Hamilton surprised himself with pole lap

Hamilton offered his condolences to Vettel and admitted he was not expecting to be celebrating his fifth pole position in Malaysia after his weekend leading into qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton was widely tipped to struggle in the twisty street circuit of Singapore but benefited from Ferrari rivals Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen crashing at the first corner. "Records are there to be broken so at some stage someone will break them, whether it's me, I can't tell you", Hamilton said after his victory at the Marina Bay Circuit. "I don't know whether he feels pressure".

"I was a little surprised in what we have managed to do".

So, too, it seemed were Mercedes themselves with the team attributing the unexpected pole position, secured by less than a tenth of a second over Kimi Raikkonen, to the "Hamilton factor".

"This again was a Lewis lap", said Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.

"I think in the dry the podium is there, especially with Vettel down at the back", he said, wary of the ever-present possibility of rain in tropical Sepang. "So we shall see tomorrow whether that is still the case - but I think we made some changes going into qualifying that should suit the auto better for tomorrow, so I'm hopefully that we will be there or thereabouts". "Maybe we shouldn't underestimate the driving factor".

No doubt Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are more than able to hold their own on what is quite a quick track with two really good high speed straights, which is very suited to the powerful Merc engines.

Hamilton was sixth and Bottas seventh.

The Englishman revealed his crew had worked until 2am on Saturday morning in a bid to rectify the issue.

Hamilton, a three-time world champion, then produced a flawless performance to increase his standings lead over Vettel to 28 points with just six races remaining - starting at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday.

Verstappen, who bettered teammate Ricciardo for the 11th time in qualifying this season, said he was happy to bounce back after struggling with his car's balance in the last practice.

He was forced to swap engines prior to the session but then suffered turbocharger problems and was unable to set a lap time. The auto was much better position [than on Friday], but we were something like four or five tenths off the other guys.

"I said to the guys in the garage, don't worry".

"Obviously the race (at Singapore) didn't go that way but I don't see why you would look at everything so negative. Using that strike rate, he'd need another 109 races to reach the magical 92 wins".

"We couldn't find anything so we made a decision to fire up, and see if we can go again. I don't know if it's legit or they are playing some games".

Starting from the back of the grid, Sebastian Vettel has a full selection of fresh tyres available and is hoping that gives him strategy options to use his Ferrari - quickest auto on the grid - to move through the field. "For sure, it's not ideal, it's not what we want, especially on a day where you feel that you've got it in you, you've got it in the vehicle but we won't be able to prove that".

"I've been struggling with the auto, so we have to review and try to understand where we have gone wrong with the balance".

  • Julie Sanders