosberg second fastest and Max Verstappen third [Picture: Dailmer AG/Mercedes-Benz]

Daimler AG

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole position for the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix and will start from the front row for the 100th time in his Formula One career.

The 31-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire stormed to pole position in qualifying as the Silver Arrows sealed a Sepang front row lockout in style.

Hamilton today (Saturday) took his 57th career pole position, his fourth at the Sepang International Circuit and eighth of the 2016 season so far.

Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg completed a ninth Silver Arrows front row lockout of the season in P2, with Max Verstappen third in the qualifying results for Red Bull.

Hamilton dominated all three phases of qualifying and went quickest in Q3 with a flying lap of 1m 32.850s. Rosberg was second fastest with a time of 1m 33.264s on a hot and humid day.

After claiming first place on the grid, Hamilton said: “It feels great. I’m incredibly grateful for the car being where it is.

“The guys have done a great job for us to have such performance this weekend. To be able to extract it from the car is the thing I’m really happy about.

“It’s been night and day in comparison to Singapore. Of the laps I had there, I only really got a few of them together.

“Here, though, we’ve had lots of mileage, I’ve been able to build through the sessions and I felt really comfortable in the car.

“Again, great work from the guys in the garage – just like they have been doing all year.”

Hamilton added: “My final qualifying lap was the first lockup I’d had all weekend into Turn One, so there was more time out there.

“It’s a shame I didn’t get to show it but I still got pole and it’s looking good for tomorrow.

“I’ve been here since last Saturday, so I’ve been able to prepare really well and I’ve been pretty quick all weekend.

“I’ve had incredible support ever since I arrived here in Malaysia from the people here – and from everyone else around the world too, as always.

“I want this just as badly as they do, so hopefully we’ll see it through tomorrow.

“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.”

Both Mercedes drivers completed a single run in Q1 and Q2, and another two runs in Q3, using soft tyres throughout.

But Rosberg was unable to challenge his on-fire Mercedes team-mate.

“Congrats to Lewis for the pole. He did a better job today,” said the German.

“I was closer to him on my last lap but then I lost a couple of tenths in the last corner, which was a pity.

“I can be happy with a front row start as we have seen this year that there are some opportunities at the start and qualifying is not quite so important anymore – especially at a track like this where you can overtake.

“So, overall I’m quite confident for tomorrow. I hope we can give our Malaysian friends from Petronas and the whole country a great race.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, hailed Hamilton’s dominant display in qualifying.

He said: “That was a pretty awesome session from Lewis, setting fastest time in all three parts of qualifying and taking pole by a big margin – and without completing his final effort.

“He’s been on point from the first laps this weekend and, without any reliability problems, he’s got the job done.

Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang International Circuit

• 2015 winner: Sebastian Vettel, 56 laps, 1:41:05.793s

• 2015 pole position: Lewis Hamilton, 1m49.834s

• 2015 fastest lap: Nico Rosberg, 1m42.062s (lap 43)

• First race: 1999

• Circuit length: 5.543km/3.444 miles (8th longest of the season)

• Distance to Turn One: 600m/0.373 miles (longest of season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)

• Longest straight: 920m/0.572 miles, on the approach to Turn 15

• Top speed: 330km/h/205mph, on the approach to Turn 15

• Pitlane length: 420m/0.261 miles, estimated time loss 24s (longest of season: Silverstone, 489m/0.304 miles)

• Full throttle: 65 per cent, with the longest period of full throttle being 12s

• DRS zones: Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 15

• Key corner: Turn 14, a tightening, understeer-inducing right-hander that loads up the outside tyres. It’s important to get the car into the apex and get the power down early because the longest straight on the lap follows, along which there is the second DRS zone

• Fastest corner: 260km/h (162mph), Turn Five

• Slowest corner: 70km/h (43mph), Turn Two

• Major changes for 2016: The circuit has been re-surfaced since last year and more than half of the corners have new kerbs and improved drainage. The camber at Turn Nine has been altered, and, most significantly, Turn 15 has been re-profiled to make it slower, in an effort to encourage overtaking

• Fuel consumption: 1.79 per lap, which is average

• ERS demands: Low. There are several slow corners, out of which electrical power has an impact on acceleration, but there are eight significant braking events around the lap where energy can be recovered

• Brake wear: Medium. Only 15 per cent of the lap is spent braking

• Gear changes: 57 per lap/3,192 per race

“Nico also did a great recovery in Q3 after an oversteery first run left him P5. He got a strong P2 on his final lap and he probably left a couple of tenths out there on the track as well.

“Looking ahead to tomorrow, we need to keep the ball flat and focus on the job. It will be a challenging race with our main rivals very close on long run pace.

“Strategy will be important and so will avoiding mistakes in the challenging conditions. We’ve hit our first target for the weekend but the big one is still to come.”

Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe congratulated Hamilton on a “fantastic” Q3 lap.

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

Lowe said: “He has been very strong all weekend and it’s great to see that form translated into a well-deserved pole position.

“Nico has been struggling a little since FP3 this morning to find the right balance and nail that perfect lap.

“This translated into a fight for him to make the front row, which he managed with a strong lap at the end under some pressure, so a good job from him on that second lap.

“Congratulations to the team for bringing a car here capable of a front row lockout and both drivers for securing it.

“Tomorrow is what matters, of course, and we must now prepare ourselves for what will be a hard race in some of the toughest conditions of the season.”

Over at McLaren-Honda, Jenson Button will line up ninth for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix, having maximised the car’s potential during this afternoon’s qualifying session.

It was the result of plenty of hard work from the entire team. With the car off the pace during Friday practice, the engineers burnt the midnight oil to improve the balance for Saturday, and Button revelled in the car’s improved handling to comfortably ease into Q3.

Ahead of his 300th grand prix, Button said: “I really enjoyed qualifying! It’s never nice to be just 0.029s behind the car in front, but that wasn’t too bad – we were either going to be eighth or ninth, and we ended up being ninth. I’m happy with that.

“During Q1, I had issues with traffic; I had to out-brake Esteban Ocon into Turn Nine during my quick lap, and you shouldn’t have to be doing that during qualifying. I also had a little spin at Turn 14 when I lost all my downforce behind one of the Renaults. That first session was busy.

“Still, we’ve improved the car a lot since practice yesterday, but the team has done a great job to improve it. Qualifying was the first time this weekend that I really felt comfortable.

“Hopefully we can show well in the race – there’s no reason why we can’t fight the cars around us tomorrow.”

McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier said: “Jenson drove superbly in qualifying, extracting the absolute maximum from the car after a difficult and unpromising first day’s practice.

“It’s a testament to the work of the whole team that we managed to transform our fortunes overnight, with both drivers reporting that the car’s driveability had been significantly improved between Friday and Saturday.

“With Jenson, it was fun and satisfying to be able to really attack all the way into the closing minutes of Q3. It’s definitely a sign of what’s to come from the McLaren-Honda partnership.”

With a 45-place grid penalty for tomorrow, Fernando Alonso’s focus was never on an outright quick-lap in qualifying.

Instead, he spent FP3 and Q1 refining his race set-up, running race simulations in the former and a handful of quick laps in the latter.

He will line up 22nd, but armed with plenty of fresh tyres and complete freedom on strategy with which to tackle the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Alonso said: “In practice yesterday, we were comfortably inside the top 10, so there’s an element of frustration to find ourselves with useful performance, but facing a grid penalty ahead of the race.

“Hopefully, we’ve now stockpiled enough components for the remainder of the season that we no longer need to take grid penalties and start at the back.

“My running in FP3 this morning was particularly important – our aim was to conduct some long runs and gain some useful data for the race. In quali, we just ran for a few laps, with the aim to save as many sets of tyres for the race as we could.

“It’ll be interesting tomorrow to see how well we’re able to read the conditions and play the strategy. The new asphalt keeps improving quickly and, while it’ll be difficult to overtake 12 cars and get into the points, I think there’s still something more to come from us tomorrow.”

Team boss Boullier added: “While we knew ahead of the race weekend that Fernando would face a large grid penalty, there’s still an element of frustration in seeing what could have been.

“Nevertheless, we placed all our focus today on the race. And while he starts 22nd tomorrow, I have absolutely no doubt that he will not be in that position at the end of the first lap.

“I’m reminded of his spirited charge at this race last year, and I’m certain that he will be on the absolute attack from the second the lights go out. I think everyone will be watching to see just what he can do.”

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