Lewis Hamilton finishes first in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix
Hamilton claims his 33rd pole position to equal the British record
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel places second behind Hamilton
Wet conditions at the Sepang Circuit made it tricky for drivers Saturday
Lewis Hamilton grabbed his second straight pole position to begin the 2014 Formula One season. But he hopes the Malaysian Grand Prix goes better than the opener in Melbourne.
Hamilton was forced to retire early into the Australian Grand Prix this month and could only watch as Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg emerged victorious.
“For myself and for the team the priority is to try to bag as many points, collectively, me and Nico,” Hamilton told reporters Saturday. “I think we have a great opportunity.
“We’ve got a great car and the team’s just performing fantastically right now, so fingers crossed we both see our way through to the finish line.”
Hamilton bettered reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull by 0.055 seconds in a rain-hit, eventful qualifying session at the Sepang International Circuit for the 33rd pole of his career. That ties him for the British record with Jim Clark.
Rosberg was third.
“Today was just incredible, how much, firstly, it rained before qualifying and then during the session it was very, very tricky out there I think for everyone,” said Hamilton. “Particularly at the end it was almost impossible to see anything.
“During my last lap I just couldn’t see a thing behind (Force India’s Nico) Hulkenberg. I couldn’t see where the track went, didn’t know where the corners were, when to brake.”
Even though he was only fractionally behind Hamilton in qualifying, Vettel suggested Mercedes was the team to beat Sunday.
“I think Mercedes as a team has the best package,” he told reporters. “They’ve done a very good job across the break.
“I think they’re the favorites at the moment, no matter, I think, where we go. As a fact, after that I think it’s fairly close between the other Mercedes-powered teams and probably Ferrari and us.”
Former world champion Fernando Alonso finished fourth – despite colliding with Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso – followed by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson crashed in the first qualifying session, losing control of his car and hitting the wall.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas received a grid penalty – going from 15th to 18th – after impeding a not impressed Ricciardo.
“We raced each other a lot in the junior categories and I thought we had a lot of respect for each other, but it’s a little difficult how many times he’s done that now,” Ricciardo was quoted as saying by Autosport.com.