Vettel Earns Pole While Räikkönen Leads Practice Sessions Ahead of Malaysian GP
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel battled a wet track and stifling humidity to take pole position for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix, while Lotus’s Kimi Räikkönen set the fastest lap during practice sessions.
Rain starting in Q2 seriously hampered the results of the first- and second-tier teams, leading Räikkönen’s teammate Romain Grosjean to be bumped to 11th on the starting grid. With the weather changing every few minutes, tire choices throughout Q2 laps decided which teams would finish in the top 10 and which would be stuck starting the race mid-pack. Force India’s Paul di Resta managed to spin his car on both of his laps in the same corner; di Resta’s difficulty with keeping the car on the track relegated him to 15th place ahead of Pastor Maldonado, who was unable to finish a lap on dry tires before the rainclouds took over.
Q3 saw a break in the downpour, and the remaining racers quickly switched to intermediate tires and ran to place the quickest times. As the final lap loomed nearer, drivers all flocked to the pits one last time to throw on a fresh set of tires to give it one more shot. Vettel beat both Ferraris, leader Felipe Massa and his teammate Fernando Alonso, to clinch pole position. The rest of the Top 10 are as follows:
4. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
5. Mark Webber – Red Bull
6. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
7. Kimi Räikkönen* – Lotus
8. Jenson Button – McLaren
9. Adrian Sutil – Force India
10. Sergio Perez – McLaren
* Räikkönen was penalized three places for impeding Nico Rosberg between turns 12 and 15. He will start the race in 10th position behind Perez.
Heavy rain showers also played a major role in practice, as Australian Grand Prix winner Kimi Räikkönen’s fast lap of 1:36.569 was set halfway through the session, with Vettel only .019s slower. Oddsmakers are giving Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso the best odds, with Räikkönen not far behind. While tire degradation and replacement strategy will again play an important role in the race’s final outcome, inclement weather will most likely be the most significant variable at the Malaysian GP. Weather forecasts predict thundershowers and a temperature of 90 degrees, making the GP characteristically hot and humid.