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Hamilton claims pole from McLaren teammate Button in Malaysia

March 24, 2012 -- Updated 1110 GMT (1910 HKT)
A jubilant Lewis Hamilton celebrates his pole position at Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
A jubilant Lewis Hamilton celebrates his pole position at Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lewis Hamilton takes pole for Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang
  • Second straight pole this season for 2008 world champion
  • McLaren teammate Jenson Button joins him on front row
  • Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher third fastest

(CNN) -- Lewis Hamilton extended McLaren's early season dominance by claiming pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix Saturday.

His teammate Jenson Button was second fastest, relegating seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher from the front row in the closing moments of final qualifying at Sepang circuit.

Hamilton started from pole in Australia last Sunday but could only manage third behind Button and reigning two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull's Vettel was only sixth fastest in Malaysia qualifying, with teammate Mark Webber fourth best and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) in fifth.

But former world champion Raikkonen, returning to F1 this season, will drop five places on the grid as a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.

Hamilton set his best time of one minute 36.219 seconds on his first run in the top-10 shootout, which decides the grid positions of the leading contenders.

Schumacher in his Mercedes threatened Hamilton's time on his best lap, but was pipped to second fastest by a superb late lap by Melbourne winner Button.

It's a long haul down to turn one, but hopefully we'll have a car in a much better position for the race tomorrow
Lewis Hamilton

Just over four tenths of a second separated the top eight times in final qualifying to emphasize again the closeness of racing in 2012.

Hamilton is clearly wary of fellow Briton Button, who edged ahead of him at the start last weekend before dominating the race.

"I don't know if I'm in the best place," he told the post-qualifying media conference.

"It's a long haul down to turn one, but hopefully we'll have a car in a much

better position for the race tomorrow," added the 2008 world champion.

Vettel, bidding to become only the third driver in F1 history to win a hat-trick of titles, will be joined on the third row by Romain Grosjean of France in his Lotus-Renault.

Schumacher's teammate Nico Rosberg will be on the fourth row with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Sergio Perez of Mexico in the Sauber and the relegated Raikkonen make up the top 10.

Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari was only 12th fastest while Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen has to start at the back of the grid after getting a five-place penalty for a safety car infringement in Australia.

Vettel will be seeking his third straight win at Sepang, but five of the six world champions who make up this year's grid have also won on the fast circuit.

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