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Hamilton sizzles to Sepang pole

NEWS STORY
01/10/2016

Having incurred a grid penalty totalling 45 places, Fernando Alonso has revealed that he will post a token time in Q1 this afternoon - in order to qualify for tomorrow's race - then watch the remainder of the session on TV.

Many of his rivals might be tempted to follow suit.

Clearly, on single lap pace the Mercedes is untouchable, though Max Verstappen gave it his best shot this morning.

On longer runs however, it's different, with Red Bull and Ferrari both capable of giving Mercedes a decent run for its money tomorrow.

In many ways, this morning's session posed more questions than it answered with Hamilton and Verstappen both very strong whilst their teammates struggled. And as Ferrari, once again it was Raikkonen who had the edge.

The force Indias and Williams look strong, as does McLaren, though we've yet to see what Alonso can really do.

Toro Rosso appears to have the slight edge on Haas and Renault, while Sauber continues to inhabit that other world between the midfield and the Manors.

The revision to the track have not proved universally popular, and having seen almost everyone lock-up, spin or head off into the countryside at one point or another, we can probably expect a few more hijinks in the coming hour.

Air temperature is currently 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees.

Definitely, after a couple of 'off' weekends, Hamilton looks to be back on form.


As in Singapore, the tyre options are hard, medium and soft. Meanwhile, in a change from recent years, there will be a single DRS detection point, 54m after Turn 12, though there are still two activation points, the first 104m after Turn 14 and the second activation 28m after Turn 15.

Wehrlein is first to head out, the German followed by his Manor teammate.

Hamilton is the third driver out, a surprisingly early start for the Briton, who performs a practice start from an area of the pitlane smothered in cement dust following a support race incident.

Rosberg is also out early as is Massa.

Hamilton asks about the weather, admitting that "it's very dark", he is told that there is "nothing on the radar". So that's the reason for the early appearance.

Curiously despite starting on the cement dust Hamilton is warned about more of the same on the pit straight.

Wehrlein posts 36.999, Ocon 37.441 and then Rosberg posts 34.460 before Hamilton bangs in a 34.444.

As Magnussen runs wide in the final corner, Button has a full 360 spin, the Briton subsequently complaining about the amount of traffic.

Vettel goes third (35.566) and Raikkonen fourth (35.903).

As Verstappen goes fourth (35.443), Raikkonen complains of poor grip at the rear.

Hulkenberg goes third (34.827) and Ricciardo fourth (35.079) as the cooler temperatures are catching out a number of drivers.

Poor Grosjean has now lost his right mirror, the Frenchman having a hard time of it lately... though some of that is of his own creation.

A 35.391 sees Perez go fifth.

Most are on softs bar the Red Bull and Ferrari duos who are both on mediums.

Raikkonen improves, but only leapfrogs his teammate to ninth, the Ferrari pair demoted when Bottas and Massa go sixth and seventh.

"The Manor, even though he'll be at the back, has to get a penalty, he wouldn't move out of the way, he was on a slow lap and I had to overtake him." Told it was Ocon, he says; "he needs to pay a little bit more attention."

The Ferrari pair are back on track, now on the softs, the mediums clearly a gamble that didn't pay off.

With 2:40 remaining, Gutierrez, Ericsson, Wehrlein, Nasr, Alonso and Ocon comprise the drop zone, with Palmer, Button and Kvyat hovering.

Alonso is out of his car and no doubt looking for a TV set.

Currently eighth, Verstappen heads out again.

Raikkonen improves to third and Vettel fourth, so a good decision for Ferrari, both within 0.113s of Hamilton's time.

Kvyat improves to thirteenth with a 35.695 as Button goes tenth with a 35.267.

A late surge sees Nasr go sixteenth, but is it enough.

No, Ericsson improves to 17th but so too does Gutierrez, thereby consigning the Swede to the drop zone.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Rosberg, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ricciardo, Bottas, Massa and Button.

We lose Ericsson, Nasr, Palmer, Ocon, Wehrlein and Alonso.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Sepang, here.

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