Hamilton delighted with 'surprise' pole as Vettel nightmare continues

Vettel, 28 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the standings after a DNF in Singapore, will start at the back after failing to set a time in Q1 with his title rival on pole.

World championship leader Lewis Hamilton hailed an incredible turnaround Saturday after taking pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix with title rival Sebastian Vettel condemned to the back of the grid.

The mishap was even stranger, given that Ferrari had looked very strong in the third and final practice earlier Saturday with Raikkonen leading from Vettel.

Vettel was phlegmatic about his bad luck: "I tend to enjoy what I do and today there was not much to enjoy or do but I am sure it will be a good race", he said. "The lap time today showed that we are not quick enough", he told reporters. "Obviously it's never good to be behind, I'd like to be in front but we're not so I'm not thinking about that".

Neither Vettel nor Hamilton have fond memories of past year, however with both failing to finish the race as Red Bull clinched a 1-2 with Ricciardo holding off Max Verstappen. "I don't really know where that lap came from, to be honest". That was the German driver's 170th race start.

He had led the championship at every round until Monza but the first corner crash in Singapore, eliminating him from the race, proved hugely costly.

"It's been a very hard day", sighed Lewis Hamilton.

Mistakes on some level are unavoidable but the severity of Vettel sandwiching Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Singapore can not be underestimated in terms of the title.

"Today we arrived and the vehicle was much better, it still looked like the Ferraris were a bit ahead so we had some big calls to make".

He was nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than Hamilton, who was down in sixth, leaving the championship leader hopeful of improvements today.

"It's painful when you get that close", said Raikkonen. Yesterday they were OK and we made public that very clear.

But champions Mercedes have looked off the pace this weekend while Ferrari, whose drivers collided at the start in Singapore two weeks ago, have been quick with Vettel favoured for pole before his car's problem.

Sky Bet make him odds-on to add another 25 points to his tally by taking the chequered flag, while he's also a 3/1 Price Boost (from 2/1) to win the race and set the fastest lap time. Ferrari are strong, Mercedes are a bit unusual for now but I'm sure they'll get quicker tomorrow so we need to improve.

Sunday's Grand Prix will be the 19th and last at steamy Sepang.

Meanwhile, Mercedes endured what their head of motorsport Toto Wolff labelled "one of the worst Fridays I can remember" as Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas struggled. "We have a good vehicle and it's up to us to make it work in all conditions", said Vettel.

  • Julie Sanders