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Vettel snatches pole at last gasp to deny Hamilton in Malaysia
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Vettel snatches pole at last gasp to deny Hamilton in Malaysia
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Apr 2011   |  10:40 am GMT  |  179 comments

Sebastian Vettel took a dramatic pole position at the very end of qualifying to steal pole position from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second.

It was a great showing from the pair, who eclipsed their team mates once again. Webber was third for Red Bull, a full three tenths off Vettel, while Button was a similar margin behind in fourth.

Vettel on top..just (Red Bull)

It was Vettel’s second pole of 2011 and his 17th in just 64 Grands Prix – a ratio of 26%. Going back into last season as well, he has had pole in five of the last six Grands Prix.

But the resurgence of Hamilton and McLaren gives this race weekend a real bite and there is a good chance of him winning the race. It should certainly be a good battle for victory in tomorrow’s Grand Prix. The McLaren looked after its tyres well in Melbourne and appeared strong on that again in Friday afternoon’s long runs. Vettel will be under pressure during the long, hot race. There is a 60% chance of rain, just to mix things up even more.

Nick Heidfeld did a great job in the Renault to split the two Ferraris in 6th place. Ferrari have been struggling again for speed this weekend. Massa has said that the car lacks grip, there is talk of a lack of downforce at the front in particular. Alonso was a second off the pole position pace, while Massa was four tenths behind his team mate.

In Q1 the Lotus cars came closer to the established teams than they managed in Australia. Heikki Kovalainen was less than four tenths slower than the Williams of Maldonado. Revealingly, Lotus was two seconds faster than Virgin. While Hispania qualified for a race for the first time this year under the 107% rule and were just half a second slower than the slowest of the Virgin cars.

In Q2 Renault took the gamble to do only one run, to save a set of tyres and it worked for both drivers. Mercedes had been struggling for pace throughout qualifying, being forced to use a set of soft tyres in Q1 and in the closing stages of Q2 Rosberg popped in a lap which pushed team mate Schumacher out of the top ten shootout. Also out were the Force India cars, with Paul di Resta ahead of team mate Adrian Sutil.

Vettel became the first man to set a lap in the 1m 35s, but Jenson Button showed McLaren’s pace by going faster. It was a difficult session for Williams, who could manage only 15th and 18th places, Barrichello ahead of Maldonado, who was eliminated in Q1.

Into Q3 on the first runs, Hamilton set the fastest time ahead of Vettel, Webber and Button. They were the only four cars to opt to do two runs in Q3. Button made a small change which gave him some oversteer and he couldn’t make the step forward he had hoped.

The final runs were thrilling, with Hamilton and Vettel in a duel for pole position. McLaren made best use of the Mercedes engine and KERS, which have the edge over Red Bull’s Renault package as well as the updates to the exhaust blown diffuser. Fittingly, a podium on Sunday for either McLaren would be their 200th in partnership with Mercedes. It is an amazing comeback for the Woking team from the horrors of winter testing.

Under pressure from McLaren, Red Bull also used KERS in qualifying for the first time in its history, but team boss Christian Horner said that there was a slight concern on Webber’s unit which may have contributed to him losing time to Vettel. In fact it looks more like Webber lost a couple of tenths in the final corner.

Both Red Bull cars start on the clean side of the grid, which is always an advantage at Sepang, but Hamilton can stay with him tomorrow and tyre management will be critical with higher levels of degradation than in Melbourne.

“We learned a lot in Australia but here the tyres don’t last as long,” said Vettel. “It’s much hotter and tougher for the tyres, but we are pretty happy with it. ”

“I don’t think we can be disappointed,” said Hamilton. “We’ve done a fantastic job to be up with the Red Bulls. Of course I would have loved to be in P1 but these guys still have the edge. We always expected that they had something in hand for the last run.”

Hamilton and Webber will be mindful of the quirk of Sepang – Pole on this track doesn’t seem to give as big an advantage as it does on other tracks – only one of the last four Malaysian GPs has been won from pole (2009), and the polesitter has failed to lead the first lap three times in the last four years.

Interestingly they have moved the pole position from the outside to the inside this year.


1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m34.870s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m34.974s + 0.104
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m35.179s + 0.309
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m35.200s + 0.330
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.802s + 0.932
6. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m36.124s + 1.254
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m36.251s + 1.381
8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m36.324s + 1.454
9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.809s + 1.939
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m36.820s + 1.950

11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m37.035s
12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m37.160s
13. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m37.347s
14. Paul di Resta Force India 1m37.370s
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m37.496s
16. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m37.528s
17. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m37.593s

18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m38.276s
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m38.645s
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m38.791s
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m40.648s
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m41.001s
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m41.549s
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m42.574s

The 107% cut off time was 1m43.516s

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Renault covered fewer laps during the qualifying session, could this be an advantage tomorrow?

With the front runners now all using the KERs system the gap looks much closer than it did in Australia. Bodes well for another season of twists an turns.

Will have to wait until race day to see whether the moveable wing will add overtaking opportunities down the long straight. James, of the current grid which drivers are later on the brakes?


Hamilton is amazing & Vettel is just wow!

I would like to see either one wins it in Sepang. They both deserve it!

Thanks what a quali!


Let’s see what happens in the race!

I think SV is very good, but definitely not in the same league of LH or FA!!!

And his driving style is pretty similar to Mansell, very quick and with a quick car he is really good! But Mansell was capable of good overtakes and Vettel is less error-prone!!

In case of doubts, ask Di Resta about them!!! hahahaha


Fernando Alonso after the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying:

“This was the least important qualifying of the year because of the weather. Anything can happen so our goal is still the podium and victory,”

Alonso is beginning to sound like a broken record

P.s. He crashed out from the race


What I don’t understand is that with other cars TV shows display with revs, km/h, KERS battery and DRS indicator. Yet, we don’t seem to get that with Red Bull. Would settle KERS questions instantly. Are Red Bull (or other teams) allowed to refuse this coverage?


Here is the verdict:

1. McLaren has a strong chance to win and I think that Hamilton is going to win.

2. Stefano Domenicali is on the way out of Ferrari, I am 100% certain.


Is it Domenicali’s fault that the car isn’t performing at the moment? Perhaps he designed it as well as manage the team at races.

This is football thinking – because we haven’t scored a goal for a couple of games, the manager has to go!

Sounds like disappointed fans.


Peter – THE BOSS is a very specific role to play. You connect the dots, you find opportunities where others are down because of the crisis, you know how to turn thing around. Indeed, SD does not design cars, nor races cars…but neither was Jean Todt. It is a matter of making the team reaching sky high limits….

That is a unique quality…..

Ferrari lost it…and we are not talking lost races, we are talking lost championships and lack of innovative approach to become a point of reference again.


Still sounds like disappointed fans.


2. Who do you think they could get in to replace SD?

That would be a big pressure job to take.

I don’t know many of the team, but are there any strong internal candidates?


Interesting to note that Liuzzi would have been very very very close to qualifying for the race even if the 107% rule was taken from the Q3 times. So well done to HRT.


Here’s hoping the rain stays away tomorrow.

I live in Kuala Lumpur and it was raining for over an hour here around qualifying time.

Didn’t catch qualifying live so I was surprised to hear that it was bone dry in Sepang (which is a 40-minute drive from KL).


Congrats to HRT for making the 107% rule. Quite impressive all things considering.

I wonder how close to the 107% rule the likes Lotus Virgin and even Williams would have been if they had turned up to this race having only completed a handful of laps.

Virgin completed a fairly big pre season proggrame and yet are only 0.5 seconds off ahead of HRT. Glock must be looking at the escape clauses in his contract.


Not really so impressive as the top teams didn’t show their true pace in Q3, not sure HRT were in the 107% of the pole time?


I believe at least Luzzui was under 107% of the pole sitting time.


Yes and then pitted! Ferrari quick thinking to have massa let alonso through effectively screwed button. I think a DT penalty was too severe a punishment in this case, even though it was the right one. If the officials could add time to pitstops by not letting the mechanics touch the car for say 5 seconds I think punishments would be more fair.


I think I heard Button say on BBC that he should have handed his position back to Massa immediately in Melbourne.


McLaren & Hamilton in particular, simply superb. To be that close to the much faster RedBull was just amazing, in my view put Vettel in the SAME car as Hamilton and he’d come second every time.

Williams, I guess they’re nothing more than the modern-day Tyrell’s (once a great team), a spent force if ever there was one (big mistake Williams in not giving Newey what he wanted – and deserved)!!!!

Of the 3 top teams, it’s clear to me that they now all have a clear number one in terms of speed, we’re lucky to have Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso racing together, it’s a real shame Kubica got injured as we could well have had him in the mix as well.

Schumacher – like Williams a spent force, nobody fears him anymore, not the man he was and Rosberg has the measure of him, he never should have come back.


Much faster car?

Not on this track obviously.

Hamilton is a great driver, but he is on the same level as Vettel and Alonso. It is these 3 that rule F1 at the moment.

When you talk about one of them like they would be easily beaten by the other in the same car, you are just being very biased.


‘…you are just being very biased…’

No we’re not, we’re being informed through observation and the educated views of engineers up and down the pit lane: according to Brundle, everyone in the paddock throughout Thurs Fri was convinced it would be a cake walk for RB, that it wasn’t is testimony to the extraordinary pace craft and determination of Hamilton. It won’t be long before Hamilton schools Vettel.

Andrew Woodruff

There is an ebb and flow to who is the fastest driver on any given track, in any given car, at any given time. I agree, anecdotally Lewis is reckoned to be the most aggressive driver with the most raw speed in the pitlane, but the margins are tiny and not scientifically quantifiable. This makes any debate like this pretty futile.

Any Vettel fan could equally point to him winning the Italian GP in the wet in a Toro Rosso and outclassing the whole field, or the fact that everyone in the paddock was instantly impressed by his Friday drives in the BMW when he first started. There’s no doubt the boy is a supreme talent, and to deny that must indicate an agenda bias.

Equally, while Hamilton might be generally agreed to have a slight raw pace advantage over a single lap, I believe that Alonso is universally acknowledged as the most complete driver and probably the best bet over a race (and championship) distance, all other things being equal.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I don’t buy into Vettel being a great driver. I cannot imagine him hauling a Force India into P5 for example. He is no Alonso or Hamilton.

Vettel is simply benefiting from Helmut Marko demoralising Mark Webber.


Vettel WON at Monza in the ToroRosso!

Where is the ToroRosso on the grid now?


neither Alonso nor Hamilton can put a ForceIndia P5. All the drivers are good nowadays, some are great but the margin between the good and the great drivers isn’t as significant as the margin between the good and the great cars.


Appart from Fernando and maybe Seb and Robert, there’s not a driver out there capable o beat him with a similar or worse car.


This should have been answering Peter’s reply at Jo Torrent’s message about qualifyng…



The key info I’d like when trying to understand the difference in lap times is the distance. i.e. at Sepang what does 0.1 of a second mean in car length. Is it one whole length of a car in front at the line or two?.

Kind regds Setay


Wouldnt it be nice to see Qual laps overlayed on TV? – so we could see the RB and the Mclaren in virtual side by side vision.

This would show exactly which driver was quick…and where…at any point of the track A bit like they do with WRC – without the play staion graphics. This would give us a relative distance (in meters & car track position) between cars on a Quali lap

Ok.. i accept that this would require a helicopter shot to follow each car on its pole lap – but surely they can get a second chopper/camera……or what about a big blimp anchored high above the middle of the track with multiple cameras? They were all the rage a few years ago..


Well, how fast are they going at the line?

150 mph? 150=220 ft/sec so 22 feet if they’re going 150 at that point.

Delano - Antiguan F1 Fan

Thanks James for this great site, always informative.

Great Quali – Mac right there with RB is amazing. Have to give it to Vettel – so clutch in Quali.

– Congrats to Mac on their turnabout but it’s not a surprise and they were not that much off the pace in test as most people thought.

-Congrats also to Renault – great job.

– I’m a big Alonso fan and I was quite surprised to see him as high as 5th in Qual 0.932 off the pace.

– Ferrari is going to faster in the race compared to their quali pace as usual lately. They were setting competitive times in P3 on the hard tyres.

– Like Ferrari and the rest of the f1 world I’m confused by their lack of pace. Their race sim at the last test was great, right up their with RB. There is pace in the car for sure but they really need to figure out their quali pace. I could see Alonso on the podium for sure but not victory if it stays dry but who knows.

– I have a feeling this Championship is going to be a cracker.

Nuno M. Vieira

the star of the session was Team Lotus. Why nobody noticed that the reason for all those laps on soft tyres by a lot of teams (ferrari, mercedes, force india, williams,..) was the great times by kovalainen and trulli. Almost everyone had to go to the track to make sure they get in Q2


It seems that Vettel is making the difference.

Look at Webber-Button duel and you can see the cars are really equal this weekend. And Webber is excellent at quali.


I suspect the difference between Webber and Button is the true gap between RB and McLaren. The other two are a notch ahead and flatter to deceive their respective garages.


OK so iff WEB = BUT then VET>HAM

but iff VET=HAM then WEB>BUT

but iff HAM>VET then BUT>WEB



In all seriousness I don’t think that because Vettel out qualified his team mate by more that Hamilton you can assume Vettel is faster than Hamilton. I think that Webber also had a KERS problem.


“I don’t think that because Vettel out qualified his team mate by more that Hamilton you can assume Vettel is faster than Hamilton”

Agreed. I was simply trying to understand what the orginal point being made was referring to.


LOL…a point well made!


“Not sure what you are trying to say here.”

I was very confused by what the comment about Webber and Button showing the true gap between RB and McLaren means.

“One could also infer that both Hamilton and Vettel were pushing their respective cars to the limit.”

I would say that it does a lot more than infer!


Vettel was 0.104 seconds quicker than Hamilton.

Webber was 0.021 seconds quicker than Button.

ie. Vettel’s gap over Hamilton was larger than Webber’s gap over Button.


Not sure what you are trying to say here.

One could infer that Redbull still have a performance advantage.

One could also infer that both Hamilton and Vettel were pushing their respective cars to the limit.


You can only compare drivers when in same machinery.

Seems quite a few people are keen to prove Vettel is faster than Hamilton.

David Hamilton

Were all the top 10 on soft tyres in Q3?


If you compare the results with the qualification of the Australian GP, it’s amazing, that the top 5 remained exactly the same. And even Renault remained in 6th position, in Melbourne it was Petrov, this time it’s Heidfeld.

If you look at the time differences, you can see, that they are much smaller. In Melbourne 5th-placed Alonso was almost 1.5 seconds off the pole position, this time it’s less then 1 second. Vettel won the qualification of the first race by almost 0.8 second, now the difference is only 0.1 second.

Andrew Woodruff

Really disappointed for Schuey and Merc. If Michael isn’t covering himself in glory, then neither certainly is Ross Brawn.

In the Ferrari glory days Brawn used to talk a lot about the F1 nirvana of total integration of chassis, engine/gearbox, tyres, aero and driving style. The Ferrari team of the early noughties managed to achieve that, but it was only really possible because Ferrari built their own engine and gearbox, Bridgestone made them bespoke tyres, and Schumacher was so at ease with himself that he could have put a wheelie bin on the front row (to borrow one of my favourite Brundle quotes of the decade!).

At Mercedes now they obviously build their own engine and gearbox – arguably the best on the grid for most circuits, but one out of those three is not enough. Compounding the matter is the fact that the technical team in charge of chassis and aero development clearly isn’t up to the job. It is basically the old Honda team responsible for the Earth car amongst a number of other shockers, so no real surprise there.

I’m sad that Schumacher’s comeback seems destined to end in failure, particularly after the ray of hope given by the last test at Barcelona. I was watching the highlights of some of his and Brawn’s classic races on the BBC website (take a look: There’s no doubt in my mind that the young Schumacher (let’s say 1994-2004) would have taken championships down to the wire with the best of any era, given even vaguely competitive machinery. I wager he would have won a good number of them too.

I am glad that he came back and gave it another go though. It showed grit and a burning desire for competition. I don’t think he will regret it either, even if he gets overshadowed by Rosberg again all season before calling it a day at the end of 2011. At least he gave it a crack. The only caveat to that is if he gets into too many more situations like the one with Rubens against the Hungary pit wall last season, which in my view did more to tarnish his lasting legacy than any number of Q2 drop outs from here on in will do.


get Flavio in to run the show.. maybe a bit of razzmatazz will go some way at disguising their performance deficiencies


James what happened to Williams?

they seem nowhere.

I hope you can inform us about the team cause noone else does.




Fair enough quali was exciting as four cars went for it, it can only be a matter of time before we have 5 or 6 cars battling out for pole depending on Ferrari’s development program.

The race should be more exciting and I can see good battles taking place all over the grid, the best strategy and the car that looks after it’s tyre’s will command the race. I expect to see so many mistakes during the race, which is what will make it exciting.

Bring on the race,


James,what is the over under on number of races before a bushy eyebrow-ed Spaniard walks into his garage and throws a hissy fit?


Great job from di Resta on a proper circuit.

Mclaren have done a great job to tweak their car up to almost RB standards – given the rate of improvement, they should be able to edge RB soon.


Yes, di Resta was out-qualified Sutil for the second race in succession.


Renault covered fewer laps during the qualifying session, could this be an advantage tomorrow?

With the front runners now all using the KERs system the gap looks much closer than it did in Australia. Bodes well for another season of twists an turns.

Will have to wait until race day to see whether the moveable wing will add overtaking opportunities down the long straight. James, of the current grid which drivers are later on the brakes?

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