Lewis Hamilton bagged pole position for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix after an oddly unexciting wet qualifying session this afternoon. Though it threw it down — the start was delayed by 50 mins — and cars went off, drivers had slanging matches, it never quite matched Mark Webber’s Nigel Mansell impersonation for sheer entertainment. It’s very funny indeed.
Next to Lewis in the grid and just thousandths behind him on the track is Sebastian Vettel, suggesting tomorrow’s front row might well be a preview of this year’s championship fight. Vettel had his wobbles this morning, the team calling him back in in Q1 for what sounded like another serious issue with the RB10, but apparently not. Adrian Newey now reckons the car is as fast as anything when the road’s not straight, it just doesn’t quite have the oomph at the top end. Vettel certainly seemed genuinely surprised to be as close to Hamilton as he was, didn’t he?
Mercedes looks like it just wants to own qualifying this year; the silver W05s are always at the head of the queue to get on the track and at the head of the the timing sheets in all the sessions. But for an off on his first flyer, Nico Rosberg who starts third would no doubt be up there with Lewis. Fernando Alonso will be feeling extremely relieved to start next to Rosberg having bent a track rod on Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso at the end of Q2. That one is with the stewards right now as is Daniel Ricciardo’s muscling of Valtteri Bottas which made the radio and made the producers reach for the official F1 bleeb button. Not so smiley now, eh Daniel.
Ricciardo should start fifth, ahead of Raikkonen. Next up more of the brilliance we’ve come to expect from Nico Hulkenberg and behind the Hulk Kevin Magnussen whose brilliance we are clearly going to need to get used to. The wheels seemed to have, momentarily at least, come off the McLaren revival. The team has switched to a full-on anteater nose and the MP29 doesn’t look as sharp. Jenson Button will start tenth having gambled on inters and, for once, gambled wrong. The ‘crossover’ the team were looking for just never came. After two starts with his new teammate, JB is two down. He didn’t look happy.
Truth be told it was that kind of a day. When it rains as heavily as it did today all the shiny F1 cars in the world can’t stop it being – and feeling – grey. It didn’t help the spirits of those who hauled themselves out of bed to be reminded just what we’re missing, aurally, as Bernd Maylander hauled the SLS safety car around lap after lap, the grandstands echoing to the sound of 6.2-litres of Affalterbach muscle.
There was only one major off (although plenty of smaller ones) when Marcus Ericsson dropped the Caterham on to, first, the Armco and then secondly the braking marker. With its nose and wheels rearranged the CT05 frankly didn’t look much worse. This was the first time Ericsson had driven an F1 car in the wet which is simultaneously ballsy and a little alarming. This is Caterham’s fifth home grand prix remember and the cars are no further up the grid than they were on their first home start. You have to wonder how much longer this will continue. We can’t believe Tony Fernandes is feeling any more energised than we are this morning. Oh well, race tomorrow, here’s hoping it goes off with a bit more of a bang than this morning’s soggy proceedings.