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Hamilton takes sensational pole at soggy Sepang

NEWS STORY
28/03/2015

If anyone is in any doubt as to the basic form of the teams at present, they need look no further than the combined times from the opening three sessions here in Sepang, as Mercedes heads Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Sauber and Lotus look pretty evenly matched at this stage whilst Force India admits that following its late launch it will be mid-season before we begin to see real progress.

McLaren is where it is, but it's good to see that Fernando Alonso, in particular, is wringing all he can out of the car.

Manor, which will no doubt have to rely on the benevolence of the stewards - assuming it doesn't qualify within 107% - must await the arrival of its 2015... if there is such a thing.

The two main talking points - other than Bernie Ecclestone suggestions for ways to 'improve' the sport - are the heat and tyres, and both are intrinsically linked.

Due to the high temperatures degradation is high, particularly on the softer rubber, and consequently drivers are struggling for grip with (front) lock-ups and even braking an issue for many.

As in Melbourne, Ferrari looks good on the longer runs and if the Italian team can ensure that all four wheels are correctly fitted during tomorrow's numerous pit stops the Maranello outfit could mount a decent challenge.

Whilst Williams was hoping to pick up where it left off in 2014 it hasn't, the team missing vital straight-line speed, a situation not helped by Ferrari's improvements.

The Renault engines appear to be performing better here, but the RB11 still looks as though it will lose out come the race.

As we saw yesterday, the Mercedes is not bullet-proof and other than this, at this point in the season, the one thing rivals can hope for if they are to halt the silver steamroller is the weather, always a major factor here.

While the temperatures here are breaking records we know from experience that a rain burst can appear from nowhere, and we will be lucky (?) not to see the inters or wets make an appearance at some stage this weekend.

The tyres available this weekend are the hard (prime) and medium (option), which Pirelli claim, contrary to original expectations have a performance gap of around a second however, it was less than this this morning. There are two DRS zones, one on the start/finish straight and the other on the final straight.

Ahead of the start of Q1, the air temperature is 32 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 52 degrees. Whilst heavy clouds have moved in and are getting visibly darker, the wind has also picked up.

The lights go green and a couple of minutes later Mehri heads down the pitlane to get things underway.

Hulkenberg is advised that there is rain a few miles from the circuit. It's a message his rivals have also received for in no time at all there are a lot more drivers on track including the Mercedes duo, both of whom are on options. The Williams duo is on primes.

Soon all are on track bar Raikkonen and Stevens, the Manor driver suffering a fuel system problem.

Despite a massive lock-up before his flying lap, Verstappen posts a 41.550 to go quickest, ahead of Alonso and Perez as lighting is visible in the distance.

Sainz posts 40.843 but this is soon beaten by Rosberg (39.374) and then Hamilton (39.269).

Bottas (prime) posts 40.249 to go third as Raikkonen finally leaves the pits, no doubt spurred by that lightning.

Vettel, appearing to struggle with the Ferrari, and on primes, goes third (39.814) as Alonso seeks to improve on thirteenth.

A 40.415 sees Raikkonen (prime) go fifth, ahead of Sainz and Massa who posts 40.905.

Watched by Ron Dennis, Alonso and Button are currently in sixteenth and seventeenth positions.

Grosjean goes tenth with a 41.376 as Kvyat improves (?) to sixteenth, thereby demoting the McLaren duo. With 5:45 remaining, the Russian is in the drop zone along with the Woking duo and the Manors.

Against a black sky, Kvyat improves from 41.677 to 40.546 which puts him sixth and drops Perez into 'the zone'.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Editor, 28/03/2015 18:38

"@TokyoAussie

And let's not forget the Safety Car and Medical Car yesterday.

The app is almost three times what it cost in 2014 and is totally unreliable.

It is only really needed for5 sessions on 19 weekends of the year... yet there have been problems in almost every session thus far.

I'm fully expecting to see J M Fangio lead tomorrow's race at some stage ahead of Jihadi John and Taylor Swift."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by TokyoAussie, 28/03/2015 18:16

"I thought Othman put in a good qualifying performance (4th at one point), and Hairuman out-qualified Alonso and Button!"

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3. Posted by The stogie, 28/03/2015 14:52

"I agree with Chris's assessment of Verstappen. Everybody had rated him unqualified and too young. Started 12th in very first race but retired due to blown engine. Starting 6th here 8+ seconds quicker than his teammate. The kid is the real deal (so far!!)."

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4. Posted by Editor, 28/03/2015 12:20

"@f1khun

We were referring purely to his time in F1.

Please don't tell me we have to include some sort of rider in every article we write about him."

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5. Posted by f1khun, 28/03/2015 12:11

"Chris, you wrote:
"A very, very impressive performance from the teenage Verstappen, who has virtually no experience in such conditions."

While no rain experience in F1, actually Max has some experience in the rain, and he has already shown to be a rain-master, albeit in F3. Last year he won three F3 races in a row (Germany, mid-season), running minimum 1 second per lap faster than anyone else. It is said that after those 3 wins, Helmut Markko called and made the offer for F1 in 2015...

That is without referring to his dad, who was in his day equally mastered in the wet, especially considering the wet-race in Malaysia, 2001, where he ran on P2 in his Arrows, before the track dried out and he fell back due to a lesser fast car on the dry. Max took over some genes...

But moreover, Max is very experienced and I believe his ability to look ahead and know when to put his head down, will be what should get him a very decent finish tomorrow.

"

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