Hamilton topped every session on Saturday to grab his eighth pole of the season in emphatic fashion. Rosberg couldn't match his team mate, but did reduce the deficit to just four-tenths of a second despite making a mistake on his final run. A first front row lock-out in Malaysia for Mercedes makes them favourites going in to tomorrow's race.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:32.850
"It feels great. I'm incredibly grateful for the car being where it is. The guys have done a great job for us to have such performance this weekend. To be able to extract it from the car is the thing I'm really happy about. It's been night and day in comparison to Singapore. Of the laps I had there, I only really got a few of them together. Here, though, we've had lots of mileage, I've been able to build through the sessions and I felt really comfortable in the car. Again, great work from the guys in the garage - just like they have been doing all year. My final qualifying lap was the first lockup I'd had all weekend into Turn 1, so there was more time out there. It's a shame I didn't get to show it but I still got pole and it's looking good for tomorrow. I've been here since last Saturday, so I've been able to prepare really well and I've been pretty quick all weekend. I've had incredible support ever since I arrived here in Malaysia from the people here - and from everyone else around the world too, as always. I want this just as badly as they do, so hopefully we'll see it through tomorrow. It's too soon to say how the race will go. When I'm on top of it like I have been this weekend, it generally goes my way on a Sunday. Let's hope that pattern continues."
Nico Rosberg, 2nd, 1:33.264
"Congrats to Lewis for the pole. He did a better job today. I was closer to him on my last lap but then I lost a couple of tenths in the last corner, which was a pity. I can be happy with a front row start as we have seen this year that there are some opportunities at the start and qualifying is not quite so important anymore - especially at a track like this where you can overtake. So, overall I'm quite confident for tomorrow. I hope we can give our Malaysian friends from Petronas and the whole country a great race."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a pretty awesome session from Lewis, setting fastest time in all three parts of qualifying and taking pole by a big margin - and without completing his final effort. He's been on point from the first laps this weekend and, without any reliability problems, he's got the job done. Nico also did a great recovery in Q3 after an oversteery first run left him P5. He got a strong P2 on his final lap and he probably left a couple of tenths out there on the track as well. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we need to keep the ball flat and focus on the job. It will be a challenging race with our main rivals very close on long run pace. Strategy will be important and so will avoiding mistakes in the challenging conditions. We've hit our first target for the weekend but the big one is still to come."
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
"Congratulations first and foremost to Lewis on that fantastic Q3 lap. He has been very strong all weekend and it's great to see that form translated into a well-deserved pole position. Nico has been struggling a little since FP3 this morning to find the right balance and nail that perfect lap. This translated into a fight for him to make the front row, which he managed with a strong lap at the end under some pressure, so a good job from him on that second lap. Congratulations to the team for bringing a car here capable of a front row lockout and both drivers for securing it. Tomorrow is what matters, of course, and we must now prepare ourselves for what will be a hard race in some of the toughest conditions of the season."
A case of what might have been for Red Bull. Verstappen produced a stunning first flying lap in Q3 to grab a spot on the front row. Indeed, it looked like qualifying ahead of Rosberg was a real possibility, but the Dutchman was unable to improve on his second attempt and had to settle for third. Ricciardo was out-qualified by his team mate for just the third time this season, and lines up fourth.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:33.420
“I thought it was going to be a tough race for us before we came here. Now it seems like the balance of the car is there, the long runs seem good and we have improved our short run pace a lot. We were pretty close to the Mercedes on the front row and I’m really enjoying the new surface here, the car is working very well on it. For both of us to be on the second row, in front of Ferrari, means we can be very pleased with today’s work. Out of the past three or four races this has been my best long run pace on a Friday, we haven’t changed much on the car so it should be similar tomorrow. After Singapore I talked with the team and we changed some things on the car and it seems to have worked, hopefully we can keep improving in this way. We have made some changes to the clutch so we shall see if it has improved tomorrow, so far everything looks positive. The set up feels really good here and we will no doubt check everything tonight to make sure we are in the best position possible on race day.
Daniel Ricciardo, 4th, 1:33.467
“It was quite an exciting quali session and my lap was pretty clean. I pushed quite a bit in the first two sectors; I think I got more out of the tyres compared to the last sector where I struggled for traction and lost a little bit of time. From where we were yesterday, I am pretty happy. We made quite a few changes overnight and they definitely helped me out today, so I was feeling a lot more comfortable in the car. Our race pace is looking good too as we saw from Max’s sessions yesterday. We should have a nice battle for the podium tomorrow and we’ll try to stay ahead of the Ferraris. They are normally pretty good on their tyres here but we have an extra set of soft tyres for the race which should work well for us. As a team we are pumped to lock out the second row at this circuit and we should have a good race on our hands for tomorrow.
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“A great performance from both of our drivers in qualifying, extracting everything possible out of the car to lock out the second row of the grid. Max absolutely nailed his first run in Q3 and there was very little to choose between the guys today. To be ahead of both Ferraris and to get as close as we actually managed to get to Mercedes is a positive to take into tomorrow’s race.”
Ferrari never looked close to Mercedes on one-lap pace, but they did have an entertaining intra-team battle. Raikkonen got the better of Vettel in free practice after the latter spun, taking out a bollard in the process. The trend continued at the start of qualifying but when it mattered in Q3, Vettel managed a cleaner lap as Raikkonen made a mistake at Turn 9. They locked out the third row of the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen, 6th, 1:33.632
"It was a pretty smooth running until the last try: then I had some traffic on the out lap and struggled with the tyres to make them work in the first two corners, so I ran a bit wide. It was a decent qualifying session but it's painful when you have such a bad last try. The handling of the car has been pretty ok and I was hoping for a bit more, but tomorrow we'll try to do better. We don't know what will happen and obviously we are not in the ideal starting position. The tarmac is new so it's hard to say where it's going to go and which tyre will be the best, it will be a lot down to the conditions. We have to do our own best and see what that brings in the race."
Sebastian Vettel, 5th, 1:33.584
"We expected it to be tight, but we thought that we could have the upper hand in the end. So I am disappointed to see both Red Bulls in front of us, but they were just a bit quicker. There was not a lot missing, but just enough, just over a tenth. We need to have a look into our data and see if we can pick it up later... In the end, we were hoping to be one row higher up, so in second, right behind the Mercedes. But for the race, nervertheless, we should have a good speed: the strategy will also be important tomorrow. There is a bit of room for manoeuvre, as everybody has to use the harder tyre, which might make it interesting. And then there is also the fact that we are in Malaysia, so there might be some rain, or just the heat as a factor."
A quiet day for Sauber, who couldn't quite make it two races in a row in Q2. However, they did out-qualify both Manors and Palmer's Renault for 17th and 18th on the grid. Ericsson won the intra-team battle by just a tenth of a second.
Marcus Ericsson, 17th, 1:35.816
“After a positive Friday, today has also been a decent day. With the overnight rain the track conditions on the new asphalt were different in FP3, so it was a bit tricky to get a good read of it. We made some changes and managed to go into qualifying with a good feeling. I had a clean lap with no mistakes, so overall I am satisfied with my performance. Obviously, the result does not show that, but we were close to Q2. We can see that the gap to the midfield is shrinking, which is positive. Let’s see what we can achieve in the race.”
Felipe Nasr, 18th, 1:35.949
“The result from qualifying is obviously not where we want to be. On my last try in Q1 my front tyres were not in the ideal working window to start the lap with. This certainly affected sector 1. Besides that, it was a clean lap, but still not enough to reach Q2. On the other hand, it is positive that the long run in FP3 felt quite consistent. We will fight back tomorrow.”
The team had looked to be back on form in Singapore, but that momentum was seemingly short lived as both drivers exited in Q2 here, qualifying 15th and 16th. The good news for Kvyat at least was that he out-qualified his team mate for just the third time since rejoining Toro Rosso.
Daniil Kvyat, 15th, 1:35.369
“Not an easy qualifying. We managed to get through to Q2 where we had clean laps but no pace, which made it difficult to fight for higher positions. It was very close between Carlos and I but, to be honest, we were just fighting each other today… It’s quite a tough situation as the car is missing speed here and I think we extracted the most out of the car but it’s just not our track. A P15 shouldn’t be what we aim for but right now this is where we are. For tomorrow, our long-run pace doesn’t look that bad, but overtaking here is a difficult task still, so we will see what we can come up with. The good thing is that this new tarmac offers some different opportunities which we will have to analyse overnight. It won’t be easy but we will certainly try our best!”
Carlos Sainz, 16th, 1:35.374
“Today’s qualifying just shows how much our grid position can vary depending on the track layout… After last qualifying session in Singapore we were P6 and here, two weeks later, we are P16, just because of the time we spend flat out through the lap. If I’m honest, I’m not very happy, as I was expecting a bit more than P16 today, but this is how it is – we just need to take it and try to keep improving, because if not, it’s going to be a tough end to the season. Tomorrow I will push like crazy, as always, try to do a good start and move forward. We’ll see where we end up. Some rain would also be welcome for the race, as it could spice things up a bit!”
Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer
“A very difficult day today unfortunately. P15 and P16 in qualifying is a big jolt back down to earth from the P6 and P7 we had in Singapore. Our top speed deficit has proven again to be a big penalty with a very big loss on the long straights here. It is a very close battle in the mid pack and some of our direct competitors have brought developments. The McLarens looked strong from the start of the weekend and the Renaults appear to have made a jump, with Magnussen ahead of us in qualifying. Haas also did a decent job with both of their cars. So all of this means we need to be absolutely on top form in qualifying nowadays or we can come out on the wrong end of that mid field battle, like we have today. Having said that, on quick review live, I am not sure there is a huge amount more we could have found today. Carlos was quite happy in P3 but didn’t quite get a perfect flow in qualifying and a slightly scrappy last lap blunted his efforts. Daniil did a decent job and was just a bit unhappy with his car balance in the last corner. We will work hard tonight on strategy and tyre usage to come back fighting tomorrow.”
Grosjean had an eventful day, running wide in free practice before losing his right wing mirror at the start of qualifying. He recovered to take 12th on the grid. Gutierrez likewise was struggling to put a clean lap together, spinning on the slippery track in FP3 and locking up in qualifying. Nonetheless, Haas will be hoping to do better tomorrow, with points not out of the question.
Romain Grosjean, 12th, 1:35.001
“I’ve been struggling all weekend long to get the balance where we wanted, and finally we got a decent car balance. We had to change so much on the car, which is a bit strange, so we need to analyze a bit more deeply what happened. Eventually, I was pretty happy with the car. We had a bit of an issue at the end of Q1. We left the garage very tight on time, so the team asked me to push really hard on the out lap, which isn’t ideal for the tyres. But, we made it and everyone was pleased with that. In Q2 we tried something a bit different. It didn’t quite work as expected, but tomorrow is a long race so we’ll see.”
Esteban Gutierrez, 13th, 1:35.097
“Qualifying was very competitive. We worked all the way through FP3 trying to optimize the setup of the car and I was ready to go. I was saving all my energy for the last lap in Q2, which was going to make all the difference. I had a perfect lap, but I’m a bit disappointed as I took a lot of risks and tried to push much further than what was possible. I went a bit wide in turn 14 and that was it. I’m sorry for the guys as they’ve worked so hard over the weekend, but we’ll keep focused and I’ll be pushing all the way in the race.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“I think we did the best we could to finish up P12 and P13. We struggled getting prepared for qualifying, but both the team and the drivers got it together. We seem to like to put some drama into whatever we do. With Romain in Q1 we were on the edge trying to get him out in time. First we lost a mirror and then a wheel nut got stuck on his second run. The guys did a fantastic job to get it sorted and Romain was able to cross the line one second before time was up. Esteban did a great job. The cars are very close to each other – within one tenth of a second, in fact – which shows that both drivers can compete at the same level.”
Contrasting fortunes at Renault. After a dramatic Friday, Magnussen rewarded his mechanics who had worked so hard to rebuild his car by making Q2 and qualifying ahead of both Toro Rossos. He will be aiming for points tomorrow. Palmer had a poor final lap and exited in Q1.
Kevin Magnussen, 14th, 1:35.277
“It’s a very good result for us in qualifying; P14 is much better than usual in terms of setting us up for scoring some points in the race. But it’s an ambivalent result as I felt so close to Q3 that I couldn’t resist giving it everything I’ve got on my final run; I locked up in turn 1 and lost the lap. I didn’t improve after that so it’s unfortunate. From P14, not a lot has to happen in the top ten for us to get points, which is always the aim. Let’s see tomorrow, hopefully our race pace is as good as qualifying today. You never really know how it will go here, so fingers crossed!”
Jolyon Palmer, 19th, 1:35.999
“I’ll be frank; my lap was pretty far from what it should have been. I made the wrong call on set-up between my runs and the lap just didn’t come together. This was particularly frustrating as the pace has looked promising all weekend and there’s definitely better possible from the car here. Tomorrow I’ll be pushing all the way to make amends especially as this is a track where moving up the order is possible.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director
"It was an encouraging session in terms of the pace potential from the car ; had Kevin had a perfect lap on his fresh tyres in Q2, P12 was definitely in the offing. Jolyon struggled to get his lap together in Q1 and that was a shame for him as he’s looked strong here for the rest of the weekend.
"We have 56 laps tomorrow and our long run pace should prove to be advantageous. The three tyre compounds here offer many strategy options on this new track surface, which works the tyres very differently from before. We accumulated a lot of data yesterday and today so it will be interesting to see how the race plays out. We’re most certainly looking to move forward and up the order. Points are definitely the target."
Force India once again looked strong, with both drivers making Q3. Hulkenberg appeared to have the beating of Perez, but the latter put in a faultless final lap to grab seventh. They will line up side by side on the fourth row, and a double points finish could see Force India strengthen their grip on fourth place in the constructors' championship.
Sergio Perez, 7th, 1:34.319
“I’m very happy with our performance. It was very important to execute a perfect qualifying session and I think that is what we did. It was a mega effort by the whole team. The whole qualifying hour was very intense because you could see how close together the laptimes were for all the cars and I had to maximise each lap. I made a little mistake in Q2 on my last run, which could have cost me a place in Q3, but fortunately I managed to make it through. The result today means we are in a great position to fight for strong points tomorrow.”
Nico Hulkenberg, 8th, 1:34.489
“I am quite satisfied with how today went and my starting position for the race. When the top three teams lock out the first three rows, seventh and eighth is the best we could have achieved. In the end, my lap was not good enough for P7: I felt a bit more comfortable and had a better rhythm at the start of the session and it fell away slightly in Q3 – perhaps the track cooled and that’s one of the possibilities we will try to understand tonight. Still, eighth is a very good position to start tomorrow’s race. It’s going to be really close behind the leaders: I hope we can keep up with the cars in front and take the opportunity if anything happens. Our priority is to stay inside the points and maximise what we can get out of this race.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“An extremely satisfying performance today, which sets us up nicely for a strong race tomorrow. The team has done an excellent job of dialling the car into this circuit and both drivers delivered clean laps when it mattered. Locking out the fourth row of the grid is a fair reflection of the speed we have in the car and I’m optimistic we can race well to bring home some important points."
Wehrlein struggled in the final practice session with electrical problems and missed a lot of running as a result. Ocon had a smoother time and was better placed for the afternoon's qualifying session, where he beat Wehrlein by a tenth of a second. It is the first time Ocon has out-qualified his team mate since being promoted to the Manor race seat.
Esteban Ocon, 20th, 1:36.451
“It was really good. I’m pretty happy with everything. The team did a fantastic job to build up a strong car and we can be very proud of our performance today. I got good clean laps and improved with each run, so all good.
“That feels like a long time ago, my first qualifying in Spa. But it got better and better each race and today I felt very comfortable. After all the work that has gone into getting the car working well here, it all just came together. I’m really happy.”
Pascal Wehrlein, 21st, 1:36.587
“Yes, I’m a little disappointed today. This morning was a lot of stop-start trying to fix the electrical problem, so we couldn’t really set the car up. It’s a shame, because at the start of the day I felt we had finally got some things working that we were less happy with yesterday. In qualifying, I had a lot of traffic and couldn’t improve on my second set of tyres. Twice there were cars in front of me in sector 1.
“I think we will be better in the race but we’re starting from a long way back and we have to hope for some opportunities to move through the field.”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
“We’ve put a lot of work into this weekend and we’ve definitely taken a step forward in a few areas to address some of the issues we’ve faced in recent races. On the face of it, not all of the progress is visible, particularly as we had a problem in FP3 this morning that compromised Pascal’s progress. While he struggled with traffic in qualifying, the actual car performance is better and Esteban had the opportunity to show that a little more. It will be a tough race tomorrow but potentially an interesting one. So we’ll do our best to make sure we’re there to benefit when opportunities present themselves.”
Bottas was unlucky to miss out on Q3 by just 0.039s. In 11th, he will at least have the consolation of free tyre choice for the race. Massa did make the top-ten shoot out, and will start just ahead of his team mate. They will be hard pressed to out-score their main championship rivals Force India on points though, with both VJM09 cars ahead on the grid.
Felipe Massa, 10th, 1:34.671
"I think qualifying was going well, but for sure we expected to finish higher up. I had the pace in Q2 and it was a big fight for a couple of tenths. Unfortunately, we are three places back on where it was possible to be. Anyway, the race is tomorrow and I really hope the strategy, the pace, the weather and everything can be in our favour and can help our race. We will try everything we can."
Valtteri Bottas, 11th, 1:34.577
"That was quite a tricky qualifying session for us. I actually wasn’t very happy with the front end of the car, I felt like the balance was better in today’s practice, especially around turns six, seven and eight. I struggled with understeer and because of that I didn’t quite get a perfect lap in. It was very close and I’m sure tomorrow will be just as close. We do have a free choice of tyres to start tomorrow’s race, so our goal is still to have both of our cars ahead of Force India. I believe it’s possible. We can definitely score some good points from where we’re starting and I’m sure the understeer and balance of the car will be better for the race."
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
"Qualifying was disappointing because I think the car was good enough for seventh and we weren’t able to do that as a team. That does leave a bitter taste in your mouth. That said, the team did a good job across the whole weekend. We had a little bit of homework to do following Friday on the low fuel runs. I think we’ve done a reasonable job of getting into the mix. Valtteri didn’t get his lap together in Q2 for various reasons, so didn’t get through to Q3. Felipe’s Q2 lap would have been good enough for eighth in Q3. There was a little bit of track improvement for the final session, and everyone else improved but unfortunately we didn’t. Ultimately, it’s disappointing because we should be further up the grid than where we are. However, the main thing is that we are in the mix. We’re fighting at the back end of the top ten, and we’re aiming to have a good race tomorrow to pick up all the points that we can."
Alonso has a combined 45-place grid drop for new engine parts and thus was always going to line up at the back of the grid. As such, he took a minimal part in qualifying, running just once in Q1. Button by contrast made Q3 and beat Massa on pace, qualifying ninth. Good points could be on the cards for the race.
Fernando Alonso, 22nd, 1:37.155
“In practice yesterday, we were comfortably inside the top 10, so there’s an element of frustration to find ourselves with useful performance, but facing a grid penalty ahead of the race.
“Hopefully, we’ve now stockpiled enough components for the remainder of the season that we no longer need to take grid penalties and start at the back.
“My running in FP3 this morning was particularly important – our aim was to conduct some long runs and gain some useful data for the race. In quali, we just ran for a few laps, with the aim to save as many sets of tyres for the race as we could.
“It’ll be interesting tomorrow to see how well we’re able to read the conditions and play the strategy. The new asphalt keeps improving quickly and, while it’ll be difficult to overtake 12 cars and get into the points, I think there’s still something more to come from us tomorrow.”
Jenson Button, 9th, 1:34.518
“I really enjoyed qualifying! It’s never nice to be just 0.029s behind the car in front, but that wasn’t too bad – we were either going to be eighth or ninth, and we ended up being ninth. I’m happy with that.
“During Q1, I had issues with traffic; I had to out-brake Esteban Ocon into Turn Nine during my quick lap, and you shouldn’t have to be doing that during qualifying. I also had a little spin at Turn 14 when I lost all my downforce behind one of the Renaults. That first session was busy.
“Still, we’ve improved the car a lot since practice yesterday, but the team has done a great job to improve it. Qualifying was the first time this weekend that I really felt comfortable.
“Hopefully we can show well in the race – there’s no reason why we can’t fight the cars around us tomorrow.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Jenson drove superbly in qualifying, extracting the absolute maximum from the car after a difficult and unpromising first day’s practice. It’s a testament to the work of the whole team that we managed to transform our fortunes overnight, with both drivers reporting that the car’s driveability had been significantly improved between Friday and Saturday.
“With Jenson, it was fun and satisfying to be able to really attack all the way into the closing minutes of Q3. It’s definitely a sign of what’s to come from the McLaren-Honda partnership.
“While we knew ahead of the race weekend that Fernando would face a large grid penalty, there’s still an element of frustration in seeing what could have been. Nevertheless, we placed all our focus today on the race. And while he starts 22nd tomorrow, I have absolutely no doubt that he will not be in that position at the end of the first lap; I’m reminded of his spirited charge at this race last year, and I’m certain that he will be on the absolute attack from the second the lights go out. I think everyone will be watching to see just what he can do.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“After yesterday’s free practice results, it was very difficult for us to determine where our position was, due to the re-surfaced track which increased grip and improved everyone’s lap-times compared to last year.
“I felt more confident today after seeing the great drive from Jenson to finish again in Q3 and start tomorrow’s race from 9th on the grid, and we are hoping for a strong points finish on his 300th celebratory race.
“Fernando will be starting from the back of the grid as he has incurred penalties for introducing new power unit components. However, he has been fairly satisfied with the balance of his car so far, so we are looking forward to seeing how strong his race finish position will be.”
Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director
“The new track surface has clearly benefitted grip and traction, enabling one of the fastest-ever laps of Malaysia to be run today – more than six seconds faster than last year’s pole – using our soft tyre. We had falling track temperatures throughout the session, which presented a bit of a moving target for the teams, but they quickly got on top of that. There’s still something of a question mark over the weather but with all the top 10 starting on the soft tyre, we should see some interesting strategies at the front end of the field as the long runs seem closely matched.”