2011 Petronas Malaysian GP: 0:00.104 difference to the top

Published on April 9th, 2011

The starting grid is set for tomorrow, as the Qualifying result settled in after very dramatic sessions at the Sepang International Circuit, just hours ago.

Four way battle between McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber quickly topped the time chart, with Felipe Massa of Ferrari setting the pace during Q1 before Button taking it away for McLaren in Q2.

Vettel clocked the fastest time during qualifying with 1:34.870 at the very end of Q3, 0.104 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who clocked 1:34.974 during the same round.

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Webber clocked 1:35.179 and caused Button to drop further down to fourth. Button could not improve further and will be starting on the second row tomorrow.

Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Alonso took fifth at 1:35.802 with his Ferrari, with Heidfeld holding on at sixth with 1:36.124, Massa dropped to seventh at 1:36.251 and Petrov at eighth with 1:36.324.

Schumacher’s teammate Nico Rosberg will be starting ninth tomorrow with 1:36.809 fastest during the qualifying round, followed by Kobayashi with 1:36.820.

The man himself, Michael Schumacher, did not make it to the Top 10. He failed to cross the 1:37 barrier during the qualifying rounds, resulting on 11th starting grid position for the legend tomorrow.

Good progress for Lotus Renault GP team, with both drivers clocking sixth (Heidfeld) and eighth (Petrov), joining in the Top 10 runners. Lotus Racing Team, however, are stuck on nineteenth (Kovalainen) and twentieth (Trulli).

Nico Rosberg of Germany of Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team

There were talks of rain around the track, with heavy prediction being made that it will rain cats and dogs on race day. Qualifying session saw the drivers taking their time driving out from their pit lanes, as the clouds were a little unkind towards the evening.

But the weather played out, and gave the Pirelli tyres some chance to prove themselves worthy without being affected by any other outside factor. Yesterday’s intense tyre wear is a concern among the team, and the teams are preparing for more pit stops than usual for tomorrow’s 56-lap race.

Local spectators are still looking for a late comeback by the F1 legend, now driving for Mercedes GP Petronas team. Schumacher, starting eleventh tomorrow, managed to clock good times during the practice sessions, but failed to improve during the qualifying.

“We had some issues with the rear wing activation today and unfortunately that’s what compromised my last run in Q2. The car became difficult to drive, which is a real shame as it had been working very well during the earlier runs. The performance was much better with the wing, so of course we had to use it, and I would still say that we have made a step forward thanks to the hard work from our guys. We now have to concentrate on tomorrow’s race which we go into with the firm belief that anything can be possible,” said Schumacher.

Sebastian Vettel admitted he had a rough time getting into a comfortable zone. “It was a challenging weekend until qualifying today. I was happy with the car, but we never really got into a rhythm. Yesterday wasn’t as smooth as we hoped for, but we knew the car had speed, so the main thing was to keep believing in it. In qualifying everything worked out straight away. It was very close in the end with the McLaren guys, so I’m happy to get pole. Big compliments to the guys in the team – especially those working on KERS, they did a lot of work since Australia. If we wouldn’t have had it today, we wouldn’t be sitting here now, neither me nor Mark, so compliments to the guys – it’s a good reward. It’s very hot in the garage for the boys during this race, the air is pretty humid, so at least tonight they will get some good sleep ahead of tomorrow.”

Vettel’s teammate, Mark Webber, feels very optimistic for tomorrow. “I knew it would be very tight; everyone was on a single pace after the first flying lap on the option tyre in Q3. It was pretty straight forward for us; you have to just drive as quickly as you can when it’s like that. We can’t control how tight it is, to get a few tenths more, you have to just do your best. It was a better performance from me today compared to Melbourne and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m starting on the clean side of the grid and it should be an interesting race – I think there will be a lot of pit stops.”

Second on the grid, Lewis Hamilton had his pole position taken from him with a mere 0.104 difference. “That was an almost perfect lap – I lost a tenth-and-a-half in Turn 14 – so we’re much closer to the front than we’d anticipated, which is positive for us. I’m really happy to be up on the front row. Hopefully, I’ll have a better start than I did in Melbourne, so we can have more of a fight and I’ll get a chance to compete with Sebastian at the first corner and for the first couple of laps. It’s looking like a three-stop race tomorrow. It’s been dry for the past two days, so I hope it’s dry tomorrow. Being on the front row certainly helps when it rains, and it also gives us more opportunities to take a step forward. I have no doubt that we can overtake Red Bull in the development battle – it’s just a question of when. We have to keep pushing to bring new components to the races; we can push this car to the maximum.”

Hamilton’s teammate, Jensen Button, was pushed all the way to fourth, from dominating to second row. “I just wish Q2 had been Q3, but it wasn’t! I had a touch more oversteer in Q3, but that’s the set-up direction I chose to take. The balance was pretty good, but I hurt the tyres a little bit too much in the final sector, and that left me in fourth. It looks like it’s going to be a fun scrap tomorrow – we’re a lot closer to the Red Bulls than I think many people expected, and there’s a margin over the guys behind us, so hopefully it will be the four of us playing tomorrow. Our starts weren’t great in Melbourne. I hope they’ll be better in this race; we have a very good KERS Hybrid system, so hopefully it will help us and we can really attack into Turn One. I’m looking forward to tomorrow – the weather has held off for the past two days. And if it’s a dry race, we really should be able to take the race to the Red Bulls.”

Whether dry or not, tomorrow’s 2011 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix Formula One race will have its own surprises. Teams will have to rely on perfect strategies and on-the-fly amendments as none have experience a wet race. Yet.

Hopefully unpredictable Malaysian weather will change that. 2011 Petronas Malaysian GP will continue tomorrow at 4PM local time. For full Sunday schedule, head towards Sepang Circuit website or Formula One website.

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words: Syawal Ahmad pix: Clive Mason/Getty Images, Syawal Ahmad

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