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Qualifying analysis - McLaren leave rest playing catch-up 24 Mar 2012

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24  March 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 23 March 2012 Charles Pic (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 22  March 2012

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton once again dominated qualifying on Saturday in Malaysia, grabbing pole position for a second successive Grand Prix. Behind Hamilton, team mate Jenson Button, Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher and the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel - the only top-ten runner to qualify on the hard tyre - will make up the top five on the grid for Sunday’s Sepang race. Tyre management will be critical, hence Vettel's gamble might just prove a wise one. We take a look at how all the runners performed…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 36.219s, P1
Jenson Button, 1m 36.368s, P2

Hamilton had a little oversteer at the start of his better lap, and a big lock-up at the end of it, but was still able to keep it all together to take a brilliant pole that McLaren had not been certain of securing. To make it an excellent day for the team, Button cut three-tenths off his time on his second run to push ahead of Schumacher to lock out the front row for the second race in succession.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 36.391s, P3
Nico Rosberg, 1m 36.664s, P8, will start P7

Schumacher was very bullish about his run, and pointed to where Mercedes had been last year and who was now behind them. He said that his third-fastest time was the best that the car could have achieved. Rosberg was blindingly fast in FP3, but spoiled his Q3 run by flat spotting a tyre. Neither driver made two runs, suggesting that they may have felt the need to conserve their rubber as the F1 W03 is expected to be hard on its tyres in the race.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 36.461s, P4
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 36.634s, P6, will start P5

Webber said he got everything out of his Red Bull on his way to a solid fourth-fastest time. Vettel took a gamble and qualified on the harder Pirelli, so his time was actually pretty good in the circumstances, especially as he confirmed that the RB8 isn’t the easiest car to drive as far as its balance is concerned. He got an added bonus when Raikkonen’s grid penalty moved him from sixth to fifth, on the clean line.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 36.461s, P5, will start P10
Romain Grosjean, 1m 36.658,s P7, will start P6

Raikkonen said he made a couple of mistakes in Q3, without which he might have had a shot at pole. But in any case his gearbox change from Friday drops him to 10th place on the grid. Grosjean made no errors and was very happy with another top 10 start in his revitalised Formula One career.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 37.566s, P9, will start P8
Felipe Massa, 1m 37.731s, P12

Alonso was once again mighty for Ferrari, but said that a KERS problem had hampered him. He didn’t think it would have altered his grid position, but said that his lap time would have looked more respectable without it. Massa struggled with his car’s balance in FP3 and Q2, and was again unhappy.

Sauber
Sergio Perez, 1m 37.698s, P10, will start P9
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 38.069s, P17

It was small wonder Perez was happy with a top-10 performance, after he’d described his C31 as undriveable on Friday. He said changes to it had transformed it and is very optimistic for the race, but Kobayashi said changes to his car for qualifying had gone in the wrong direction.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 37.589s, P11
Bruno Senna, 1m 37.841s, P13

Maldonado spoiled the team’s chances by going off in Turn 11 in Q2. That affected the aerodynamics as the bodywork was damaged, and also obliged Senna to abort his first lap due to the ensuing yellow flags. Subsequently they wound up 11th and 13th when another top 10 was clearly possible with the FW34’s potential.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 37.877s, P14
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 37.890s, P16

Di Resta praised an improvement in his VJM05 between FP3 and qualifying, but said that he could never quite maximise the final section of the lap in his runs in Q2. Hulkenberg thought he got the most from his car, but rightly pointed out that a tenth of a second improvement would have yielded two or three grid places. It’s tight in the midfield!

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 37.883s, P15
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 39.077s, P18

Ricciardo was philosophical about 15th place overall, and said that he wasn’t kicking himself about anything because that was pretty much where they expected to be here. Vergne, however, rued a flat-spotted front tyre that caused such bad vibrations he had to abort his final Q1 run and lost his chance of making Q2.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 39.306s, P19, will start P24
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 39.567s, P20, will start P19

Again there was disappointment at the lack of pace in the CT-01, as Kovalainen and Petrov took the team’s usual places on speed. Making it worse, Kovalainen drops five places, after the Finn’s safety car overtaking transgression in Australia, leaving him at the back of the grid.

Marussia
Timo Glock, 1m 40.903s, P21, will start P20
Charles Pic, 1m 41.250s, P22, will start P21

Once again Marussia’s drivers were closely matched. Glock said he had a difficult day after ‘struggling massively’ again with the medium tyre in FP3 and completely losing the balance on his MR01. He also admitted to a couple of small mistakes on them in Q1. Pic enjoyed his qualifying and again underlined his potential with a strong performance.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 42.914s, P23, will start P22
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 43.655s, P24, will start P23

Both cars made it into the race, which was a pretty good achievement given what the team have been through of late. De la Rosa reported that his F112 felt better right from the start of FP3. Karthikeyan encountered some cooling problems but was happy to make the cut by three-tenths of a second.

Pirelli
The official suppliers believe tyre management will be critical on Sunday. With the hard tyre lasting around 25 laps and the medium just under half a second quicker per lap in qualifying, expect a variety of strategy calls in the race.

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