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GP Week : Issue 217
QUALIFYING to the drivers, the weather having more or less levelled the playing field, and is why eyebrows raised and jaws dropped over Max Verstappen's performance. The 17 year-old qualified sixth fastest, getting the better of the more experienced Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean. He was nipping at the heels of Daniil Kvyat in the senior Red Bull team too. It was a composed performance which belied his youth while his calm business-like manner out of the car suggests he is not one to get ahead of himself. Verstappen is one to watch. At the other end of the spectrum was McLaren, its two world champion drivers capable of just 17th and 18th. There is no doubt the squad is more competitive than it was two weeks ago in Australia, there was a thought that at least one of the two McLaren's might escape Q3, but as things stood both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button climbed from their cars at the end of the first session. That was on genuine pace too, the first part of the session run in dry conditions leaving the Woking squad with no excuses beyond the fact it simply wasn't good enough. 2015 FORMULA 1TM PETRONAS MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX 56 LAPS ROUND 2/19 << Last Race – Australia Two Weeks Ago 1 Last Race – China >> Two Weeks’ Time 2015 FORMULA 1TM PETRONAS MALAYSIA GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING CLASSIFICATION 1 – Pole position #40 for Lewis Hamilton is his 3rd pole in Malaysia in the last 4 years. He has converted his last 7 poles into race victories. In a repeat of the front row from the 2014 Malaysia GP, Sebastian Vettel lines up alongside. Whereas last year he missed pole by 0.055s (the closest he got all season), this time he is 0.074s adrift. Significantly, it is Ferrari’s first front row start in F1 since Felipe Massa qualified 2nd here exactly 2 years ago. It was their longest wait between front row starts since Belgium 1991 (Alain Prost) to Canada 1994 (Jean Alesi). 2 – Making it the same 1-2-3 on the grid as last year, Nico Rosberg lines up 3rd, while Daniel Ricciardo has his best-ever start in Malaysia in 4th place. On the third row, Daniil Kvyat matches his career-best in 5th, despite not being in the top-8 in any sector in the dry part of qualifying. With Max Verstappen alongside, it makes the average age of the third row 19 years and 75 days. 3 – Verstappen is the first teenager to qualify in the top-6 for a Formula 1 race since Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez did so for Ferrari when he was 2nd on the grid at the 1961 Italian GP, aged 19. He tied Jos Verstappen’s career-best start of 6th on the grid at the 1994 Belgian GP, a position he converted into a 3rd place finish (albeit after Michael Schumacher’s disqualification from victory), a 2nd consecutive podium. Neither he nor any other Dutch driver has been on the podium since then. By the way, the best qualifying for a Dutch driver remains Jan Lammers’ 4th on the grid at Long Beach 1980 in an ATS. 4 – Felipe Massa may only be a disappointing 7th but it is Williams’ best qualifying in Malaysia since 2010, and he outqualified Valtteri Bottas for the 2nd race in a row, this time by 0.706s. Bottas had started 18th on both his previous trips to this circuit. Marcus Ericsson arguably has the most to cheer about, as the Swede not only progressed from Q1 for the first time in his 18-race F1 career, but made it all the way to Q3 and into 9th on the grid, the best by a Swedish driver since Stefan Johansson lined up 8th for his final race with Mclaren at Adelaide in 1987. 5 – Romain Grosjean was relegated to 10th after a pitlane infraction, but he reached Q3 in consecutive races after not doing so at all in the final 14 races of 2014. Kimi Raikkonen must be a very frustrated 11th after never being outside the top-3 in any practice session. Pastor Maldonado will be happy just to finish this race, having never seen the flag here in 4 visits (he was classified in 2012) and retiring at the first corner in Australia. 6 – Neither Force India has reached Q3 in the past 8 races now. Carlos Sainz and Felipe Nasr both had poor session after scoring points in Australia – in the case of Nasr, he made this the 13th time in the last 21 races that a Sauber was knocked out in Q1, while Mclaren lost both cars in Q1 at consecutive races for the first time ever. Amusingly, Fernando Alonso’s time of 1:41.746 was 1.497s slower than he managed in qualifying for Minardi here in his rookie year of 2001. 17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> MALAYSIA PARTNERS: