Morning all! Hope you're looking forward to this qualifying session as much as I am. It's very tough to call.
Pole position is far from certain ahead of qualifying, which begins at 8am. The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel
and Mark Webber
look the best suited after a strong result in final practice this morning
Webber was top in first practice
yesterday before last week's winner in Australia, Kimi Raikkonen
, went fastest
in second practice.
The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso
and Felipe Massa
haven't quite found their rhythm in the humid conditions of Malaysia but team principal Stefano Domenicali has just told Sky Sports F1
that there isn't any problems with the car.
Let's not forget Lewis Hamilton
. The British driver, who made a surprise move from the familial warmth of McLaren
over the winter, was second to Vettel in final practice and always a danger.
As mentioned, the sweltering conditions in Malaysia often play a huge part in the race. Temperatures of 32 degrees in the air and 46 degrees on the track are often matched by heavy rain showers and it can play havoc with teams' plans.
Just in case you've forgotten how F1 qualifying works or you're new to the sport, here's a quick rundown:
All 22 cars take part in a 20-minute 'Q1' session. The six slowest cars after this period are eliminated and start the race from their position between 17-22.
Next is a 15-minute 'Q2' session where the remaining 16 cars battle for a place in the final top 10 shootout. As before, the cars that finish in positions 11-16 start the race from those spots.
Finally, the 10-minute pole position shootout where the 10 quickest cars from Q2 fight it out for the final 10 positions on the grid.
There was a brief rain shower yesterday but none today and that's led to increased track grip at the Kuala Lumpur circuit.
PREDICTION! With just a minute until we begin, it's time for my prediction on the top five. I'm going for 1 Vettel 2 Hamilton 3 Webber 4 Raikkonen 5 Alonso.
GREEN LIGHT! The first session is underway but no-one is yet to grace the track. That means that we're bound to have a frantic few minutes towards the end of the session when everyone heads out to set a time.
The first car out is British driver Max Chilton of Marussia and he's told by his engineer on the radio to "Go get em, dude!" Deary me.
Chilton's teammate Jules Bianchi and Williams's new driver Valterri Bottas are also whizzing round the circuit. Yet to see any of the big guns after five minutes of Q1.
Bianchi goes six tenths quicker than his teammate with a 1:40.053. Expect to see times much nearer the 1:36 mark from the bigger teams.
has set the fastest time by over a second at 1:37.239. Alonso and Hamilton now out there as well.
Alonso and Hamilton come second and third respectively as Rosberg continues to set the pace. Button crosses the line fourth fastest.
The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber are still rooted in the garage but it looks like they'll be out very soon.
Into the final 10 minutes of Q1 and the top five looks like this:
Force India's Adrian Sutil was third-fastest in final practice this morning and he's just gone fastest with a 1:36.809! Impressive stuff from the German with teammate Paul Di Resta down in sixth.
Alonso and Hamilton try again but they can't get close to Sutil as Button becomes the filling of an Alonso-Hamilton sandwich by going fourth.
Into the final seven minutes and finally the Red Bulls head out. It's a little risky from the constructor champions as they will only have a couple of laps to set a solid time. They should be absolutely fine though.
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The Lotus cars of Raikkonen and Grosjean also left it late to get out there but they've just gone second and fifth respectively. Decent stuff.
FIVE minutes left of Q1 and it's the usual suspects of Caterham and Marussia who occupy the bottom four. It looks as if they be joined in elimination by the Toro Rossos.
Vettel finally sets a time and it's only 11th. Not so good from the German. Webber still to set a hot lap after backing off the first time around to free up some space.
ONLY 15th for Webber on his first flying run and Vettel is also told that he needs to "have another go". The Red Bulls are really struggling out there!
Webber improves to ninth on his second go while Vettel is way back in 14th but on a much better lap this time around.
Vettel has given up and come back into the pits as Gutierrez pushes him down to 15th. Poor show from the German but he's scraped through to Q2 where his performance will surely improve.
OUT! Here are the six drivers, in order, who have been knocked out at the first hurdle:
22. Van der Garde
The impressive Sutil couldn't be removed from top spot, here's the top 10 from Q1: 1 Sutil 2 Raikkonen 3 Rosberg 4 Alonso 5 Grosjean 6 Button 7 Di Resta 8 Hamilton 9 Webber 10 Massa
Most disappointing in that first session were Perez (12th) and Vettel (15th).
GREEN LIGHT! The 15-minute session of Q2 is underway. Sixteen drivers left and they're now battling it out for a place in the top-10 shootout. Di Resta straight out onto the tarmac.
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Can Scottish racer Di Resta match the blistering pace of teammate Sutil? His first flying lap has just begun...
Hmmmm. Di Resta gives up on his lap by coming into the pits. Maybe he wants a change of tyre?
TEN minutes left of Q2 and Sutil continues to demonstrate solid pace by setting a 1:36.8.
Oooh, things could about to get very interesting as Di Resta is told on the team radio that rain could be on the way.
Rosberg goes fastest with a 1:38.1 and he's currently faster than teammate Hamilton.
IT'S RAINING! That's what Hamilton has just told his team. Those that went out early and have a set a time must be feeling better now. Not good for Di Resta who was the first out but didn't set a time.
Di Resta is back out on the medium tyre and trying to rescue a place in the top 10. He sets a personal best in the first sector but then skids wide because of the rain in turn 7 and 8! He'll have to go again.
Heavier and heavier the rain comes down and surely this is setting us up for a fabulous Q3.
SPIN! I don't think Di Resta is going to be able to do this as he performs a 540 degree spin. It looks like Grosjean is also going to suffer because of the shower.
As it stands, the biggest casualty of Q2 will be Grosjean, who would have got into the top 10 with ease had it stayed dry. Maldonado hasn't even set a time in this second session.
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All 16 cars are in the pit and the big question now is whether the rain is going to hang around for Q3. Will we see intermediate tyres put on for the final session?
OUT! Q2 comes to an end with no cars out on track. Here are the six drivers, in order, eliminated:
15. Di Resta
That leaves 10 drivers to contest for pole position. Here's how they stand after setting times in Q2: 1 Rosberg 2 Webber 3 Hamilton 4 Raikkonen 5 Sutil 6 Massa 7 Alonso 8 Button 9 Vettel 10 Perez
Again it looks disappointing for Vettel but it's being reported that he has only used one set of medium tyres for both sessions. That he means he has five brand new sets of rubber for Q3 and the race.
SUN! It's shining bright but it's still raining and I believe we're due to start the final session on intermediate tyres.
GREEN LIGHT! The cars line up at the end of the pit lane all on the intermediate, green-marked tyres and they're released to the track. Sutil first out.
The first man to slide off the track is Hamilton, who is usually so assured in the wet. Sutil completes his first 'feeler' lap and will now try and set a time ahead of the rest who follow close behind.
Sutil sets the benchmark at 1:58.293 but Perez goes almost two seconds quicker straight away.
It's stopped raining and Vettel is now showing his mettle with a 1:52.576, 1.3s quicker than next man Rosberg.
Webber goes second-fastest while Button can only manage seventh-best. Many of the drivers are coming into the pits for a new set of intermediate tyres. It's not dry enough for the slicks.
Hamilton goes fastest with a 1:51.699. Webber overtakes Vettel for second.
Many drivers are still to set a time and the track is getting ever quicker as we approach the final minute of qualifying.
Raikkonen goes fourth, Button fifth, Sutil sixth.
Alonso goes fastest but he's pipped by Vettel who goes fastest with a 1:49.674.
Massa nicks in ahead of Alonso and that's the fourth race in a row that he's out qualified his teammate.
SEBASTIAN VETTEL WILL START THE MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX ON POLE! Hamilton can't improve his time with the final lap of the session.
The German will be joined on the front row by Massa, with Alonso and Hamilton making up a menacing second row.
TOP 10! Here's how the drivers finished after Q3:
No surprise to see Vettel at the front but it's a particularly disappointing final session from Rosberg, who had been quicker than Hamilton all afternoon. Webber is also angry with fifth place as he's told by his team where he finished and simply replies "Unbelievable." Could the Australian be angry that Vettel was allowed to come in and get new tyres?
That's about it from us for now but be sure to stick around on Sports Mole for plenty of reaction throughout the day. Don't miss what is sure to be a thrilling race by joining us again at 7.30am tomorrow morning. See you then.