Hamilton masters rain to grab Sepang pole
29 March 2014 – Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton mastered the wet conditions to claim pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday. The former World Champion clocked a time of 1:59.431 in the final shootout to edge out Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel by 0.055 seconds, while team-mate Nico Rosberg completed the top three.
After a trio of hot and humid practice sessions, the heavens opened ahead of the all-important grid deciding hour, with Race Control issuing three delays before the action began 50 minutes later than planned.
Rainfall remained a factor throughout all three segments of qualifying, with the subsequent standing water meaning the vast majority of the Q3 runners completed their timed runs on Pirelli's Full Wet compound.
Hamilton, who had also topped the dry final practice session, ultimately proved too strong for the competition, going on to equal the British pole position record of 33 held by two-time World Champion Jim Clark.
Vettel recovered from an early energy store issue to deliver his first front row start of the 2014 campaign, while Rosberg stole third from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso – who was lucky to make the final phase after picking up suspension damage in a Q2 clash with with Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat – at the death of the session.
Ricciardo took fifth in the second of the Red Bull machines, just ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen who, despite an initially positive start to the weekend, wound up more than a second adrift of team-mate Alonso.
Nico Hülkenberg again impressed to reach Q3 in his Force India. The German took eighth, half a second back on Räikkönen and the same margin in front of McLaren youngster Kevin Magnussen, who survived a late spin.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Éric Vergne displayed his wet weather prowess once more, while Jenson Button was forced to settle for 10th in his McLaren, having been the only driver to gamble on the Intermediate rubber in Q3.
The aforementioned Kvyat was extremely close to another shootout appearance, but fell at the second hurdle along with Sauber driver Esteban Gutiérrez, Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, Force India's Sergio Pérez and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, which displayed better pace in the adverse weather conditions.
Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil were the biggest names to fall in Q1 which came to a dramatic end when Marcus Ericsson lost control of his Caterham on the exit of Turn 3, resulting in an impact with the barriers.
Kamui Kobayashi gave the Leafield outfit some hope by splitting Marussia's Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.
Sunday's 56-lap Malaysian Grand Prix gets underway at 5pm local time (GMT +8)