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Qualifying - Hamilton beats Button to Sepang pole 24 Mar 2012

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren celebrate in parc ferme.
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 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24  March 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
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, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 24 March 2012

Even McLaren had their doubts that they could beat Mercedes in qualifying in Sepang on Saturday, but an almost perfect first-run lap by Lewis Hamilton and a great second-run lap from Jenson Button secured the front row for them.

Hamilton lapped in 1m 36.219s despite a late lock-up mistake in the final corner, to take his second successive pole position of the season, while Button pushed through to second with 1m 36.368s to edge out Michael Schumacher, who screwed 1m 36.391 out of his Mercedes on his first run. Neither he nor team mate Nico Rosberg made a second run, however, suggesting that the team need to conserve tyres as the W03 is known to be hard on its rubber in races.

Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen both lapped in 1m 36.461s, the Australian doing the time first for Red Bull, and the Finn’s gearbox change yesterday drops his Lotus from an excellent fifth to 10th place for the start.

That was the some consolation for Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who was only sixth on 1m 36.634s but had chosen to qualify on the hard Pirellis, and now moves into a fortuitous fifth place start. Romain Grosjean was right with the German, lapping his Lotus in 1m 36.658s ahead of Rosberg’s 1m 36.664s.

Fernando Alonso was ninth in the Ferrari on 1m 37.566s but starts eighth, as Sergio Perez starts ninth after lapping his Sauber 10th in 1m 37.698s.

Pastor Maldonado didn’t help his chances with an off exiting Turn 11 at the start of Q2, in which Raikkonen was fastest on 1m 36.715s. The Venezuelan continued after the gravel had been cleaned from his Williams but failed by a tenth to dislodge Perez and thus ended up 11th on 1m 37.589s.

Felipe Massa was closer to Alonso but still didn’t make Q3, with 1m 37.731s in the second Ferrari, and behind him it was incredibly close. Williams’ Bruno Senna was 13th on 1m 37.841s ahead of Force India’s Paul di Resta on 1m 37.877s, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo on 1m 37.883s and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg on 1m 37.890s, with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi 17th on 1m 38.069s.

As Mark Webber set the initial pace with 1m 37.172s, Q1 weeded out Jean-Eric Vergne, who had to abort his final run for Toro Rosso and was left 18th on 1m 39.077s. Behind him Heikki Kovalainen pipped Caterham team mate Vitaly Petrov, 1m 39.306s to 1m 39.567s, though the Finn takes a five grid place drop to 24th place for a Safety Car passing transgression in Melbourne.

Timo Glock fended off Marussia team mate Charles Pic, 1m 40.903s to 1m 41.250s, for 21st and 22nd, and the HRTs made it beneath the 107 percent time of 1m 43.974s with 1m 42.914s for Pedro de la Rosa and 1m 43.655s for Narain Karthikeyan.

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