March 29th, 2014 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lewis Hamilton took his second pole position in as many races in 2014, beating Sebastian Vettel to the top spot by just five hundredths of a second in a very wet qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg was third in the second Mercedes.
The start of Q1 was delayed by 50 minutes due to torrential rain. The track was simply too wet for Formula One cars, which would just have acquaplaned on the standing water on the track. The safety car took to the track periodically to assess conditions, and demonstrated how tricky the conditions were with a few slides despite having all of the driver aids available in a performance road car.
When Q1 finally got underway, the two Mercedes drivers were first to take to the track and set lap times. Those lap times were never really challenged in Q1, which showed the speed of the Mercedes in wet conditions. The session was brought to a premature end when Marcus Ericsson lost control of his Caterham on the exit of turn 3, damaged the right side of his car agains the barrier and came to rest on the track after destroying a polystyrene distance board. The red flag was shown, and there was so little time remaining in Q1 that it was not restarted.
Pastor Maldonado's 2014 woes continued with elimination during Q1. The Lotus driver qualified 16th, but was at least able to participate in qualifying after having a very frustrating Friday of no timed laps at all. He was joined in being eliminated by Sauber's Adrian Sutil, both Marussias and both Caterhams.
Q2 saw a strange incident between Fernando Alonso and Daniil Kvyat in turn 9. Alonso took a late, wide turn in to the corner, which is not unusual in wet conditions. Kvyat was coming up behind the Ferrari and saw a chance to pass Alonso up the inside. Kvyat went for the gap and Alonso turned in, having not seen the Toro Rosso in the spray behind him. Kvyat's car made contact with the left front tyre of Alonso's car, breaking Alonso's left steering arm. The stewards are investigating the incident and could impose a penalty on Kvyat for causing the collision.
Remarkably, Ferrari managed to repair Alonso's car after he made it back to the pits and he continued to take part in Q2. He was fortunate that the red flag was shown in order to clear away the debris from the collision, which consisted of bits of front wing. The extra time provided by the stoppage no doubt helped Ferrari to get Alonso's car repaired in time.
Williams have shown strong pace in dry conditions since the season started, but have generally struggled for pace in the wet. That trend continued in Q2, as both Bottas and Massa failed to progress to Q3. They were joined in being eliminated by Kvyat, Gutierrez, Perez and Grosjean in the remaining Lotus.
In Q3, Mercedes were expected to fill the front row without too much trouble. Sebastian Vettel had other ideas, however, and put in a stunning lap to split the Mercedes drivers. As the rain intensified through Q3, the drivers struggled to improve much on their lap times, which meant the order did not change in the dying seconds.
Vettel tried to be the last man across the line to start a lap before the chequered flag came out, but misjudged the timing by a second or two and was therefore unable to complete what would have been his final flying lap. It is likely that he would not have been able to improve anyway, given how wet the track was.
Jenson Button took a gamble in Q3 and went out on intermediate tyres. He wasn't the only driver to do so, but he was the only driver to remain on intermediates when it became clear that the track was simply too wet for the green-walled tyres to work properly. Nonetheless, he persevered in the hope that the track might dry a bit, which would have given him a late advantage in the session. In the end, his gamble did not pay off and he qualified a distant 10th.
Lewis Hamilton's second pole of the season is also the 33rd of his career, which equals the British record held by Jim Clark and the tally of four-time World Champion Alain Prost. Only Sebastian Vettel, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher are now ahead of Hamilton in the all-time list.
Full results from qualifying:
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:57.654||1:59.399||1:59.486||20|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:58.913||2:00.147||2:00.541||20|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:58.883||2:00.839||2:01.712||23|
|14||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||2:00.076||2:02.511||15|
|Q1 107% Time||2:05.385|