Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a perfect qualifying session at the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday as he clinched pole position. Meanwhile, his title rival Sebastian Vettel suffered engine issues, putting the Ferrari at the back of the grid for Sunday's race.
There was drama at the start of Q1 as Vettel was unable to set a time, meaning he was eliminated early and handed the initiative to his rival; Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen will start in second place, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen will be third. Hamilton currently leads Vettel in the world championship race by 28 points.
Earlier in the day, final practice was dominated by Ferrari, with Raikkonen setting the fastest time ahead of Vettel; the latter did break down at the end of the session, though, and his engine couldn't be replaced in time for qualifying.
Read on for a recap of qualifying, as Hamilton cranked up the pressure on Ferrari at the Sepang International Circuit.
Here are the standings from Saturday's qualifying and final practice, with Hamilton producing a brilliant performance to take pole position:
Formula 1 @F1
INITIAL CLASSIFICATION (END OF FP3): @ScuderiaFerrari on top going in to qualifying #MalaysiaGP 🇲🇾 #F1 https://t.co/0h1j9UYoAz2017-9-30 07:07:31
Formula 1 @F1
INITIAL CLASSIFICATION (END OF QUALIFYING): Confirmation of an incredible turnaround by @LewisHamilton #MalaysiaGP 🇲🇾 #Quali #F1 https://t.co/ENum47cARD2017-9-30 10:14:03
Having dominated the first two practice sessions on Friday, Ferrari continued to look serene early on Saturday.
In FP3, it was Raikkonen who showcased the best pace as he topped the timesheets ahead of his team-mate.
While Vettel was sharp, his stint did end on a low point, as his Ferrari broke down due to engine issues.
As noted by journalist Tobi Gruner, while the team had a replacement handy, it was being used ahead of schedule:
Tobi Grüner 🏁 @tgruener
Vettel needs a new engine after FP3 issue. Ferrari to put in engine number 4, that was originally planned for Suzuka. #AMuS #F1 #MalaysiaGP2017-9-30 07:13:52
Even so, with Hamilton only fifth quickest in FP3, the mood would have been one of encouragement in the Ferrari garage as qualifying edged closer. That was before disaster struck.
As first qualifying got under way, Vettel was in the cockpit and seemed poised to get out on track to set a time. Still, as noted by Sky Sports F1, the engine did not sound healthy:
Sky Sports F1 🏎 @SkySportsF1
Ferrari try to get Vettel out again, but the car still sounds sick Blog: https://t.co/W4Jk8YOv8D #SkyF1 #F1 https://t.co/SSoDRwX7cp2017-9-30 09:16:45
His Ferrari remained stationary, and with no time set, the German was at the bottom of the pile.
The WTF1 Twitter account sensed this was a crucial moment in the title battle, with Vettel consigned to 20th:
Hamilton P1, Vettel dead last. Well, this championship fight was fun while it lasted #F12017-9-30 09:17:01
"It's part of motor racing," said Vettel, per the F1 Twitter account. "It's not ideal, especially on a day when you feel you have the right car. It's a shame for us."
Back on track, there was an impressive display in Q1 from Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly, who put together a sensational lap to finish up in eighth place at the end of first practice.
In another blow for Ferrari, Mercedes seemed to slowly be finding pace out on track, with Hamilton the fastest man in Q1 and his team-mate Valterri Bottas quickest in Q2. Elsewhere, there were few surprises in qualifying, as the usual suspects made their way into the top-10 shootout.
It was Hamilton who laid down the gauntlet to his rivals in the first round of hot laps in Q3, as he produced a sensational lap of one minute, 30.076 seconds to blow away the competition; Raikkonen could only get to within 0.232 seconds of the Briton.
The lap was a remarkable one, so much so that Hamilton was unable to improve on that effort second time out. Raikkonen did absolutely everything possible to usurp the Mercedes star and put in a fantastic lap in response, but the Ferrari man missed out by 0.045 seconds.