Qualifying - Malaysian GP report: Mercedes
Dramatic afternoon session in Sepang sees Lewis and Nico take first and third position during qualifying for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix
— Pole for Lewis today marks his 40th P1 grid slot in Formula One, his 14th for the Silver Arrows and third at the Malaysian Grand Prix
— The result also marks the 250th front row start for Mercedes-Benz Power in Formula One
— Both drivers successfully cleared the dry Q1 session with a single run on option tyres, with heavy rain early in Q2 bringing a delay of more than 30mins to proceedings
— A dramatic top ten showdown in drying conditions then saw Lewis edge Sebastian Vettel into P2 by under a tenth, with Nico a fraction shy in P3
I’m very happy with the pole lap. I didn’t quite put the second lap together so I was hoping the first one would be good enough and luckily it was! I love these kind of conditions – it makes it more of a lottery. I nearly didn’t make it through Q2 when I got caught up with the Ferrari and the Sauber. It’s so easy to get caught out and that makes it even more exciting. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. The car feels great and the heat always makes this race into a challenge with the strategy. The temperatures make it hard on the tyres and last year we made three stops, so it’s tough on the cars as well as the drivers. We’ll also be starting earlier in the day compared to qualifying today so, providing it stays dry, it will be a very hot race. It’s not the easiest place to overtake so the start will be crucial – especially with the long run down to Turn One. Ferrari have made some big improvements and it’s great to be lining up alongside a four time World Champion, so it should be an interesting race.
Two other guys just did a better job, so it was a bit annoying for me today. Lewis did well and especially Sebastian, who was surprising in the Ferrari, so hats off for him. But I think I have a good chance tomorrow at the start as I will be on the clean side of the grid. I will try to attack Seb off the line and then there are some good opportunities also to catch Lewis. This race will be very demanding on the tyres so we will maybe see three pit stops and there is always a chance of taking a different strategy. So I very much look forward to the race. I will push hard.
After a smooth Q1, it proved pretty difficult to get the lap right in Q2 and Q3 because of the conditions. In Q3, we did a one-lap run with both drivers, then planned to do the time on the second lap of the final run when the track would have been driest. But in hindsight, the tyres were past their best and we were lucky that Lewis’s time from the first run was enough to get pole. So in the circumstances, to get P1 for Lewis and P3 for Nico is a good result. But as always, you get no points on Saturday. We need to make the most out of these starting positions in what will be a long and demanding race.
Wet qualifying sessions are always very difficult to manage. You can easily make big mistakes that cost you badly. We ran a good strategy at the various stages of qualifying but surprisingly the track did not improve through Q3. Lewis got his pole position in the first run and while Nico did improve, neither got the best out of their car in that second run. I think we could have claimed the first row with a slightly different plan but we are really happy that we have two cars in good positions to compete for a strong race result tomorrow.