The new season of Formula One is here and the Malaysian Grand Prix is about to kick off. Malaysia, known for its hot weather followed by heavy rains, qualifying for this Grand Prix proved no different. With so much on the line, the teams and drivers will try to prove themselves in a budding season, hoping to leave the dramatic tragedies of Melbourne behind this weekend.
As storms rose on the horizon, Q1 kicked off on dry tarmac. Fighting hard, the Mclaren-Honda again found themselves in the dropzone. Failure to reach Q2 for two consecutive races has never happen previously for the Mclaren team. A young Felipe Nasr, who finished fifth in Melbourne also found himself sitting inside the dropzone for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Manor, who finally made it out of the garage for Malaysia pushed their cars, but still are unable to find pace. As Q1 concluded, Nasr found himself sitting in 16th, followed by Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso in 17th and 18th respectively. Manor’s drivers, Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens, found themselves filling the last two spots on the starting grid.
Q2 started with storms moving ever so closer to the track. A push to finish in the outside of the dropzone came down to one lap. After the conclusion of the single dry lap, a torrential downpour prevented any further improvement causing all of the drivers to return to their respective garage to accept their positioning.
Kimi Raikkonen of Scuderia Ferrari found himself in 11th place after a late outing caused him to get caught in the starting rain. Defending World Driver Champion, Lewis Hamilton, also found himself lower than expected for Q2, only placing 8th. However, that was still be enough to ensure a start in Q3 for him.
As the clock wound down on Q2 and drivers sat waiting, the next five drivers were dropped. Raikkonen will be forced to fight through the pack for a top 10 spot on Saturday, followed by Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado in 12th. The Force India team had a double elimination leaving both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez in the dropzone, finishing 13th and 14th. The last driver ousted in Q2 was Carlos Sainz Jr of Scuderia Toro Rosso, who finished 15th.
Two separate 15 minute delays prevented Q3 from starting in a timely manner. As the rain lessened and the Safety Car made its rounds the track was deemed drivable. As cars left their boxes, most decided to go with Pirelli’s Wet tyre, with others choosing to go with the Intermediate. Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari hesitated in changing his tyre, but managed to go with Intermediate, which in the end proved to be a good strategy.
After their first lap around the circuit, the pit lane became busy with cars rushing in to change off of the Wet tyres and substitute them for Intermediates. By the end of Q3, it was clear that Ferrari had indeed found its pace, and would be able to bring a hard fight to the reigning World Constructor Champions, Mercedes AMG.
Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, however, found himself at another pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, hoping to accomplish another win as he did last year. Vettel, found his stride in the last lap and accomplished what many had hoped they could do by splitting the pack of Mercedes Cars, which put him in the front row of the grid in 2nd place.
Nico Rosberg of Mercedes struggled toward the end of his final lap and found himself in 3rd place for the start of the race tomorrow. As Q3 ends, cars sit in parc ferme, waiting for tomorrow afternoon when the starting lights go out at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
By Joseph M. Padgett