Lewis Hamilton takes Malaysia pole, Sebastian Vettel to start last
Malaysian Grand Prix - Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton takes Malaysia pole, Sebastian Vettel to start last

Sebastian Vettel's quest for a fifth world championship took a monumental nosedive as title-rival Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth straight pole position in Malaysia, edging Kimi Raikkonen by 0.046s.

A Ferrari front row lockout was looking like a good bet before qualifying but it didn't take long for Vettel to encounter trouble. The German suffered a suspected turbo failure during his first flying lap and immediately returned to the pits, allowing Ferrari mechanics to frantically swarm his car. The Scuderia had opted to change the engine on Vettel's car after discovering an electrical issue in FP3 but decided not to replace the turbo component as it would have resulted in an automatic ten-place grid penalty. Despite the work, the German was unable to re-join the session and will start the race from the rear of the field.

Toto Wolff admitted to some "fundamental issues" with his Mercedes cars after a dismal Friday but once again the team was able to turn it around ahead of qualifying. Hamilton's time of 1:30.076 good enough to earn the Brit a 70th career pole position.

Like Mercedes, Red Bull also improved its pace from the opening two practice sessions to lock out the second row of the grid. On his 20th birthday, Max Verstappen edged teammate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.054s and was able to get within half a second of Hamilton's benchmark time. The Bulls showed strong form in FP1's wet conditions and could certainly contend for victory should rain intervene during the race.

Valtteri Bottas wasn't quite on his teammate's pace and qualified fifth in the second Mercedes ahead of Esteban Ocon's Force India and Stoffel Vandoorne's McLaren. Both Ocon and Vandoorne managed to out-qualify their more experienced teammates with Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso sharing the fifth row of the grid.

The Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll will start 11th and 13th respectively, splitting them was Jolyon Palmer's Renault. It was also a difficult session for Toro Rosso with Carlos Sainz -- who finished fourth last time out in Singapore -- only able to qualify 14th on the grid. Pierre Gasly impressed in his debut qualifying session, finishing just 0.15s down on his teammate.

Joining Vettel in the Q1 drop zone was the Haas pair of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who finished 16th and 17th respectively, ahead of Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

Vettel's failure is the second gift in two weeks to be thrown in the direction of Mercedes after Hamilton had capitalised on a dramatic opening-lap accident between the Ferraris and Verstappen to win the Singapore Grand Prix and extend his championship lead to 28 points.

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