The wait continues for the first dry Qualifying session of 2014, as the famous Malaysian rainstorms hit the Sepang International Circuit in disruptive fashion today. Rain fell by the bucket load in the hour leading up to Q1, with the session delayed for 50 minutes due to the vast amounts of standing water, which saw even Bert Mylander having to work hard behind the wheel. When the session did eventually commence, it was well worth the wait, as it would incident packed. Lewis Hamilton bagged his second Pole Position of the season, edging out Sebastian Vettel by just 0.05 seconds. Mercedes raw speed was undoubtedly masked by the conditions, as the Brackley based squad posted ominous times in FP3 which suggest that the race is their’s for the taking. However, with Vettel splitting Hamilton and Rosberg, he could cause them headaches tomorrow.
Back in Australia, the front row of the grid shared parallel’s with The Ashes, as Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull partnered the Pole sitter, Lewis Hamilton. While a Red Bull partners a Mercedes on the front row, it is Sebastian Vettel’s turn to attack Hamilton into turn one. Both drivers performed exceptionally well today, with Lewis an ever-present feature at the top of the timesheet. While he has seemed to be equal to Nico Rosberg throughout practice, Hamilton demonstrated his ability by excelling in the wet. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ and this was the case for Lewis today.
“It’s always difficult when it rains but this year it is even more difficult with all the extra torque we have, but it was great fun,” Hamilton acknowledged. “At the end, I couldn’t see a thing – it was like driving through the clouds. I’m just grateful the lap I did before was good enough. It was definitely a little bit too close to Red Bull but I’m happy to be here.” Lewis will hope that his second Pole Position in consecutive races will not end in similar disappointment to in Australia. Ultimately, in dry conditions, both Mercedes cars are needed to keep each other honest at the front.
Meanwhile, the RB10 once again proved just how good the chassis is. In wet conditions, when engine performance is less important than mechanical grip, Red Bull excelled and Vettel’s P2 demonstrated this. Considering their winter woes, the team should surly be ecstatic that they have made such vast improvements. Aside from a minor electrical glitch at the start of Q1, Vettel’s day went smoothly. However, Daniel Ricciardo was once again in the stewards office, however, on this occasion, he was the innocent party. In a Q2 session where Williams struggled, Valtteri Bottas was found to have held up a frustrated Aussie, who said to Sky Sports F1; “We raced each other a lot in junior categories and I thought we had quite a lot of respect for each other, but it’s a bit ridiculous how many times he’s done it now. I’ll go and have a word to him.” Bottas has received a three place grid penalty as a result of the incident, which is merely collateral damage for the Finn who could do no better than P15 in the rain sodden Q2. The FW36 seems very uncomfortable in wet conditions. Ricciardo managed a respectable P5 in Q3, yet his punchy analysis of the Bottas incident is the first signs of the honey badger’s mean streak.
It was a similarly poor day for Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, who suffered a nasty accident, which started at Turn three and did not finish until Turn four. The Swede hit the treacherous kerb on the outside of the high speed right hander, before sliding uphill into the barriers, almost collecting an alert Esteban Gutierrez, as he veered back across the circuit. In addition, Fernando Alonso’s day almost ended in disaster, when he suffered a clumsy collision with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat while the pair were on their outlaps in Q2. Kvyat made a move to the inside of Turn nine and Alonso turned into a late apex, which he found to be occupied by the 19-year-old. With Fernando’s left front top wishbone snapped it seemed to be game over, however, the Ferrari mechanics remarkably managed to fix the suspension, with Alonso returning to the action just minutes after the incident. With Fernando overcoming the balance and toe changes to qualify P4, both him and his mechanics deserve applause. The Ferrari team once again demonstrating their resolve, experience and expertise.
While the incident was described as nothing more than a racing incident, Alonso’s joy at claiming P4 was somewhat overshadowed by his opinions of the incident. “The mechanics did a fantastic job,” Alonso told Sky Sports F1. “I didn’t see him coming. Obviously it was a bit of an aggressive drive on the outlap with this kind of visibility, but we were lucky enough to put the car together.” From P4, he is in a strong position to claim a podium tomorrow and with teammate Raikkonen in P6, it could be a very rewarding weekend for Ferrari.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:59.431
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:59.486 +0.055
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:00.050 +0.619
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2:00.175 +0.744
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 2:00.541 +1.110
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2:01.218 +1.787
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 2:01.712 +2.281
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 2:02.213 +2.782
9 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 2:03.078 +3.647
10 Jenson Button McLaren 2:04.053 +4.622
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 2:02.351
12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 2:02.369
13 Felipe Massa Williams 2:02.460
14 Sergio Perez Force India 2:02.511
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 2:02.756
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 2:02.885
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 2:02.074
18 Adrian Sutil Sauber 2:02.131
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 2:02.702
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 2:03.595
21 Max Chilton Marussia 2:04.388
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 2:04.407