January 19, 2018

Hamilton surprised himself with pole lap

01 October 2017, 11:57 | Christie Tate

Daniel Ricciardo- Red Bull Racing. Credit Octane

Daniel Ricciardo- Red Bull Racing. Credit Octane

One of those title-defining memories came here past year as Lewis Hamilton suffered an engine failure while leading the race.

"They are taking away the toughest, if not the toughest race of the season", Hamilton said.

"There are definitely positives in terms of the actual result we got".

Having struggled in all three practice sessions, finishing no higher than fifth, Mercedes driver Hamilton suddenly found the pace he needed to take the 70th pole of his career ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. "The stopwatch always tells the truth. It's very unfortunate for him, but of course we have to try to maximise on every opportunity that we get".

"Like I said, it's a nice circuit, but all you see is the airport, the hotel next to the airport".

Hamilton was only able to go fractionally quicker to slot into fifth, and both were demoted a position when Fernando Alonso put in an impressive lap to go a tenth faster and slot his McLaren-Honda into fifth behind Verstappen.

Raikkonen had qualified in second place behind Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Alonso told Sky Sports F1 that if Vettel wants to remain in the title race then the German can not make anymore mistakes. "Fridays are when you play around and try some things".

Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was seventh fastest overall at 0.043secs behind the Briton, was 0.7secs slower than Vettel on average on their race-simulation runs in the second part of the session.

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"I think in the dry the podium is there, especially with Vettel down at the back", he said, wary of the ever-present possibility of rain in tropical Sepang.

"This morning was a bit more mixed".

He seemed set to claw back at least some of the points he lost in Singapore this weekend, with Ferrari displaying potentially race-winning pace and Mercedes struggling to extract speed from their challenger.

"It was a very interesting day, to say the least", said the 16-year-old.

"I think it would have been more hard if I had lost the auto somewhere in the race, then it's obviously different", he said.

Bottas was optimistic the team could have a better Saturday.

"My victory past year in Malaysia was definitely unexpected", said Ricciardo, who was second in Singapore. "So we have some work to do if we want to be on the front row tomorrow". I didn't sleep well last night because we just didn't know if we would fix the issue.

Earlier Formula One inspectors gave the Sepang circuit the all-clear after a loose drain caused a shocking tire explosion during practice on Friday.

Raikkonen, right behind Bottas, then dislodged the cover and left it stuck pointing upwards, leaving Grosjean's right-rear wheel to tear across it.

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