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Hamilton edges out Button for Malaysia pole as Schumacher comes alive
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Mar 2012   |  12:54 pm GMT  |  180 comments

Lewis Hamilton grabbed his second consecutive pole position of the season at the Malaysian Grand Prix in a closely fought final shootout which saw the top eight cars covered by 0.4 seconds. Hamilton is joined on the front-row by his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, making it consecutive races that they have locked out the front of the grid.

But Hamilton knows only too well that it’s vital that he leads out of the first corner in the race and doesn’t get mugged by Button, as he did in Melbourne.

The threat of the Mercedes was intense throughout the session as Michael Schumacher claimed his first top 3 since 2006. Red Bull found that they were more competitive on the hard tyre than the medium and didn’t have the sweet spot for qualifying.

Mark Webber completed the second row of the grid, although the RB8 race pace is again looking strong as Webber was 0.3 seconds clear in the first part of qualifying on the hard compound tyres. This is the second consecutive race in which Webber has qualified ahead of Sebastian Vettel; the German setting the sixth fastest time, opting to take the hard tyre for his final run. Strategically this gives him more options for tomorrow, as he has saved a new set of medium tyres.

He will begin the race in fifth after Kimi Raikkonen takes his five-place grid penalty for a forced gearbox change. Red Bull’s tactical gamble to split strategies should give both a chance to challenge the front-runners and the long first stint for Vettel on the hard tyre could put him in a good position during the later stints of what is set to be a three-stop race. “Hopefully that will work out. The harder tyre is slightly more durable; it’s just a different strategy,” said Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner.

Before Raikkonen’s penalty we see five World Champions in the top six grid slots. Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg were sixth and seventh fastest with the latter forced to do just one flying lap in Q3 as he had to waste a set of tyres in Q2 when Maldonado went off track bringing out yellow flags.

Fernando Alonso put his Ferrari in ninth place, which may allow the Italian squad to breathe a sigh of relief following on from last weeks poor qualifying. However, the gap to the front will be a cause for concern as Alonso was 1.3 seconds off the pace of Hamilton. Felipe Massa showed signs of improvement by qualifying twelfth, moving closer to his team-mate but still missing out on Q3, however a strong showing from Sergio Perez in tenth position is likely to pile even more pressure on the Brazilian who will be starting behind the Williams of Pastor Maldonado that proved a nuisance to Alonso last weekend.

Bruno Senna will start the race in thirteenth ahead of Paul di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg as the Force India’s and Toro Rosso’s were unable to match last weeks Q3 pace. Kamui Kobayashi had a difficult session, ending up in seventeenth and 0.6 seconds off his Sauber team-mate. Jean Eric Vergne struggled getting to grips with the scorching Malaysia circuit and could not use his Option tyres to their best, also ending up 0.6 seconds behind his team-mate and has the unwanted title of joining the “new” teams towards the back of the grid.

The final six spots on the grid are to be filled by the pairings of Caterham, Marussia and HRT. Caterham were once again well clear of their chasers, but still have work to do if they hope to break into Q2. HRT will be pleased with today’s efforts as they claimed their place on the grid, beating the 107% barrier by 0.3 seconds.

(Additional reporting: Matt Meadows)

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m36.219s
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m36.368s + 0.149
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.391s + 0.172
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m36.461s + 0.242
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m36.461s + 0.242 (* 5 place grid penalty)
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m36.634s + 0.415
7. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m36.658s + 0.439
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.664s + 0.445
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.566s + 1.347
10. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m37.698s + 1.479

11. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m37.589s + 0.874
12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.731s + 1.016
13. Bruno Senna Williams 1m37.841s + 1.126
14. Paul di Resta Force India 1m37.877s + 1.162
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m37.883s + 1.168
16. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m37.890s + 1.175
17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m38.069s + 1.354

18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m39.077s + 1.905
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m39.306s + 2.134 (* 5 place grid penalty)
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m39.567s + 2.395
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m40.903s + 3.731
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m41.250s + 4.078
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m42.914s + 5.742
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m43.655s + 6.483

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Tornillo Amarillo

Two poles and hopefully two podiums if tomorrow is OK could be enough to ensure a extension contract to Hamilton in McLaren, what do you think?


Yes. There are not many better drivers available, so a contract extension makes full sense for McLaren.


I can’t share the optimism for Vettel in P5 on hard tyres.

He is on hard tyres because he wasn’t competitive on the mediums, with little fuel.

Why/How will this problem go away during the race?

The basic problem is that he was a little off the front-runner pace and will be even more so when others change to Hard compound.


The idea behind this move was to do a longer first stint and leapfrog the cars in front. Unfortunately for him the rain ruined his chances.


james -is there any talk in the paddock on what makes the mclaren and the lotus so quick?

we haven’t been hearing much news on the technical front. a lot of teams are complaining about instabilty or inconsistency in the rear end. is that an aero thing?


Lots of downforce!


LOL Classic! 🙂

… I don’t quite think that was the answer he was looking for James 😉


A fantastic session and must confess to being absolutely all in having woken up in the middle of each night over the last two weeks to watch every session live. Just can’t get enough and long may this McLaren dominance continue. Great quali session lads



Why Kimi was ranked fifth, having exactly the same time as Mark?

How do they decide on situation like this?

By the time of the day when their fastest lap was set?

By car number?

Or by some other mean?

Cheers from Croatia.


The one who sets the time earlier will be classified ahead.


Dear James,

What is the paddock view on the schumacher of 2012 (fast and competitive 43 year old fox) after being criticized so hard in 2010 and 2012?


It’s all about results. Now he’s in a position to get some. Interesting too that he’s outqualified Rosberg twice now.


My guess is that Schumacher takes out Hamilton or vice versa. I tip Button to win again with Vettel 2nd and Kimi 3rd. Pole is not that important with a field so close in performance and rain likely.


Hi All, theres being a few comments about Lewis botching his second run, the thing is he never did a second run, he was guaranteed pole and so cut early into the pits


This may have been mentioned elsewhere, but if so, I missed it. It appears that Mercedes can stall their front wing to reduce drag when the DRS is in use. Since the DRS is used during much of the lap in qualifying, but is only used occasionally in the race, isn’t this a likely explanation for much of the difference between Mercedes qualifying and race pace?

Sebastiaan Hekman

A very exciting qualifying I must say. Getting up at 04:45 was way more difficult than sitting through it.

I have compared Mercedes’ last year quali time and, just as in Melbourne, they have improved, and Schumacher much more than Rosberg.

Schumacher was now 0.816 seconds faster than his best time last year.

Q2 Schu 2011: 01:37.035

Q3 Schu 2012: 01:36.219

Rosberg bettered himself with 0.145.

Q3 Rosb 2011: 01:36.809

Q3 Rosb 2012: 01:36.664

Difference between the two drivers in 2011: 0.226 in favor of Rosberg

Difference between the two drivers in 2012: 0.445 in favor of Schumacher

So, not only has Mercedes improved its quali pace significantly – they must be happy without the blown diffuser – but Schumacher must be happy that he has turned the quali tables on Rosberg. And with significant numbers: In Melbourne the difference was 0.350 seconds, now 0.445 seconds.

Hopefully this years proves Schumacher right and gives the the usual critics of Schumacher, notably Joe Saward and Eddie Jordan on the Beeb page, food for thought before writing.


And Nigel Roebuck, and Alan Henry, and Jackie Stewart, and Eddie Irvine and Stirling Moss…


So many Schumacher critics? And all from Great Britain? Isn’t this strange?


Well… this is just one perspective, because I don’t read French or Italian; I don’t know, maybe journalists and ex drivers from other countries bag him too. There’s less interest in F1 in the US; for the most part the Australian journos have been kind, but… I can think of Brits that have been effusive in their praise of Schumacher over the years, like John Surtees, Peter Windsor, Paul Fearnley. A well balanced appraisal of his career is ‘Michael Schumacher-The Edge Of Greatness’ by some English dude ‘Allen Jameison’, it’s an excellent book. But, yeah, I did single out those guys I mentioned as I am getting bored with them constantly bagging him. For legends like Stewart or Moss to both describe him as ‘not a great driver’ seems very harsh.


alonso had problems with kers in qualy. how much time did he loose without kers? 0.2 secs? 0.3?


Depends if had no KERS or just some. Up to 4/10ths if no KERS at all, but he says it didn’t affect his grid slot


Hi James,

Great comments this morning! I had to watch Spanish channel Antena 3 online while listening to your comments. Made it much easier to understand what was going on!

James, do you think that tyre degradation will hamper Lewis’ chances of victory? I think this is a circuit that will suit Jenson’s smooth driving style, thus making it a JB 1+1 victories in a row.

Lets see what Schumi can do, still not very convinced of Merc’s race pace. I think this year will be a Mclaren WDC + WCC. Hope that the energetic team’s supremacy is over. A bit fed up of Vettel’s finger to be honest!


No doubt RB’ supremacy is over. This season McLaren have the dominant car.


what site did you use for that?


I used

today there are many more broadcasters!!

We may get lucky and watch it in english!

part time viewer

odd my coment praising sky has been removed!!!


I just hope that qualifying puts a damper on the whole Massa thing. I fear (and this is not directed at u JA) there is way too much ‘inventive narrative’ in journalism atm. Massa’s performance hasn’t been that bad. The Ferrari is a down right mongrel of a car and it’s only the brilliance of two time world champ Alonso to make it look fair. Being .3 behind Alonso in identical machinery is an achievement.

PS I’m not a Ferrari fan and never will be as they accept tobacco sponsorship money.


I spoke to soon …..


Is it only me who doesn’t want it to rain tomorrow? I would hate to have the race reduced or even cancelled because the last I saw a Malaysian rain shower it was hardly light drizzle !!!! One for you James why do you and David Croft take in turns doing the post race press conference? I don’t mind by the way i’m just assuming they didn’t fancy Peter Windsor again.

Kind Regards



That’s the way FOM like it and it suits us too



Do you have an idea how badly Lewis flat-spotted that tire on his qualifying run?

I assume he will have to start the race on that set, if so do you think it will it be bad enough to compromise his first stint?

I wonder if he’s going to have another ‘good’ but not ‘great’ weekend…



It’s certainly a concern


James, any word on whether Alonso will have KERs fixed for the race? There is no way he’d be in the points without it.

I’m predicting that Lotus will be the stars of this race… I think they have a great car with excellent…superior…tyre usage.


They usually are able to fix KERS problems under parc ferme conditions. Ferrari’s KERS is usually pretty reliable


Congratulation for McLaren, hopefully Lewis will get the good result from Pole.

Schu is looking much better, and he is at least as fast as Rosberg in this year car.

Good to see that Webber at least got on par with Vettel. Mark, please make a better start.

Very shame for KIMI, otherwise there will be more fun at the front group, at least it is good to see that Kimi is Rust Proof.

Curious, How long Alonso can endure the poor Ferrari, every year Ferrari just getting worse. Last year, obviously that Alonso didn’t look happy as Ferrari is 3rd fastest. With the big hope that Ferrari will be the winning car this year, but that go the other direction, just worsen and no sign of improvement. Instead of developing the car, they just lose time to solve their problem.

Can Alonso be at Ferrari throughout his contract.


Its pretty much panning out as predicted first few races. I always new without the blown diffuser the Mclarens were better and that Hamilton is quickest. It was silly of them to pit him when they did at melb. Great work by Schumi still showing great talent…but truly I hope he gets shunted out the race and several more this year…sorry boys i believe in karma for all his nonsense!

I think Lewis will win with a hugh margin 15 sec , Webber 2nd, Grosjean 3rd, (Vettel shunt with Shumacher/button tangle ), kimi 4th, fernando 5,.button 6, rosberg 7, kobayashi 8, ricciardo 9 ,di resta 10.


I’m sure no one is really hard at the back of the grid, but one wonders when heads are going to roll at Caterham. All that talk about moving up the grid just isn’t going to happen. I wonder how long Tony Fernandes is going to waste money in F1 without anything even close to a point scoring finish.


That was a great effort from Michael. Glad to see him back at the top.

Great performances from McLaren boys…even tho’ their car is faster.

It looks like 2010 is back..where Mark is so far faster than Seb. It looks like Seb is not as good as many suggested. He can’t even beat Webber. If only Mark would get his starts sorted.. If only.




A quite exciting qualifying, for once, mainly because of the competition in the midfield. I hope that the two Mclarens spend time and tires battling one another and Schumacher gets to throw his hat in the ring. It would be nice to have a genuine battle, without safety cars, for the lead. As for Vettel? I could not care less. He’s been spoiled for two years and I’d smile if he went off with a DNF. All the talk last year was about how amazing this guy was and he’s only getting better. For me he isn’t that amazing at all, and the more Red Bull don’t have the fastest car, the more we’ll see this proved.

It’s painful to see Ferrari performing so poorly, I mean they are clearly slower than Mclaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, and Renault. In Australia, Alonso said that this year wasn’t as bad as last year, cos in Australia they were less than a second away. Well guess what, Malaysia is more of a proper track than a street circuit like Australia, so they are clearly more than a second away. I do not think they are better in race trim as last year, so only heroics will get those cars anywhere above 9th place. Frankly, I think Ferrari are even slower than Sauber…while the pace over qualifying might be close, Sauber seem to use the tires so much better, effectively that is a better package. I’ve always felt Perez is much more promising than Kobash, and today he showed that he’s certainly capable.


I think that its very likely a McLaren 1-2 but i feel like we’ll see Schuey 1st in the corner. That Mercedes is a rocket ship when Michael gets off the line right.


If MSC gets to the corner first, I doty think anyone will get past him until his tyres start to go off. The mercedes has great speed and Schumi wont give up a race lead for the world. You’ll kill your tyres before you pass him.


Dear James,

Gary Anderson argues on his blog at the BBC, that Mercedes aero package could help that get close to pole but will compromise race speed?

Would love to know your views?


SK Anand


Yes, his analyses has been nuanced, masterful, and spot on thus far (except for his pooh-pooh of the McLaren nose early in the winter)

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