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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
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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Great to see Schu back in the top 3. Merc claim that they have compromised qualifying by setting up the car for the race. Do you think that might be the case James? It would be quite a story to see Schu on the top step of the Podium.


I second that. Glad 'my man' is on pole again but I am enjoying Schumi showing Rosberg (who I have never rated despite the usual over-reactionary gushing that pundits were doing last year) the way at last now that he has a drivable car. I think Schumi on the podium would be one of them moments of the year despite what he did to my precious Damon!


They certainly have worked on taking less out of the tyres, so maybe. I still think they'll be harder on them than McLaren


I totally agree with you, they definitely compromised qualy to benefit race pace. Schumi will be under pressure from the Bulls all the way.


Who here thinks he won't convert this into a win?

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I get the feeling you wanted to use the word wishes rather than thinks...?


With the cars so close I didn't think pole sitter could do it at this track. Whoever he happened to be. As it turned out rain ensured it would be so.


I don't think he will. Not because Lewis has any deficiencies to Jenson as a person or as a driver. It's their driving styles. Currently the rules simply suit Jensons smoother more conservitive approach. If we still had refueling (ie lighter cars), harder tyres and no DRS then Lewis would be beating Jenson.


You obviously!!!


Me bet is Schumacher comes out of turn 1 in p1


I feel Lewis got this one in the bag if Withmarsh doesn't screw it up again for Lewis.


Whitmarsh dint screw up Hamilton's last in Australia. He was behind Button, which was his fault/bad luck. Nothing to do with Whitmarsh.[mod]


How has Whitmarsh screwed things up for Hamilton. If JB does not allow Schumacher to get between them he'll have the beating of Hamilton by being smoother and smarter IMO.


Don't know where you're getting that idea from.


Somebody's missing 2007? Clearly Whitmarsh could fix that issue called Jenson Button. Otherwise it's going to be another win for Button.


How did Whitmarsh screw up Melbourne? It was Hamilton who got the bad start and didn't have the same race pace.



I noticed Whitmarsh with a remote control steering wheel and gear paddles in the pit box during the last race. If Lewis only new about it!


Yeah, curse that Whitmarsh bloke for sitting in Lewis' seat, losing first place before the first corner and dropping a way back from Button before even the first pit.

Lewis wasn't as fast as Jenson last week, screwed up his start, and got out-lucked by Vettel on the safety car.

Hopefully he'll do better this week and we'll see a better fight between Lewis and Jenson, and possibly the Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus guys.


Mclaren strategy off yet again. They should be racing as a team, but the leading driver is given too much control over the first pit stop.

Those 3 points may be crucial.


How did Whitmarsh screw it up before?


Why is it always someone elses fault when Lewis doesnt win?


Fabrice, what exactly did Whitmarsh screw up for Hamilton last time?


Lewis should have been brought into the pits 1 or 2 laps earlier for his first pit stop.Mclaren telemetry must have shown Lewis re-joining behind Perez. This is what cost him 2nd place. Lost too much time , which dropped him into the clutches of Vettel


My prediction for tomorrow is the very fast Schumacher/ Mercedes off the line and into the first corner before Hamilton and Button...


Could be - for 10 laps maybe. After tires start to go off, Mercedes could start fighting with Alonso.


If that happens, and he can stay ahead long enough, I rate Vettel fo rthe win...


I am relishing the thought of Schumi having a lightning start to make up at least one position.


It's more than possible that's for sure! What a great race that would make.


It will be interesting to see what Red Bulls tyre strategy is. I can't see anyone catching McLaren, I think it will be good to see schumacher on the podium.


Suprising with improvements in power steering and a functional DRS they have managed to squeeze into the grid ...


Great qualifying. How close was Schumacher to taking 2nd place? That Merc is fast over a single lap. Would be great to see him finish the race and get a real idea of where the Merc's stand in the pack.

Good session from Webber too. Interesting to see how the Red Bull split strategy works out. Won't Vettel get mugged off the start with the harder tyre and long straight?


Webber will be almost surrounded by world champs on the starting grid. No pressure.


Should call him 'Howard' from Big Bang Theory....

(ie.everyone else is a doctor and Howard only has has his Masters)


one of the greatest comments of all time!


Vettels usual run of luck continues. The safety car timing in Melbourne and now RAI gearbox penalty bumps him onto the clean side of the starting grid. Midas.


The racing line goes diagonally through the grid so there isnt actually a proper clean line on one side or the other.


Surely if he had all the luck, Red Bull would have given him a car as good as the McLaren's.


The pole sitter (and all who qualified on odd numbers) are on the 'dirty' side of the track. Hamilton aluded to that during the press conference.


About this - James, is the pole position on the right hand side or left hand side this year? The clean side is the right... and though previously the pole was on the left, some drivers requested it be moved to the right so that the pole side gets the advantage of a clean getaway.


Left, next to the pit wall


So it's RIGHT, next to the pit wall then, not LEFT, next to the pit wall. 🙂


But James, the pit wall is on the right side of the track. And it appears the racing line is on the right side of the track as they exit turn 15, crossing over to the left side for turn 1 somewhere after the start/finish line.

The grippy side for pole would be on the right side I expect, (next to the pit wall).


Yes. But that's where it is


Remember, you're talking about the same guy who lost nearly certain victories in Bahrain, Austraila and Korea due to car failures in 2010...


Could only imagine the sadder state of Ferrari if they didn't have Alonso. He deserves better!


Ya Alonso is keeping the spirt / hopes of Ferrari alive... without his skill in yet another 'dud' Ferrari the Tifosi would be protesting outside Maranello!!! Again we see Massa struggling even with a new chassis.... not making it into Q3 was embarrassing for the team - his poor pace his doing nothing for team moral.... bring back Rubeno!


There's always Renault, oh... well, Lotus, if he wants to drive for a top team again.

I think Alonso is a fantastic driver, last season perhaps the best, but the thing is he has to take some of the credit - or blame - for the current state of the car, given he was shipped in (and Raikonnen shipped out, Massa shunted aside) precisely to contribute to car design.


I had a "Dear Points of View" moment earlier, having fired off a complaint to the Beeb for the first time ever.

Two thirds of the UK's only freely available live final qually session coverage was devoted to some inane discussion about reality singing contests.

I know it's not James' fault. Still, I'm doing everything I can to hold off from signing up to Sky. Much of of that and I'm going to buckle.


Sky hasn't impressed me yet they have matched the last years BBC but not bettered them. Adverts annoy me!! However it is better than watching the highlights. I still watch the highlights on the beeb as I enjoy the Jake, David and eddie show. Shame it's only the highlights and I miss the red button after show party.


I signed up to Sky specially to see the F1 coverage... but to be honest I still prefer BBC's coverage - I enjoy the banter between the BBC presenters and the F1 forum is much better than Sky's post-race analysis. And of course BBC 5 Live commentary is the best! Take away the glossy Sky studio, on-screen graphics etc and it's lacking decent content - so don't rush into signing up to Sky just yet!


I think I've finally cracked it. I've found an old PVR which receives 5 Live Extra, and I can pause / timeshift so the commentary syncs better with RTL's slightly delayed video feed.

My heart sank last week when James said "and they're off" and I was watching stationary cars for 20 seconds or so.

I'm not sure whether Joni Mitchell was thinking about free to air F1 when she sang "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone", but it fits.


That caught me out too but I found the sports extra coverage on the internet. It's very easy to watch the live footage without subscribing to Sky, in a variety of ways - look in to it. Except when you try to watch with James' commentary over the top the audio is ahead of the pictures, so you find out what's going to happen before it happens. So if you could just be a little less on it James that'd be a big help!


Ironic to see the BBC as effectively advertising for Sky.

Still, no amount of mediocre coverage will convince me to fund the evil empire. If it had been another boring Red Bull dominance I'd not still be watching. As it is, the butchered show is still interesting enough.

part time viewer

do it, apart from the tacky presenters and gimiks, which im sure will grow on me, i for one think the coverage is superb, hd and surround sound, not to mention all the reviews of past seasons etc.

miss the bbc ?

not here

and no i dont work for sky


Please buckle, the SKY coverage is great stuff and the channel is solely dedicated to F1, with no plugs for reality shows, other sports that F1 fans won't necessarily want to watch and other stupid things like Eddie's shirts. Damon Hill is also a great paddock pundit and adds a World Champion's view to the F1 coverage, which has been sorely lacking since the great James Hunt left us.

(PS I don't work for any Murdoch-owned organisation)

BUT, if you can only get to a radio, then of course it's James and FiveLive all the way! 🙂


It was all on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra on DAB.


So it's my fault for listening to the wrong channel? Feeling like a numpty now.

I was listening to a live stream from the BBC's website, which I thought was 5 Live Extra. The prog I was tuned into was followed by Danny Baker muttering that he doesn't care for Formula1, so thinking about it now, it must have been the wrong channel. Ooops!

Thanks James, that does kind of makes sense of it.


You need a DAB digital radio to get Sports Extra.


yes it was - but we only found out when it was almost over.

Last year the Beeb highlighted all broadcast coverage on their website - this year nothing - when we need it more. Without the BBC TV coverage we need to know when it is on the radio!


And very good it was as well. 5 Live's coverage is something I'm going to enjoy this season.


thank god for 5 live extra, really don't want to pay sky another penny


As expected, Vettel’s qualifying pace is gone with the blown diffuser and Webber is doing better. I will be surprised if Vettel's hard tyres on qualifying will make any difference on Sunday because heavy rain is predicted.

Even though the cars were very close in qualifying, the real race pace of the McLarens are much more stronger and they will pull away from the start. The gap between McLaren and the Red Bulls are considerably bigger than it looks.

The Ferrari may look a bit wobbly at the moment but it is much better in race pace and once they get their problems sorted, will be very strong in qualifying and in race. The car is designed more to suit Alonso's driving style. Hence all the problems for poor Massa.

I am very happy that both Schumi and Kimi qualified in front of the Ferraris. Shame about Kimi’s penalty though.


The Mercedes cars were rolling heavily through the corners in qualifying. Possibly they've set up expecting rain. If they have biased their car more towards rain than the two McLarens, then a typical Malaysian tropical downpour could play nicely into their hands.

Tomorrow could be very interesting.


Vettels strategy will be very interesting to see. Yes he has the harder tyre and he will have the capability of going longer before making his first stop but going longer doesn't necessarily mean the shift in ballance passes to him.

He faces a problem at the start. He is theoretically surrounded by faster starting cars on the softer rubber. It may take Seb at least 2 laps maybe 3 to get his tyres up to fully operating mode by this time he may have dropped a few places and lost touch with the leaders. He needs to be able to hold onto the leading pack? For his strategy to work, he needs to stay in touch and then run considerably faster than the leaders for a handfull of laps after they have pitted. The problem he then faces is performance of the new tyres that the leaders would be on. That may force Seb to pit to prevent him losing yet more ground. Its all ifs and buts and on top of that we may have rain.

Tyre management will be crucial and if it stays dry, a 3 stop will be the way to go. It all about managing your tyres bang on schedule prior to your stops.

Whatever happens, its poised to be very interesting


Vettel will be in a massively good position if it rains after the Q3 option runners have their first pit though. He will have a pitstop in the bag.


Lewis has to put the flat spotted tyres back on, his pole time was set on the lap he knackered the tyres. His last lap on new tyres was slower.

Hopefully the clutch will work with the brain this time, but Schumi will be geared up to pounce and force his way past both McLarens, he may not stay there but the damage will be done.

Good commentary this morning James, together with F1 live timing makes the lack of picture bearable.


Your comment might sound to some like JB or LH have never led into the first corner before, which is ridiculous seeing as both drivers are multi race winners.

Is that down to luck then, or just maybe the McLaren boys do know how to convert a front row into a win.

Just like OZ last week maybe, where this Schumacher person didn't score any points, or even finish the race.

Now, him hitting one of the McLarens or both at the first corner, now that I'm worried about.


Not so quick. That flat spot did not look serious and could be 'cured' by balancing the wheel.


Thanks; it's true. That F1 timing app is a revelation this year, especially with the tyres everyone is using. Makes commentating a lot easier.

Sebastiaan Hekman

Any chance that the BBC will let non-UK viewers enjoy the F1 live timing app?


You can get it from App Store, It's an F1 official app, by Soft Pauer. It's nothing to do with BBC


Indeed, though it' a shame that no longer offers a free timing app for mobile devices. 20 pounds for the Soft Pauer app is a bit much. They don't need armchair analysts to tell them anything about their business model, but I wonder how many more sales of the app they'd have if it were priced at 5 or 10 pounds.

Grayzee (Australia)

Wow! That was great! A most exciting shootout. 0.4sec covering the first 8 is just incredible. I haven't seen it that close in many years! And 6 of them have been world champions, as well!!

This has lived up to all the expectations of the preseason.

Now, I don't care who wins, because it's going to be a cracker of a race. Bring it on!!


I don't really know how you could find the current state of formula one exciting? In their urge to influence the outcome of races they're destroying the sport.

I can't believe formula one is turning into a tyre management contest, what happened to speed? Their fake KERS and DRSs have removed the thrill of wheel to wheel racing, I often feel like crying when I see this spectacle, really sad.


Well actually the 0.45 gap covers from Lewis(1st) to Nico(7th) because between Nico and Fernando(8th) there is a huge 9 tenths gap...


Rare occasion that somebody using the harder compound in Q3 in a way like Vettel did.

Will be interesting to see how the race will unfold with his strategy.

Famous weather webpage predicts rain for the time of race start at the hour by hour forecast.


I can see that vettels decision to go on hards will be met with one of the following:

Vettel cannot get past the medium shod tyres at the start, in his attempts he burns out his tyres, has to change them ruins his race... Headline: Vetels mad decision to go onto Medium tyres ruins his race


Vettel jumps past some cars at the start, hangs out longer on the Hard Tyres, gets into the lead and wins....

Headline: Vetels inspired decision to go onto Hard tyres wins the race..

Funny business F1...


Shows how close the two tyre are in performance


James, do you think we'll see a Schumacher podium this weekend? I'm hoping to see maybe even a race victory sooner rather than later in his current form, even as a Button fan.


I think he will run out of tyres.


Schumi's tyres might be his downfall in a dry race but look out if it's wet. If it rains I'd back him for a place.


Could be. It's between him and the Red Bull pair


It was unreal to see the maestro back in a top three press conference.


Lewis was not "Mugged" by Jenson in Melbourne, he was simply outdragged, then hampered by too much wing compared to him.


Jenson was running more wing than Lewis at Melbourne.


If that's the case then perhaps he had more grip than Lewis as certainly his race pace was better. It's all about set up and Jenson seemed to have it right in Melbourne to take the win. Malaysia is more complex with rapid tyre degradation, but has far easier overtaking.


Well Lewis was not out dragged just a slightly malfunctioning clutch or incorrectly set up clutch allowed Button to get in front and then as you say too much drag on the front wing ruined Lewis's race pace. That said they are both great drivers, but I'd like to see Lewis win this one. They will both have to be wary of Schumacher who if true to form will have a good start.


Jenson has more wing as I understand it.


Im sure Button had more wing than Lewis. And was just quicker.


Schumacher is a true inspiration. He puts in the hard work and builds the team around him. At 43 years old he has shown his skill over the young Rosberg in two straight battles and has cemented his legend status after this impressive drive. How does a man of his age still have the drive to deliver against the odds. Lets hope Mercedes has good race pace; a podium for Michael will be the icing on the cake.


Brabham won his last GP at age 44 and regretted allowing his family to pressure him into retirement. Said later felt as competitive as ever. How old was Fangio when he last scored? 47? Hope Schumacher signals a trend. Why should the sun only shine on youth?


Kind of... he's 15 years older than me and he's in a much better condition than I'll ever be. He's also a much better driver than I'll ever be.

He could have easily got pole in that Mclaren... for someone who is grandad age, that is impressive to say the least.

I really hope Merc got on top of the tyre degredation, or it rains... Schumacher is in tip top shape for a podium in the dry... a win in the wet!

What a day would that make... Schumi winning after all that hardship. Ever since his comeback I thought his ultimate goal was to beat Fangio's record of oldest WDC. The way Schumi and Merc's been progressing it's starting to look plausible.

Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself, but isn't day dreaming what the sport is all about?


I do agree that Nico's reputation is starting to get a little tarnished, especially his growing errors in Q3. Maybe it is Rosberg who makes way at the end of the year and not Schumi?

How about Michael and Lewis as team mates! That would put Prost/Senna and Alonso/Lewis in the shade....


It was an interesting qualifying. I was honestly hoping for Schumacher or Kimi to get the P1, but it is a McLaren 1-2 again.

I am not a McLaren fan, but I am happy. At least it is not another year with Red Bull domination. Domination is never good for the sport and for fans.

There are several things I hope are true for tomorrow:

1. Mercedes will have the same tyre wear rate as any other front running team - this will ensure we have a good race

2. Red Bull to try different strategy to help their drivers to move closer to the front. We shall see who will finish higher tomorrow - Webber or Vettel?

3. Ferrari - I just hope that something happens. This year is already lost, but with the current team there is no solution for whatever number of years in the future

4. I hope it rains....I like it when it rains...races are always more interesting.


@ point 3, I'm so glad Ferrari doesn't employ you, you give up, practically before you begin.

Were you saying the same about Mclaren at the start of 2009 when they were actually in worse shape than Ferrari currently are?


It is not me who starts developing the car mid year for next year already.....for the 3rd time in a row.

Also it is not me who went public with the claim "2012 will be a red year and a Ferrari domination"


So it appears the experts were right for these new regs favour some pilots driving styles (i.e. with the ban of the double diffuser & blowing of gases we now have cars with lose rears & pointy fronts) for how else could the likes of Webber & Schumi out quality their teammates two races on the rot.

Anyway good qualifying session from Schumi, he was the star today for despite his one run, Jenson was just 23 hundredths faster despite having done two runs.

Now it's worrying that we have another Mclaren lock out at the front (could get really boring really soon), I thought they were going to drop the ball in some way.

Yes storming first lap from Hamilton but a worrying thing is I don't know what it is, whether it's a mental thing or what, but Lewis has a habit of botching his second Q3 run, we also saw this numerous times last year & am worried he may get caught out if this continues.

Red Bull, in particular Vettel are showing signs of desperation by going for the casino strategy with the hard tyre which may leave him slow at the start & get swallowed by the hungry pack on the first lap

But knowing the Wunderkid's luck, am sure it will all work out for him some way.

Decent qualifying from Alonso too & in a way Massa and where they're planted on the grid, the red cars look good for some decent points considering Alonso is known for his turbo charged starts & parking of the motorhome defending.

Right, regarding tomorrow, on paper it looks like a classic Jenson Button win with a long straight at the start to jump Hammy plus with the degradation issue well... but for all my worth I can't recall Lewis being denied a victory from pole two races in a row.

So my prediction for tomorrow:






Jenson - DNF (oil leak)

As for the midfield, I expect a major shunt within that wild pack of monkeys matter of fact, we will be getting our first safety car in Malaysia since 2001 for a Maldondo + a Massa + a Senna + a Kobayshi + a Karthikeyan = Recipe for a disaster

Anyway, the rain has been an illusion/mirage most of this weekend, lets hope the clouds were just storing for us the best for last.


Haha, a DNF to JB due to oil leak - classic!

I have to say JA, not only is the racing of better quality this year but so are the readers commnets on your website

Well done everyone




Close on your race prediction.

Indeed Jenson would need a DNF for Lewis to beat him (obvious troll!)

Would not be surprised if MSc and LH take each other out in the first corner if MSc gets a good start. Neither are known for backing out.

Steven Pritchard

But wider rear tyres makes up for most of the loss of blown diffuser...

Button DNF Oil Leak? Is that an analytical prediction or a mystic meg moment?


Great post... I look forward to seeing how accurate your very accurate predictions are! cheers


entertaining post.


Definitely agree on a midfield shunt involving at least either Maldonado or Massa. I would add Schumacher also.


Hamilton tends to put in a good but safe lap on his first run. If it's fast like today and in Melbourne, then his subsequent laps are usually gambles where he will really push the limits of the car and his ability.

With regards to Vettel on the hard tyre, I think it's a cracking strategy. With the tyre compounds much closer this year, I think we'll see teams starting/qualifying on the harder tyres more this year. He should get a long run with it (although not too long because of the heavy fuel loads) plus he has a new set of options to play with too.

Clever boy he is. And also, we might see those criticisms about Vettel being dispelled this year.


The speed Hamilton is showing in qualifying is very impressive. I haven't seen Senna footage in terms of qualifying speed before but this has to be close to Senna-like. If McLaren remain the fastest car all season, I think Hamilton will be getting at least 15 Pole Positions this season, possibly more. No matter how good Button may or may not be in 'conservation racing', Button will find it very difficult to win the World Championship if Hamilton produces that type of dominance in qualifying. END OF STORY.




Strange, I always thought it was the actual race results and not qualifying dominance which can win you the drivers championship?

Buttons qualifying pace since mid last season has improved considerably. He is straight behind Lewis as he was last race. Speaking of last race If that is what you like to name "conservative racing" from Button then bring on more of it.

The END OF this STORY is far from over.


"But knowing the Wunderkid’s luck, am sure it will all work out for him some way."

When someone is accused of being "lucky" this often at this level it always smacks of petty jealousy.

There is only skill, v hard work, intelligence and wisdom = which equal "luck" to the envious.

NB: comment not particularly aimed at you, just get exasperated seeing so many drivers and punters/commentators complaining about Vettels luck. Happily JA has restrained from this.


well, a safety car at EXACTLY the right time last week WAS luck. anyway - RAI wasn't lucky for VET. It means a faster driver, in a faster car, on better tyres, will be coming at him from behind soon in the race, meaning he will wear his tyres more quickly defending. Bad luck this time for Vet.


Is it, as you said, that Hamilton botches his second Q3 run, or is it that he does such a good first run that it is virtually impossible to improve on that run? Arguably he also "botched" the first run and lost some time with the lock up in the last sector and yet still laid down an impressive time. Had he not, he likely would be 2 secs ahead of everyone else.

I think for the second run, he was out there primarily for insurance and once it was clear he was P1 he aborted the run to save the tires. True, his time to that point was behind his first run pace, but so was everyone else who didn't "botch" their runs.


Lewis explained his strategy very clearly in an interview after qualifying: he likes to go for a banker lap which is as fast as he can go without taking excessive risks. He then goes out for a balls-out run where he takes big risks. If it comes off it's magic; if it doesn't, well, hey ho. Luckily, during the past two races, his first lap was fast enough for pole. Seems to make sense to me.


His banker lap is usually very fast!


Jenson wouldn't have time to study Hamilton's data in Q3


I think Jenson must study Lewis banker lap to find his time in the second run, as in both races so far hes been pretty far off in the first run, and a lot closer in the second


really? i don't understand why so many are hoping for rain ?

i agree it has some merit in silverstone and spa but don't you remember 2009 ? that was more than boring.

also rain helps make a boring race exciting but i don't see THIS race being boring even in the dry (unless lewis takes 20s gap on schu holding the rest on the first stint while his tyres degrade)

Edouard Valentine

It is set up very nicely for the race. I think (as long as it remains dry) the second stint will be the "critical phase" and how the front runners respond to Vettel starting on the prime tyre.


You know, I've always been interested in how a hard compounds start by infer of the top contenders would go...

I think use the harder tyre whilst the car is harder on the tyres (heavier cos of more fuel) and then pump out significantly faster laps at the end of the race on a softer tyre whilst everyone is on the hard tyre.

Maybe not so much of a risk with the tyres much closer this year, but last year would have been interesting to see.

Also, a lot of comments and not much mention of kimmi (or maybe I'm not up to them yet), but he qualified with the same time as webber and he knows how to win races. Shane about the 5 position penalty.


It is an irony and little bit of a sweet revenge for Kimi I guess. Alonso moved from Renault to Ferrari to replace him ahead of the contract. And now the same Renault is a much faster and better car than Ferrari. To top it all Kimi was having a good time last 2 years in rallying enjoying the payout package for his early termination of the Ferrari contract.On the Other end Ferrari is struggling since last 3 years. I guess what goes around comes around.



I noticed that Webber & Raikkonen has similar time. How do they rank who is 4th & 5th? Thanks.


The one that sets the time first is classified higher.


Webber did his lap first, so he was ahead.


How weird is it when we are surprised a 7 time world champion outqualifies a teamate who has never won a race?

I don't know if it's the regs, the tyres, or Schumi's influence over the team... perhaps it's a mix of 3, but Schumacher is back to being the driver we remember... confident and quick.

On the other hand, Rosberg messed up under pressure twice in 2 races. It must be worrying for him that he can't perform when it matters. I'm sure it won't last forever, as when pressure is off both drivers are pretty much equal, but Rosberg needs to fix this problem quick, otherwise the issue will keep snowballing.


Great to see MSC back on the top 3 qualifiers,it looks once again he's done a good job working with the management to put a great team and work towards the champiomship, they know it's this year or next one, due 2014 will be a totally new game and he will be 45-46 years old. Hats off to MSC and hope they develop mucho more the car this year and can mount a title challenge, specially when 6 of the sharpest champions ever are on the pack


Well done to the McLaren boys. 2 in a row! This is getting boring 😉 I'm a huge Webber fan but already see him getting swamped at the start. Schumi beside him, Seb behind on the clean side of the grid and the french guy on the other side. Well done to the Lotus team too. Toro Rosso were a little disappointing after last outing. I'm glad Kimi qualified well for his sake. Good to see all the WDC's in the top 10.

Can't wait to see if Seb's tyre strategy works out. No predictions but Go Webber!


Kudos to Mclaren for building a car that’s not only fast but also aesthetically beautiful. They were amongst the worst effected last year by the diffuser ban during the British Gp and having designed this year’s car as an evolution of last year's car and without a stepped nose. Yet they have clearly outdone all their rivals and produced a car that is the class of the field.

Ferrari has gone radical and this time it hasn’t paid off for them. It will take time for them to get to the bottom of their problems to extract some decent performance out of this year’s car. Sadly for them there are 4 teams capable of fighting for Victory this year with the field so close unlike last year when there were only 2.

With the performance gap between their main rivals, Mclaren, Redbull Mercedes and Lotus being so close this year there could possibly be 4 different non Ferrari team with a chance of Victory during this season. Although It’s too early to write off Ferrari, but if they arent able to catch up by mid season they might give up wasting resources and start focusing on next year’s car. Compared to Mclaren they havent done anything spectacular in the development race during the course of the last 3 or 4 seasons.

Hamilton looks pretty determined to put last weekend behind him. He seems to be the favourite to win tomorrow’s race unless Button out does him again by his smoother driving style and better tyre management. Barring rain the only way either Mercedes driver can take the fight to Mclaren is by overtaking them at the start and using the straight line speed advantage of their car to their advantage. They also need to pit before Mclaren drivers and set quick lap times on new tyres to keep their positions intact after every round of pit stops.

Both Lotus and Redbull have an outside chance of victory as their race pace is much better than their qualification pace. The Redbull cars with their different strategy can play an important part in the outcome of tomorrows race if things happen to go their way. Sadly for Ferrari fans Alonzo has a huge mountain to climb and even a top 5 finish seems out of the question unless there are 2 or 3 retirements or there is unexpected rain which would then make it a lottery on who can adapt to changing conditions and who can get their tyre calls right. However if it doent rain tyre degradation will definitely play the most important role in the determining the outcome of tomorrow race.


that was an exciting quali session. So happy to see schumi getting up there. I hope he out can give the meccas a hard time in the race. My money is on Vettel winning cause of his tire strategy.

Andrew Woodruff

Impressive lap from Hamilton, made even better by the fact he lost at least two tenths at the last corner.

I hope M Schu can get right in the mix tomorrow and land a podium finish. Rain might play right into his hands if it comes - the Regenmeister!

Picking up the sulky child mantle this week: Mr Seb Vettel.


Dear James,

As a smile came to my face, instead of excitement, i became rather pensive. It was good to see Michael among the top three.

But given their tyre woes, and the fact that Vetel is on Hard tyres and will have a longer stint than the top 5, and Webber is on medium will mean that Mercedes need to have an inch perfect race, for Michael to have podium finish.

In a way, it will be good for hamilton, coz all the focus will be Michael, and i will not be least surprised if Michael slips by the two maclaren, and is ahead on turn 1.

James, do let us know what the mercedes garage is talking about their tyres.

SK Anand


I agree. Will be tough for MSC


James I've heard that Fernando has had a problem with Kers on his lap in Q3. ¿How much time gives KERS in one lap?


Up to 4/10ths if not working at all


Congrats to Schumi who at 43, showed that given a competitive car, the legend still has it in him to take it to the top!


Rain. Schumacher. Top step of the podium.

Dare we dream???


Assuming that Mercedes will probably still be wearing their tyres out faster than their immediate rivals... Schumacher could be the perfect foil if he takes advantage of the combination of a fast starting Mercedes and it's superior straight line speed to vault into the lead on the first lap. I'd then envisage his probable drop off in lap times to back the McLarens into the chasing Red Bulls and from there depending on how long it takes to overtake Schumacher things could be finely poised all afternoon.

Also don't write off Kimi nor Grosjean they're looking good and I would expect Kimi to be the main contender to deny a McLaren or Red Bull a podium step or two.

The mid-field should be frantic with the bit-story of Alonso and the Williams pair with strong long run pace shown on Friday should be able to threaten the lower scale of the points... but beware of Perez and his light-footed approach.

I doubt there will be a safety car unless it rains typhoon style and the place gets flooded out, otherwise the circuit is just too wide for any other kind of incident to cause problems for the marshals.


The Mclaren (Hamilton) was a full second faster than the Red Bull (Vettel) on the same tyres at the same time, and Lewis was actually about 5 to 6 tenths quicker than Jenson in Q3.

One needs to realise that if a driver does two flying laps on different tyres in Q3, he does a total of 6 laps; i.e. two outlaps, two fyling laps and two inlaps. The drivers start Q3 with all the fuel they need for the full session. On top of that, the track improves slightly with every lap. So when you compare Lewis' lap, set on the first run, and Jenson's time, set on the second run, you need to remember that when Jenson set his time he was three laps worth of fuel lighter than Lewis, on a track that had improved slightly, yet still slower than a lap where Lewis made a mistake into the penultimate corner.

James, what is the time penalty for that extra 3 laps of fuel on the first run in Q3?

As for Vettel starting on the hard tyre, that in an effort to beat his team mate and the other cars around him. He knows he won't be racing the Mclarens tomorrow.


Insightful questions, but don't expect any answers as it runs against the grain/narrative; -Button's **only** a tenth off of Lewis and had **more** in the bag, but for.._insert any excuse-


And yes, that mistake cost him 2-3 tenths; he was 4 tenths faster than anyone else through the first 2 sectors, but lost a massive amount of time in the 3rd sector and I believe slower than the top 5 or 6 drivers, yet still has the pole. Hey, nobody writes about that stuff. It runs counter to the narrative.


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)


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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


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


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 .....

part time viewer

odd my coment praising sky has been removed!!!


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!


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

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.


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?


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


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.


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.



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.


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


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?


LOL Classic! 🙂

... I don't quite think that was the answer he was looking for James 😉


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.

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.

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