Hamilton Breaks Circuit Record; Takes Pole in Malaysia

By Mark Gero

With the bad success behind him at the last round at Singapore, Lewis Hamilton Saturday afternoon proved that he is back in form with a record braking 1:32:850 fastest lap to take pole for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. Close to him was Mercedes teammate and series leader Nico Rosberg, who was four tenths of a second behind. Max Verstappen put Red Bull in contention with third.

“It feels great.” Hamilton told ESPN F1. “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 One, so there was more time out there.”

Hamilton did not only break the track record, but led the entire three sessions. Jolyon Palmer continued his poor form amid rumors of maybe not returning for the Renault team next season by losing a chance to advance to the second round by locking his brakes up at the last corner. Marcus Ericcson also just missed a chance to advance out of the first session by just finishing less than one tenth of a second and will start 17th.

Haas F1 team continued to stay on midfield form as both Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez finished in 12th and 13th respectively, while Kevin Magnussen took a surprising 14th in his Renault ahead of both Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Dani Kvyat. Valterri Bottas meanwhile, just missed advancing into the final session by 0.039 of a second as he also locked up his brakes at the final corner.

Daniel Ricciardo took fourth best in the other Red Bull, while Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg took seventh and eighth for Force India, while Jesnon Button finished ninth in his McLaren. Felipe Massa took the final top tenth position in the Williams.

Hamilton has grabbed back his confidence from not only his crew, but encouragement from many of his friends. Something that could work for tomorrow.

“It’s a shame I didn’t get to show it but I still got pole and it’s looking good for tomorrow.” He added. “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.”

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