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Qualifying - Webber weathers Sepang storm 03 Apr 2010

Pole sitter Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 3 April 2010 Cars queue at the end of the pit lane.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 3 April 2010 Ferrari F10 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 3 April 2010 Liuzzi spins out of control in Q1 Hamilton struggles to make it through a corner

A heavy shower just before qualifying set the scene for a very jumbled grid for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, eliminating both Ferraris and, effectively, both McLarens in Q1. €n the end it was Red Bull’s Mark Webber who went some way towards making amends for his incident-laden race in Australia by taking pole position by 1.3s from Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg, after the Q3 session had been delayed because of heavy rain.

Webber gambled on intermediate Bridgestone tyres and lapped in 1m 49.327s to throw the position well beyond doubt, as Rosberg’s best lap on full-wet tyres was 1m 50.673s. Behind him, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel lined up third with 1m 50.789s, also on full-wets, with Adrian Sutil a strong fourth for Force €ndia on the same rubber with 1m 50.914s.

There were some large gaps between drivers in the same teams in Q3, suggesting that some teams may have opted for different set-ups to hedge their bets against wet or dry conditions on Sunday.

Fifth place fell to Williams rookie Nico Hulkenberg, who went round in 1m 51.001s ahead of Robert Kubica in the Renault on 1m 51.051s. Rubens Barrichello made it a good day for Williams with the seventh best time of 1m 51.511s, with Michael Schumacher eighth on 1m 51.717s in the second Mercedes. Kamui Kobayashi gave BMW Sauber something to cheer with ninth fastest time of 1m 51.767s, and Vitantonio Liuzzi made it two Force €ndias in the top 10 with 1m 52.254s. Webber was the only driver not on full wets.

Vettel had set the pace with 1m 46.828s in Q2, where drivers started out on wets but then switched to inters. The final sector resolutely refused to dry out, however, making life very difficult.

Vitaly Petrov showed well initially for Renault, at one stage setting the fastest time, but his 1m 48.760s ultimately left him 11th. Then came BMW Sauber spinner Pedro de la Rosa on 1m 48.771s, the Toro Rossos of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari on 1m 49.207s and 1m 49.464s respectively, Heikki Kovalainen on 1m 52.270s and Timo Glock on 1m 52.520s. Thus Lotus won the new teams’ qualifying battle to take their best position so far of 15th, with Virgin taking theirs with 16th.

Button will start 17th, but he did not take part in the session after spinning off in Q1, so relies on the 1m 52.211s lap from that session.

The big news of Q1 was the fall of McLaren and Ferrari, and Glock and Kovalainen getting through for Virgin and Lotus. The two big teams simply left it too late to get their drivers out before the rain worsened. Kubica had set the pace with 1m 46.283s before the rain increased, and suddenly there were the two McLarens spinning and the Ferraris struggling, all of them on intermediates. Mercedes led the switch to full wets, but by the time McLaren followed suit with Hamilton, Button had already beached his MP4-25 in the treacherous Turn Six gravel. Hamilton pared down to 1m 53.050s, but Fernando Alonso had done a 1m 53.044s to pip him despite two lurid 180-degree spins.

€n the end it was Lotus’s Jarno Trulli who was the first to miss the cut, with 1m 52.884s, then Alonso and Hamilton and Felipe Massa, who was stranded on 1m 53.283s after spinning in the first sector. HRT lost a big opportunity too. Karun Chandhok was 22nd on 1m 56.299s ahead of team mate Bruno Senna who went off for good in Turn Six after recording 1m 57.269s. Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi was last, with 1m 59.977s.

€t was, as Vettel said, a chaotic session, but with so many quick runners down the back, and the prospect of rain at some stage on Sunday, an exciting Grand Prix is highly likely.