THE reigning F1 world champion, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), will start the second race of the season, the Malaysia Grand Prix, from pole position. However unlike in Australia, he only just managed to secure the prime spot on the grid.
Vettel’s Q3 pole earning time was 1:34.870, lapping the Sepang International Circuit at an average speed of 130.688-mph. But for a vast majority of the 10 minute Q3 session, it looked like McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton would be on pole with a fastest time of 1:34.974. Mark Webber (Red Bull) will start from third on the grid – his fastest time was 1:35.179 – with the McLaren of Jenson Button (1:35.200) alongside him in fourth.
Fifth on the grid Fernando Alonso could only get his Ferrari around in a time of 1:35.802, a full six-tenths of a second behind Button. It looks more than likely that the race winner tomorrow will be driving either a Red Bull or a McLaren based on this gulf in speed.
The rest of the top 10 are in grid order: Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Vitaly Petrov (Renault), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber).
The drivers who dropped out in Q2, and thus filling the grid slots 11-17 respectively are: Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Sébastien Buemi and Jamie Alguersuari (both Toro Rosso), Paul di Resta (Force India), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Sergio Pérez (Sauber) and Adrian Sutil (Force India).
Q1 was temporarily halted because Buemi’s left sidepod came off his car and landed in the road, but that still didn’t stop: Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli (both Lotus), Timo Glock and Jérôme d’Ambrosio (both Virgin) and the HRTs of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan all falling at the first and being placed 18th-24th on the grid respectively.
On the contrary to last time out in Australia both HRTs made it within 107% of the fastest Q1 lap time, which here was 1:43.516. Karthikeyan’s fastest lap was 1:42.574 and was a full second slower than his own team-mate.
As I said earlier it will be either a Red Bull or a McLaren taking the victory tomorrow…but that is if we have a totally dry race. If it rains (and boy can it rain in Malaysia) the race will truly be anybodies to win or indeed lose.