Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix 2015: Results, Times for Practice and Qualifying

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2015

Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix 2015: Results, Times for Practice and Qualifying

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    The 2015 Formula One season got off to something of an underwhelming start in Australia as just 11 cars finished the race, but the challenging Sepang circuit at the Malaysian Grand Prix typically conjures a more exciting occasion and preparations for the showpiece begin in earnest during the practice and qualifying sessions.

    Lewis Hamilton coasted to victory in his Mercedes last time out—another far from exciting spectacle for onlookers—keeping team-mate Nico Rosberg at arm’s length throughout. The Brit dominated this event last year, too, taking pole position and the race win, but the German will be desperate to reel the reigning champion in with a strong display.

    Fernando Alonso will also make his second debut for McLaren in Malaysia. The Spaniard missed the 2015 curtain-raiser as he continued his recovery from his crash in Barcelona practice, but he has been given the all clear to take part this weekend. The Woking-based team will be hoping the two-time world champion will help them move on from a difficult opening Grand Prix. 

    Read on for all the latest updates in Malaysia, as the Formula One campaign gets into full swing.

Qualifying: Hamilton Takes Pole at a Stormy Sepang

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Lewis Hamilton showed his class in changeable conditions once again as the Mercedes man snaffled pole position at a wet Sepang circuit.

    Thunderstorms delayed the start of final qualifying, but the reigning world champion kept his cool to narrowly take pole position ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and team-mate Nico Rosberg.

    Red Bull put some dodgy practice showings behind them to improve in qualifying, with Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat taking fourth and fifth respectively. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso's 17-year-old sensation Max Verstappen produced the best qualifying performance from a teenager in 50 years, finishing in sixth position.

    The Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas will begin in seventh and ninth respectively. Splitting them will be Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, while Marcus Ericsson performed well to get his Sauber into 10th.

    As noted by the Formula 1 Twitter account, Hamilton's first lap in Q3 did the damage:

    Hamilton has been quickest so far in the first run - a huge 1.2 seconds faster than Rosberg #MalaysiaGP #Quali pic.twitter.com/q0rJkieLHh

    — Formula 1 (@F1) March 28, 2015

    The drivers went out for Q1 with the incoming clouds looking ominous, but even with a host of teams getting in a dry run, it wasn’t enough for McLaren. After finding the going tough throughout all three practice sessions, neither Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso could do enough to get their cars through to the next phase, finishing 17th and 18th respectively.

    Button remained positive despite his elimination however:

    Button: "When you're 17th you're disappointed...But we've made a massive step with the engine, I think you'll see that tomorrow" #MalaysiaGP

    — Formula 1 (@F1) March 28, 2015

    Joining those two in the drop zone were the Manor Marussia pair of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, along with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.

    With claps of thunder and flashes of lighting beginning to engulf the Sepang circuit, the drivers were all in a hurry to get out on track and post a time. Hamilton cut things fine with his first effort before the rain hammered down, eventually finishing in eighth spot and edging through to Q3. But the heavens opened at the wrong time for Kimi Raikkonen and he will subsequently begin in 11th.

    It was a harsh stroke of misfortune for the Finn, who has looked in excellent shape throughout practice. But it’ll be intriguing to see whether he can scythe his way through the field and into contention for a podium finish. 

    Also dropping out were the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, who were 13th and 14th respectively. Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado also missed out after finishing 12th, while Carlos Sainz was 15th in the Toro Rosso.

    With the rain hammering down on track, Q3 was subject to a 15-minute delay. As we can see here courtesy of Sky Sports F1, the conditions were far from ideal:

    The Sepang circuit getting a real soaking. http://t.co/Bj3EMuYLRb #MalaysiaGP pic.twitter.com/fZRPRr4xNT

    — Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) March 28, 2015

    But eventually the storms ceased and the drivers got back out on track. Hamilton set the pace with a stunning early lap and try as they might, the other drivers simply couldn't get near it. Rosberg looked likely to take second, but Vettel sneaked in between the two silver arrows with his final lap, ending Mercedes’ run of nine straight front-row lockouts.

    While practice pointed towards a Mercedes-Ferrari procession, the conditions have at least conjured some major points of intrigue ahead of the race. McLaren are definitely a team to keep an eye on after their poor qualifying but subsequent confidence, while Raikkonen’s quest to get back in the mix should see overtakes aplenty.

    After notching pole, Hamilton will be confident of taking another victory around this demanding Sepang circuit. But if the weather wreaks havoc in Malaysia once again, absolutely anything could happen when the lights go out on Sunday.

    Here are the full qualifying results, courtesy of Formula1.com:

    PNoDriverTeamQ1Q2Q3Laps
    144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:39.2691:41.5171:49.83413
    25Sebastian VettelFerrari1:39.8141:39.6321:49.90813
    36Nico RosbergMercedes1:39.3741:39.3771:50.29913
    43Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing1:40.5041:41.0851:51.54116
    526Daniil KvyatRed Bull Racing1:40.5461:41.6651:51.95116
    633Max VerstappenToro Rosso1:40.7931:41.4301:51.98116
    719Felipe MassaWilliams1:40.5431:41.2301:52.47317
    88Romain GrosjeanLotus1:40.3031:41.2091:52.98118
    977Valtteri BottasWilliams1:40.2491:40.6501:53.17914
    109Marcus EricssonSauber1:40.3401:41.7481:53.26118
    117Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1:40.4151:42.173 7
    1213Pastor MaldonadoLotus1:40.3611:42.198 11
    1327Nico HulkenbergForce India1:40.8301:43.023 9
    1411Sergio PerezForce India1:41.0361:43.469 11
    1555Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:39.8141:43.701 9
    1612Felipe NasrSauber1:41.308  7
    1722Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:41.636  8
    1814Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:41.746  8

P3: Rosberg Leads Mercedes Dominance

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg had the edge on team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the final practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix, beating the Brit by 0.184 seconds with his quickest lap of the stint.

    The German was the fastest on the medium compound after lighting up the timing board through the final two sectors and will be hopeful of converting this scintillating form into pole position in qualifying later on in the day.

    Ferrari continued to cement their status as the best of the rest, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel posting the third and fourth quickest times respectively; they were about half-a-second slower than the silver arrows per lap, though. The Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas took fifth and sixth.

    It looks as though things are going to be pretty difficult for Fernando Alonso on his second McLaren race debut. The car hasn’t looked in good fettle throughout the weekend and the Spaniard could only steer it to the 15th fastest time in the session; his team-mate Jenson Button was down in 18th, with only the two Manor Marussia drivers slower.

    The results here are almost certainly an indicator of how things are going to pan out in qualifying and indeed the race. Aside from some issues for Hamilton in P1 and some traffic scuppering Rosberg’s hot lap in P2, the silver arrows look to be well clear of the rest of the field, with Ferrari their most likely—but pretty unlikely—challengers.

    Indeed, while we could still see some engrossing battles come race-day, if qualifying follows a similar pattern it’s most likely going to be inter-team ones. Hopefully we’ll see a few surprises as the drivers jostle for a spot on the grid—thunderstorms are forecast for the start of qualifying—and a blueprint is laid for an enthralling grand prix.

    Here are the full results from third practice in Malaysia, courtesy of Formula1.com.

    PosDriverTeamBest TimeLaps
    1Nico RosbergMercedes1:39.69013
    2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:39.87410 
    3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1:40.245
    4Sebastian VettelFerrari1:40.26613 
    5Felipe MassaWilliams1:40.39114 
    6Valtteri BottasWilliams1:40.40615
    7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing1:40.59019 
    8Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:40.60119 
    9Max VerstappenToro Rosso1:40.98918 
    10Marcus EricssonSauber1:41.20019 
    11Romain GrosjeanLotus1:41.20616 
    12Pastor MaldonadoLotus1:41.59218 
    13Daniil KvyatRed Bull Racing1:41.77614 
    14Nico HulkenbergForce India1:41.80415 
    15Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:41.99113 
    16Sergio PerezForce India1:42.10014 
    17Felipe NasrSauber1:42.11718 
    18Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:42.319
    19Roberto MerhiMarussia1:46.647
    20Will StevensMarussia1:47.059

P2: Hamilton Bounces Back Despite Issues

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Lewis Hamilton went from bottom of the pile to top of the charts in Malaysia, as he bounced back from a disastrous opening practice to finish fastest in P2.

    The reigning world champion was forced to stop on track during the first session of the day, but here he showcased some blistering speed to surge to the top of the standings. Kimi Raikkonen finished in second spot, 0.373 seconds behind the Mercedes man, while Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg was a disappointing third, 0.055 seconds back on the Finn.

    Ominously for the rest of the field, Hamilton’s session wasn’t actually without its blemishes. After engine problems and a subsequent loss of telemetry in the first session, the Brit sat out the majority of the second practice as engineers continued to work on his car. Once he did get back on track, his stint lasted five laps before he was called in again.

    But he was still able to set the fastest time of the practice, with Rosberg—who failed to put together a hot lap in clean air—languishing around half-a-second behind his team-mate.

    Ferrari continued to show impressive pace and, with Mercedes well clear of the rest, the most exciting battle on Sunday looks poised to be between themselves and Williams when the lights go out.

    Sebastian Vettel had a tumultuous second practice in the iconic red though, as his lap on the medium compound was scuppered by traffic, before spinning when trying again second time round.

    By contrast, Raikkonen has really taken to the Sepang circuit in the early stages of the weekend, as illustrated with another fine performance here. But after an opening session that yielded little, both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa showed improvements in the Williams, finishing fifth and sixth respectively.

    BBC F1 analyst Alan McNish (h/t Andrew Benson of BBC) thinks that Ferrari has the edge in the battle for second place at the moment, but early indications suggest that there’ll be no catching Mercedes on Sunday:

    Ferrari are the best of the rest but the gap to Mercedes is exactly the same as it was two weeks ago in Australia.

    Lewis Hamilton, despite all his problems, was able to bang in a lap time and it shows their dominant form.

    Elsewhere, Red Bull showed some encouraging signs, with new boy Daniil Kvyat finishing fourth and Daniel Ricciardo in 10th. There were also more positive signs for the Manor Marussia team, as they put in another 18 laps in P2, making it 34 for the day in total.

    Here are the results from second practice in Malaysia, courtesy of Formula1.com:

    PDriverTeamBest TimeLaps
    1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:39.79016
    2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1:40.16329
    3Nico RosbergMercedes1:40.21826
    4Daniil KvyatRed Bull1:40.34617
    5Valtteri BottasWilliams1:40.45031
    6Felipe MassaWilliams1:40.56027
    7Sebastian VettelFerrari1:40.65229
    8Max VerstappenToro Rosso1:41.22030
    9Marcus EricssonSauber1:41.26130
    10Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing1:41.7998
    11Pastor MaldonadoLotus1:41.87715
    12Felipe NasrSauber1:41.98830
    13Sergio PerezForce India1:42.24224
    14Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:42.29131
    15Nico HulkenbergForce India1:42.33028
    16Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:42.50625
    17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:42.63724
    18Romain GrosjeanLotus1:42.9487
    19Will StevensMarussia1:45.70412
    20Roberto MerhiMarussia1:47.2296

P1: Rosberg Top, Hamilton Fails to Post a Time

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    Lars Baron/Getty Images

    Nico Rosberg laid down an early marker in Sepang with a fine display in first practice, as team-mate Lewis Hamilton encountered some difficulties during his first outing of the weekend.

    The reigning world champion was unable to set a time in the opening session because of an engine problem, leaving Rosberg to post the fastest time of the stint by a pretty comfortable margin. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was in second spot and 0.373 seconds behind the Mercedes man, while the Finn’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel was third, 0.558 seconds further back.

    Fernando Alonso struggled for rhythm on his return to the cockpit, finishing down in 14th. But he was still quicker than McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who was 0.215 seconds behind the two-time world champion. Both remain a long way off the top teams, though.

    Williams—expected by many to be Mercedes’ closest challengers—endured a difficult session. Valtteri Bottas finished in eighth, while Felipe Massa was only 11th; it’ll be intriguing to see how they shape up against Ferrari over the course of the weekend.

    Indeed, it’s looking increasingly likely that we’re set for another Mercedes monopoly on the top two spots in Malaysia. While Ferrari have certainly made some positive strides in an attempt to shrink the gap to the world champions, the silver arrows remain in a class of their own. BBC F1 analyst Alan McNish (h/t Andrew Benson of BBC) claimed Rosberg would have gone even faster “had he stretched his legs at the end of the session.”

    There will have been some minor concerns about Hamilton’s issue in the opening stanza however. The problem stopped the Brit on track and, while he told his engineers over the radio that he could have made it back to the pits, his team advised him to stop the car and prevent risking any further damage being done to the engine.      

    In other news, there were some encouraging signs for Lotus after a tough time in Australia, as Romain Grosjean posted the fourth fastest time. Also, the Manor Marussia team managed to get out on track to post their first laps of the season, with Will Stevens and Roberto Mehri completing 16 between them.

    Here are the full results from first practice in Malaysia, courtesy of Formula1.com:

    PNameTeamBest TimeLaps
    1Nico RosbergMercedes1:40.12420
    2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1:40.49717
    3Sebastian VettelFerrari1:40.98513
    4Romain GrosjeanLotus1:41.54314
    5Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:41.59626
    6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:41.78715
    7Max VerstappenToro Rosso1:41.80323
    8Valtteri BottasWilliams1:41.88223
    9Daniil KvyatRed Bull1:42.05518
    10Marcus EricssonSauber1:42.06416
    11Felipe MassaWilliams1:42.10323
    12Pastor MaldonadoLotus1:42.56719
    13Raffaele MarcielloSauber1:42.62113
    14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:42.88520
    15Nico HulkenbergForce India1:42.89313
    16Sergio PerezForce India1:43.05415
    17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:43.10019
    18Will StevensMarussia1:46.6868
    19Roberto MerhiMarussia1:47.6838
    20Lewis HamiltonMercedesNo time4
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