Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Sepang, 2011

Vettel snatches pole from Hamilton in closely-fought qualifying

2011 Malaysian GP qualifyingPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Sepang, 2011
Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Sepang, 2011

Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position in a closely-fought session in Sepang.

Hamilton held provisional pole at the beginning of Q1 but Vettel found a tenth of a second to take his second pole position of the year.


The McLarens and Red Bulls took up their customary places at the top of the times as qualifying began, with Lewis Hamilton in front of Sebastian Vettel.

But the session came to an early halt after eight minutes when the left-hand sidepod came off Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso. The marshals recovered he lost part and the session was quickly restarted.

Among the teams inconvenienced by the red flag were Ferrari, who had sent their cars out on hard tyres.

They weren’t able to get a time in, and when the sessions resumed they switched to softs to make sure they got through. Felipe Massa set the fastest time with a 1’36.744, just over a tenth faster than Fernando Alonso.

McLaren stuck with the hard tyres and both their drivers improved their times. But Vettel stayed in the garage and his time proved quick enough to get him into Q2.

At the opposite end of the grid the usual suspects were in the drop zone, but all of them were quick enough to meet the 107% time.

Williams ended up straddling the divide between Q1 and Q2, with Pastor Maldonado dropping out in the first session after coming within a tenth of a second of eliminating team mate Rubens Barrichello.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1’38.276
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1’38.645
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1’38.791
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’40.648
22 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1’41.001
23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1’41.549
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’42.574


Renault made only one attempt in Q2, sending their cars out with seven minutes left in the session. Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld put themselves fourth and fifth, and it proved enough for them to reach Q3.

Jenson Button and the two Red Bulls also secured their passage to Q3 with their first runs, all on soft tyres.

Hamilton did his first run on hards and had to go out again on soft tyres to guarantee his pace in the top ten. He fell short of Button by three tenths of a second after locking a wheel at turn one.

A late improvement by Kamui Kobayashi got him into Q3 again and led once more to Michael Schumacher being knocked out in Q2.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’37.035
12 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’37.160
13 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’37.347
14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’37.370
15 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’37.496
16 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’37.528
17 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’37.593


The McLarens and Red Bulls were the only cars to go out to begin with. Hamilton set the pace, lapping in exactly one minute 35 seconds, which was better than either of the Red Bulls could manage.

The other cars, which did not have as many sets of soft tyres, only came out for one run at the end.

Hamilton managed to find a few hundredths of a second but Vettel had a little more in hand, and pipped him to pole by a tenth of a second.

Behind them the cars lined up much as they had in Melbourne: Webber ahead of Button and Alonso followed by a Renault – though this time it was Heidfeld instead of Petrov.

Top ten in Q3

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’34.870
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’34.974
3 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’35.179
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’35.200
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’35.802
6 Nick Heidfeld Renault 1’36.124
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’36.251
8 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’36.324
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’36.809
10 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’36.820

2011 Malaysian Grand Prix

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188 comments on “Vettel snatches pole from Hamilton in closely-fought qualifying”

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  1. terrific qualifying. great to see the mclarens on par with the bulls

      1. Finger boy has that thingy that just gives him the fastest lap… amazing isn’t it.

        Reminds me of the MSC, Mika last lap duels of years ago.


        1. Finger boy has that thingy that just gives him the fastest lap… amazing isn’t it.

          Yes the car is.

          1. Webber doesn’t seem to have it, he’s P3 on the grid.

          2. Yes, if Hamilton will drive that superior RB He is quicker than the finger boy.

          3. Also, a favoritism in RB makes finger boy (car) more faster than Webber.

      2. I doubt if the finger boy can survive in the long straight with hamilton’s more powerful mercedes engine (1st lap). An interesting to watch with Redbulls having Mclarens at the back.

      1. Took me a while to spot it, but nice one IDR. :)

  2. one of the best qualifying sessions i’ve seen in years. Great lap from Vettel and stunning lap from Lewis. Also Button’s Q2 lap was pretty decent as well.

    Very excited about tomorrow!

    1. Canada last year was also good, and wasn’t Turkey also pretty close? If I recall, Singapore was pretty tight between Vettel and Alonso too, wasn’t it?

      1. well – thats not to say that qualifying hasn’t been good before, but i’ve always felt there was a bit of predictability about it. Perhaps its because I was genuinely surprised that Vettel pulled that lap out of the bag, or that I also genuinely thought there were 4 drivers capable of getting pole today. It was just great!

        [I was also one of the unfortunate few who didn’t see Canada qualy :(]

        1. Personally I prefer those moments, when just one driver is going for it in the dying stages, makes for a whole lap of tension.

          But today was pretty good, 4 drivers covered by 4 tenths

          1. Top four covered by 4/10ths. Top five covered by nearly a second!

      2. You’re all saying just front runner. Team Lotus is today’s hero!

        1. Nope.

      3. And South Korea.

      4. You are right, there were times last year, when it was not just a Vettel walk over. Canada was very good and Singapore as well. Some of those WEB/VET fights were nice as well.
        But here we had 4 guys really fighting and having a shot at pole and you could hear how relieved Vettel was that he really made it in front of Hamilton.

    2. Lewis said he lost a bit of time…

      1. Really? Was that in the press conference? If that’s really the case then McLaren are fast becoming the team to beat…

        1. Yes he said it at the press conference!

          1. He said it wasn’t ‘the perfect lap’.. although I think he just said that because he gave it everything and yet Vettel came out on top.

          2. I think for my lap we lost a little bit of time but just only in one corner…

            Let see who’s gonna be the quickest with the tank full.

          3. Well Lewis is better than Vettel, you can’t get away from that. That Red Bull is still naturally 3 tenths quicker than the McLaren yet Hamilton still got an amazing time out.

      2. well he would! we could be on for the rare pleasure of an entertaining dry race tomorrow! If all goes to plan, i will have predicted the top 4 finishers correctly!

        1. @Riise

          You got proof about those 3 tenths? Looked like vettel just got more out of his car than lewis to me, he also didn’t mess up.

          1. RIISE doesn’t need proof. His word is the law. Always and forever.

          2. I’d also like to know how anyone can say that RBR has 3/10s on McLaren – to me it looks pretty even. You’d think that RBR would have to have a bit more downforce naturally than McLaren but the extra grunt of the Merc engine will allow McLaren to run more wing – so it all evens out in the end. I think it will be interesting to see the relative pace in race conditions, a full tank and no DRS for the first 2 laps – will lewis be able to match Seb then?

            But that 3 tenths is just nonsense – both cars are quick…

          3. RIISE no nuts about F1 seriously. Yet another troll being a UK suck up.

          4. @iAltair, you’ll notice RIISE is supporting Alonso’s helmet as his avatar, fairly clear his loyalties arn’t with Hamilton. Don’t be a silly hater basically.

            @Nico, the McLaren is an as yet, not fully bedded in car that still looks fairly unstable at times. The Redbull is an unber developed hyper stable car that puts Vettle on pole even when he sometimes appears to make mistakes, although not today. I’d still say it’s a fundementally better car.

      3. He always blame himself that he makes mistake every after each non-pole qualifying. Coincidence much? I’m afraid not.

  3. Mercedes and Renault have switched places this season, it seems.

    1. In pace at least – in mode of running they are the same: Merc. continuing saying that if only they could have gotten the car to work like they know it could and should be running, they’d be faster, and Renault working to bring updates, get points and good results and work on their car, getting roughly the results they wanted and sometimes a bit better than expected.

      1. Just read Brawn on the car, in autosport article; now it is DRS issues again.

        I get their talk that they are fast when everything lines up; we only have to look at McLaren for an example of how true that can be, but equally, McLaren knew and took steps to solve the issue by going more conservative on the exhausts. With Mercedes it just seems odd that they had a testcar specifically to sort mechanics, KERS, and the DRS during three tests, and still have not solved those issues.

      2. damonsmedley
        9th April 2011, 12:26

        I think the Sauber is nearly as quick as the Mercedes, too. I do hope Sauber get a podium this year. :)

        1. You know so far in the weekend I haven’t heard Kobayashi’s name mentioned once…or seen in the in live feed either. Is he the invisible man now?

          1. He seems to be doing the opposite of what he did last year, compatently getting the maximum out of the car in quali then taking it into the points in the race. I’d like to see him break some skulls again though.

  4. Hope the McLarens get a good start tomorrow…it’s gonna be a great race i am sure.

    1. I would be very happy if we see someone else than Vettel leading a good amount of laps this time, even if he wins, if he has to fight for it hard, I am okay with that.

      1. I would be very happy if we see someone else than Vettel leading a good amount of laps this time, even if he wins, if he has to fight for it hard, I am okay with that.

        I was the same with Button in 2009. Credit to Button, he did have to work harder than Vettel usually does!

        I was expecting another Vettel win anyway, a good battle for it is more than i could have asked for so it would be greedy to be picky about the result!

        1. Yep, shaping up quite fine for now. Now if Lewis would please pip Vettel into the first corner and Button and Webber can make it a close run to pas Seb as well.

          Petrov might give Alonso and Heidfeld a tough time with his flying starts. And Schumi will really start to dislike those 11th place starts if he does not get away from the STR cars fast!

        2. Yes, in 2009 I was rather happy to see Vettel beat Button in China, and sad to to see him make a silly mistake in the first lap to let Button through again. If it hadn’t been for last years Red Bull/Vettel pole dominance I might feel different about him getting many more this time – I guess context matters a lot :)

        3. Hope not. I picked Hamilton winning in my predictions and it will be good to get some points.

    2. Same like Australia – Red Bull 1-3 and McLaren 2-4. However, Hamilton got a bad start and the straight’s shorter in Melbourne. Here, it’s a different ball game altogether.

      1. We all know Vettel for its good start ;)

        1. Err, not really, he’s got better but he threw away a lot of poles last year starting badly.

          I don’t think McLaren is particularly well set up for overtaking for some reason, maybe Button is. Possibly Hamiltons sacrificed his straight line speed with the DRS to make up the slack. xx

  5. Blog Raider
    9th April 2011, 10:25

    DĂ©jĂ  vu top 5 from AUS q3!!!!

    1. Conrad M. Sathirweth
      9th April 2011, 10:34

      Yes but in a very different context

  6. We Want Turbos
    9th April 2011, 10:27

    Lotus only 0.4s off of Williams fair play to them!! I see points in the not too distant future!!

    1. yeah but considering they have a renault engine, a red bull gearbox and (let the courts decide) a force india chassis, they really should be performing better!

      1. Cossworth ain’t really worse than other engines and gearboxes hardly give performance anymore.

      2. force india chassis? come on.. their chassis is not ever same. the airbox design not same at all. you better check back.

      3. They don’t have a blown diffuser though. That’s coming in Barcelona apparently.

        1. The Redbull gearbox is an old gear box as well so it shouldn’t be read to far into.

      4. Don’t forget the Toyota’s front wing :P

  7. Looks like Red Bull doesn’t have performance advantage over Mclarens, except Vettel.

  8. One of the best qualifying sessions in recent history. It has been a while since the teams have been this close for pole. Hopefully the gap is closed and there can be a real fight for pole at every single race.

  9. Alonso 1 sec slower than Vettel and 1 sec quicker than Massa,..well Ferrari sucks, and Massa double sucks,..I am a Ferrari fan btw,…

    1. LOL, too true!

      Alonso brings 6 tenths to the car, and Massa takes 4 tenths from it.

    2. Wow I didn’t realize 4/10ths had suddenly become a second.

      Maybe you should be a supportive Ferrari fan, realize they are behind and root for them to catch up by supporting both of their drivers instead of putting up meaningless comments like this.

      1. Massa has had good pace all weekend and was quicker than Alonso in fp1, 2 and went quickest in Q1. Of course q3 is where it matters but he’s had encouraging pace all weekend.

        1. Yeah, there isn’t really that much between them on speed, even if Alonso just has that killer instinct and motivation to get something extra out of the pretty lame car in Q3.

          I hope we see Massa do a solid race, if he takes care of his tyres a bit better than he did in Australia.

        2. I don’t see how you can say Massa was faster than Alonso in practice sessions or Q1/Q2.

          Q3 is where the speed is tested and Massa yet again falls behind. I can’t see a future for him in Ferrari if he fails to get some solid points tomorrow. It’s amazing to think this is the same guy who was destroying Kimi and even Schumacher is races.

          1. “I don’t see how you can say Massa was faster than Alonso in practice sessions or Q1/Q2.”

            Well, actually, he was.

          2. He was faster… :)
            Destroying? Ok, then…

          3. It seems that Vettel is making the difference.
            Look at Webber-Button and you can see the cars this weekend are really equal…
            And Webber is really good in quali.

      2. “Wow I didn’t realize 4/10ths had suddenly become a second.”

        Next time I’ll check the times instead of believing what the other guy says. My bad.

        “Maybe you should be a supportive Ferrari fan, realize they are behind and root for them to catch up by supporting both of their drivers instead of putting up meaningless comments like this.”

        I have always been supportive, but this site is not one drivers read, and so there is no point for me to leave them messages of support here.

        Besides, at least us Ferrari supporters dont go crazy and call for people to be fired and drivers to join another team the second the car “looks” slow (i.e, testing & Mclaren). I havnt yet seen anything to that degree on this site yet relating to Ferrari. We actually support, instead of just criticise.

    3. Wel the Ferraris did only have used tyres for Q3 (their own fault I know). Nobody really knows how much performance a tyre loses for being used to do qualifying laps twice, so the actual speed that Alonso had was actually not so bad. Lets see how it’ll go tomorrow.

      1. They had a new set of softs for q3, is was in q2 when they used a used-set. That’s what Alonso told the Spanish tv reporter after qualy at least :)

        1. Laranja Mecanica
          9th April 2011, 18:00

          Yup I heard that too. But maybe he should have gone for the hards, even if that meant getting behind the Renaults in the grid.

  10. With such a long straight to the first corner and the McLarens having the edge in a straight line, I really don’t see Webber or even Vettel keeping their positions in the first lap.

    1. Especially when the McLarens are on the clean side.

      1. It’s the other way around, right? Red Bulls are in the clean side

    2. That’s pretty interesting to see then… excited for the race now :)

    3. I thought the pole seater was always on the clean side?

      1. Yeah, except for Japan in (say) 1990…

    4. Mclaren are running a higher downforce setup, so the top speeds of Red Bulls and Mclaren are pretty similar, nonetheless will be intersting to see how DRS plays out with both teams closely matched during qualify.

      1. and Red Bull’s KERS. If they needed it to hold onto McLaren in qualifying, they presumably need it for the race too. And there are evidently reliability problems and probably tyre wear issues for RBR. If it’s a dry race, seems like advantage McLaren. In the rain, Red Bull’s handling could give an edge.

    5. There is not a big difference in straight line speed of the McLaren and the Red Bull. It was just a few km/h. The most important is the acceleration, and Red Bull had brilliant starts in Melbourne and with KERS now, it shouldn’t bee too hard to fight off the McLaren’s into the first corner. Lets wait and see. But one thing is certain. It is going to be exciting!

  11. Damn, my internet was cut off for qually and I have no TV. I would have enjoyed watching RB struggle with MC today. Waiting to see it on BBC iPlayer.

  12. You make me disappointed Vettel! kidding. Excellent job Team Lotus and expecting much tighter race than Melbourne. Almost same order but much closer times. Mclaren has pace on their hand though Vettel snatched the pole and Ferrari is much closer. We will see very tight 3 way battle.

    1. I think the real race may be on the start. Who’s just a bit faster and who has chosen the right line going into turn one.

      Pet had a great start last race, will Nick do the same?

      Can Ham jump Vet? Webber always seems to have bad starts.

      It’s a nice long straight… let’s see what happens.

      1. if there’s no trouble, performance of KERS should be big factor and it’s major weapon of Mclaren(I’m not sure Ferrari’s is better than Redbull’s). It should be less messy than Melbourn but more shuffle I expect.

        1. Interestingly, Leandra Graves tweeted, that RBR confirmed both their cars were using KERS, but Webbers had some glitch for his speediest laps!

          1. Guess that puts Webber on virtual pole, with KERS gaining .3s :-p Does make it nice and close if they all have working cars. Good job with the tweet Leandra.

          2. eh, no, my maths wasn’t working on my fastest reply, .300 would of course put him .009 behind Vettel. Even closer in the top three!

          3. Christian Horner said on the BBC that Webber had a KERS issue in qualifying

          4. if it fails at start…

  13. Awesome qualifying. Wanted it to be Hamilton, but Vettel impressed again, who also beat his teammate to a larger margin. Rain or not, the start will be epic. I’m really curious as to whether RB installed Kers this time around, but they probably have.

    Also props for Kobayashi making it into Q3 again, let’s hope the rear wing is up to spec this time. :P

    1. No it had to be Vet… I sold my soul to get at least one prediction right!

      1. I had Vettel up there as well, still wanted it to be a non RB driver though. :)

    2. RBR do have the kers they used it the whole session…

  14. Great qualifing session. I was soo close on nailing it in the prediction championship .. voted 1:34.871!
    Oh well .. looking forward to the race. I think Hamilton will take it home.

    1. Impressive – anyone closer? I voted 1:35.283, so guessing a little to slow as I did last time.

      1. I predicted a 1:35.250, and I thought I was a little ambitious as I didn’t think they would hit those times at the end of Q1. But then again the track rubbered in quicker than anyone could have imagined.

        1. 01:34.897.
          But I went for Webber :-(

  15. You wouldn’t know Pastor Maldonado is a GP2 champion, would you?

    1. Yes, that is a question of history. It’s his second race in F1, I’ll learn from my critics of Petrov and apply it to Pastor and just write it off as a lack of testing and experience.

    2. Hulkenberg didn’t do too much better to start off with last year either.

      1. Pffft I knew he was average as soon as the deal was announced.

        There hasn’t been a real standout GP2 champion since Hamilton really.

    3. I guess you wouldn’t say Williams was the team to beat years back.

      I found it strange, how Maldonado kept using that line on the dirty side of the track there in each lap. Funny to hear Brundle and DC comment, weather someone would please tell him it was the dirty side!

      To be honest, if you compare him to how the Hulk did last year against Rubens he is not doing that bad.

      1. Yes but at least he was looking for a different line around the track. Then again, he may have been a bit hot going in to the corners and no other choice.

    4. Getting within a tenth of a second (in Q1) of your team mate who’s in his 19th year of F1 is absolutely rubbish…

      1. Got to agree there. I think Rubens is doing the Iron Man thing, but do we know whose settings Pastor used around the track?

  16. Is it just me, or does it HUGELY look like McLaren weren’t
    “at least 1 second behind the bullls” like they claimed before the season, but just pulled the best sandbaging move of all times?

    1. Or the best turnaround since 2009. It’s not MASSIVELY surprising considering McLaren’s technical abilities and the talent of their two drivers, but it’s still rather surprising. If they carry on at this rate they could be the new RBR – aka. the McLaren of the late 90s.

    2. Blog Raider
      9th April 2011, 10:46

      Testing is testing and not a fight for pole or a race….besides, they were having reliability issues right?

    3. I’ve just read in a spanish site one alonso fan claiming that the FIA should punish Macca for the sandbaging. LOL

      1. LOL! Wow, they sore much?

        1. lol, thats a good one

    4. They certainly were about 2 seconds or more off Red Bull in testing, because the clever bits did not work as they wanted.

      What saved them was a hell of a job to get the red bull like exhausts on. That was not about sand bagging. Maybe their luck was, they had their back end pretty flexible to different exhaust solutions, so it was possible to make something like this work. But this was not going to plan, it was a great save and a portion of luck with getting it right just in time.

  17. Mr Purple strikes again!

  18. Good work, Kobayashi! Imagine the comparison between the Sauber budget and that of Mercedes! Time for Michael to hang it up!

    1. Or Sauber to finally get the respect it deserves!

      1. And don’t forget james key , all we can say he is one of the best who can do an excellent job with low budget. he did great job at force india and now doing same at sauber.

  19. I know he went out in q1, but I have been impressed with Maldonado. He’s already closer to Barrichello than Hulkenberg was at this time last year. Hopefully all the ‘talentless pay-driver’ stereotyping will stop soon.

    1. Partialy agree but I think Williams has to focus on their cars rather than drivers now. It’s very disappointing after so many promising.

      1. I think they need to focus on the front end now, it still looks a bit basic.

  20. I think it’s nice that we consider it normal by now for Kobayashi to be in Q3 both races this year.

    1. Agreed. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite drivers.

    2. Perez might have beaten him in Australia, and there’s no discounting his superb tyre management there, and the Saubers obviously were disqualified but Kobayashi was just one place behind him on 2 stops compared to his 1. I think Kobayashi is a much quicker driver than his teammate right now, in the race and in qualifying (obviously).

      1. ermmm… Pastor is with Williams, Kobi with Sauber.

      2. Ok I re read your comment… the last sentence threw me off a bit.

    3. It is indeed. I’d really love to see a Japanese driver on the podium after all that the Japanese have given the sport fo so many years.

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