Malaysian Grand Prix - Qualifying report

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 11, 2012 13:57 hrs

Lewis Hamilton takes his 21st pole position but it was all about comeback-king Michael Schumacher. The German ace kept knocking at the time sheets throughout Q1 and Q2, and finally nailed it to P3 in Q3.

Red Bull and Ferrari seemed to have no answer to the might of the German manufacturer, Mercedes Benz. However, defending champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have qualified within the top six. Sepang, is F1's equivalent to an endurance race. Tomorrow is about survival of the fittest.

The best news for India and HRT is that Narain Karthikeyan and his HR03 qualified within the 107% rule and therefore, will start tomorrow's race. Q1 saw the usual suspects being eliminated. Pedro de la Rosa took P23, Charles Pic P22, Timo Glock P21, Vitaly Petrov P20, Heiki Kovaleinen P19 and Jean Eric Vergne P18. Michael Schumacher topped the time sheets until Webber put his Red Bull on provisional pole.

The session looked like it belonged to Lotus. Raikkonen set a series of blistering laps. He headed the times as Ferrari driver Massa failed to make the cut. Ferrari are struggling at the start of the season to get both horses prancing into Q3.

With both the Williams cars, the Ferrari of Massa, the Force India's of Hulkenberg and Di Resta, the Sauber of Kobayashi and Toro Rosso of Ricciardo out, the final qualifying session Saw Kimi at it again.

Team McLaren and Mercedes seemed as bright and confident as the sunshine in Sepang. This track is where engineers strive to achieve the perfect balance. And balance is what the McLarens did - Lewis Hamilton claimed his 21st career pole with a time of 1:36.219 with his teammate Jenson Button right there alongside on 1:36.368.

Arguably setting the best lap of his comeback, Michael Schumacher enthralled the Malaysian crowds. It was quite evident especially when Mark Webber crossed the finish line without improving on his previous best. Schumacher romanced the cameras at Parc Ferme and even stole quick glances at his opposition's tyre wear. The old Schumi is back much to the relief of Team Petronas Mercedes Benz.

Curiously, his teammate Nico Rosberg finished a low eighth just ahead of the fighting Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

After the troubles of Melbourne, Kimi put everything aside to qualify a high fifth on the grid. This will be interesting tomorrow as Raikkonen is no slouch on the start line. He has the world champion Sebastian Vettel alongside him on row three.  

Romain Grosjean in the other Lotus and Sergio Perez make up the top ten.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is a medium-high downforce circuit. It also offers more overtaking zones than most others on the calendar. Drivers tend to lose almost five kilos of body weight during the race and cockpit temperatures soar to more than fifty degrees Celsius! Truly an endurance test for both man and machine.

In Lewis we have an extremely fit athlete. Jenson competes at international triathlons. Michael Schumacher is hungry. Will the Red Bulls throw in the towel at sultry Sepang? Or, does the Iceman Kimi have a role to play in he heat?

It's all happening on Sunday. Who dares wins.

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