Vettel snatches pole from Hamilton in closely-fought qualifying

2011 Malaysian GP qualifying

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

  1. Sandman said on 9th April 2011, 10:39

    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?

    • driftin said on 9th April 2011, 10:41

      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.

    • Blog Raider said on 9th April 2011, 10:46

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

    • Monosodico said on 9th April 2011, 10:49

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

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2011, 11:21

      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.

  2. F1iLike said on 9th April 2011, 10:43

    Mr Purple strikes again!

  3. troutcor said on 9th April 2011, 10:44

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

  4. TFLB said on 9th April 2011, 10:44

    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.

  5. Meander (@meander) said on 9th April 2011, 10:48

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

  6. Baremans said on 9th April 2011, 10:53

    McLaren still have that radical exhaust system in their sleeves. If they can get the reliability issues it caused sorted out, we may seem them dominate the season. Whitmarsh spoke of “spectacular results” in the simulations.

  7. The TV coverage today drove me a bit mad. The BBC pictures and sound were out of sync, the TV director suddenly decided to obsess over Fernando when there was a mega battle for pole going on and I found DC and EJ annoyingly OTT.

    First they slagged of Heidfeld saying he’d be under real pressure soon (after one race) only for him to outqualify Vitaly, then they said Perez could replace Massa at Ferrari only for Massa to fo fastest in q1 (yes, I know it’s q3 that counts and there’s been rumours about him for a long time now) while Perez qualified a mighty 16th.

    • F1Lover said on 9th April 2011, 11:09

      jakehumphreyf1 Jake Humphrey
      F1 sync issue arose due to ‘the misinterpretation of a V.A.L.I.D tape during our line-up procedure’. That was dictated to me!

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 9th April 2011, 11:14

      I agree Steph, sadly I didn’t get to see any tv coverage. I don’t have tv and here in the states I couldn’t find any website live streaming the qualifying :( !

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 9th April 2011, 11:27

        Try, they stream practice and qualy etc. live in the US – practice is w/o comment I think, which makes it great for a fan! I used their timing as backup when the one stopped working.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2011, 11:31

          No they stream only the sessions that are not live on TV. That means FP1 and FP3 get streams, but FP2 and Qualli (and the race off course) are not streamed.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2011, 11:28

        poor you. Should have got onto the live blog. I had a pretty nice stream to watch the BBC feed (Czech TV is just not it for F1). And there were a lot of other streams working.

        But Steph is right about some strange choices. Sure, Alonso with sagged shoulders was significant, but why on earth couldn’t they show that after showing had the top players do their laps. It was all back to Monaco last year, where we did not even see Kubica’s fast lap live.

        • F1Lover said on 9th April 2011, 15:02

          BBC favourites are:
          1. Webber
          2. Vettel
          3. Buton
          4. Hamilton and the rest.

          I don’t really get why they love webber so much.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2011, 15:28

            What does that have to do with me minding the FOM coverage rather showing Alonso instead of focussing on the top 4 chasing the pole position on track that very moment?

  8. Buglemeister (@buglemeister) said on 9th April 2011, 11:00

    I thought there were 3 Quali sessions Keith :)

    ‘Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position in a closely-fourth session in Sepang’

    Its looking like its going to be a great battle tomorrow.
    I’ve gone for a win for Button- as i reckon the wet stuff will definitely fall from the clouds

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 9th April 2011, 11:11

      I’m giving Button a 2nd on the podium tomorrow.

      Well, that’s in my predictions of course, but it was based on a critical computer analysis made on a main frame data from a top secrect US military government labratory, and the fact that my late silver Persian cat was named Mini Button caused she was pawing at the screen when Jenson was on screen.

      I think it’s gonna happen.

      • Santi said on 9th April 2011, 12:12

        I don’t know. I’ve never trusted Button very much, and for some reason I’m not seeing Webber very fit either. I kind of see a HAM-VET-ALO or HAM-VET-Nick tomorrow…

  9. dragon said on 9th April 2011, 11:10

    Hamilton had a tiny lock up in turn 2, didn’t he? Front left wheel just stopped rotating slightly…

  10. F1Lover said on 9th April 2011, 11:10


    Also we made another big change before qualifying, and the car improved again in qualifying, so I was much more comfortable driving now the car in these conditions, this set-up. We were expecting more problems in qualifying, or a worse position. I think if we finish the race, we will be on the podium.

    Humm let’ see…

  11. Palle (@palle) said on 9th April 2011, 11:38

    Very exiting Quali.
    And this time Heidfeld got it right – lets see if Renault will last a race distance.
    If You look at the sector times You get:
    Vet 1 1 2 1.3
    Ham 2 2 1 1.7
    Web 3 3 4 3.3
    But 4 4 3 3.7
    Alo 7 5 5 5.7
    Hei 9 6 6 7.0
    Pet 6 9 7 7.3
    Mas 8 7 8 7.7
    Ros 5 11 9 8.3
    Kob 14 8 10 10.7
    Sch 10 14 11 11.7
    Bue 16 12 13 13.7
    DiR 11 17 14 14.0
    Sut 13 18 12 14.3
    Alg 12 16 15 14.3
    Per 17 10 16 14.3
    Bar 15 13 17 15.0
    Kov 18 19 18 18.3
    Mal 20 15 20 18.3
    Tru 19 20 19 19.3
    Glo 21 21 21 21.0
    Amb 22 22 22 22.0
    Liu 23 23 23 23.0
    Kar 24 24 24 24.0

    • Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 9th April 2011, 14:46

      How’s this for a tight first four, Four World Champions and champions to be. The Hungaroring
      a long long time ago in a race far far away.

      1. Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari
      1 :14.672

      2. Canada Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 1:14.850.

      3. United Kingdom Damon Hill Arrows-Yamaha 1:15.044

      4. Finland Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.140

      I thought of this because Q used to be a nail biting experience as it was today.

  12. Palle (@palle) said on 9th April 2011, 11:40

    Sorry that table don’t look very well, but the pecking order will be:
    Torro Rosso
    Force India
    But maybe the overtaking possibilities in sector 3 will be decisive.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 9th April 2011, 12:20

      Why not Renault ahead of Ferrari, and Torro Rosso ahead of Sauber, they all have a second car in front of the team you places ahead of them.

      • Palle (@palle) said on 9th April 2011, 14:38

        Not when I compute the average positions on the 3 sector times – this pecking order is based solely on the sector times. It is just to show their relative strength based on sector times, and in this way it is not the true pecking order. On top of that You could argue that in Sepang, the 3rd sector time is perhaps most decisive for overtaking.

  13. F1Lover said on 9th April 2011, 11:44

    I would love to see Lewis in a RBR car…

    • dragon said on 9th April 2011, 12:20

      I was waiting for someone to say that. How do you know that Seb just didn’t drive a better lap than him? The cars looked pretty equal on pace, IMO.

      Then again, it’s a british site, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the praise heaped on Vettel after what really was a phenomenal qualifying effort.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th April 2011, 12:39

        Cut the “this is a British site” nonsense please – I’m not writing for any particular nationality.

        • dragon said on 9th April 2011, 15:11

          I wasn’t talking about YOUR articles Keith, I just mean the majority of this site’s readers and commenters are British!

          • F1Lover said on 9th April 2011, 15:12

            For your knowledge, I am not even British!

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th April 2011, 15:15

            I just mean the majority of this site’s readers and commenters are British!

            OK, but that’s not what you said and that isn’t true either:


          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2011, 15:37

            Please cut that #$%#%. Look at what Keith posted about where the commenters come from.

            And look at the top 20 most prolific commenters in the last month. Together they have almost 4.400 comments and I know for certain, that the top 5 of that list is not much british at all, and over 2/3 of those comments are not posted by British.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2011, 15:49

            Please elaborate, why would you think that is so?

            And why care about where everyone if from? To me the only time I care is, when I think about visiting a country and asking for good tips or maybe even meeting up with people. Or when discussing local circumstances like we had in the Middle east, in Japan and in NZ lately or just asking about the weather for a GP weekend.

            And I must say, from experience a wide range of F1 fans would like to see Lewis Hamilton do some laps in a Red Bull, if only to compare him to Vettel and Webber. Nothing about nationality or place you live in.

      • F1Lover said on 9th April 2011, 15:11

        Now you think the cars are equal? lol Lewis said that he lost time in one corner what means that the lap wasn’t as good as Vettel’s.

        I din’t imply anything, I just said that i would love to see them in an equal car.Anyways, i still think Lewis is better driver though!

  14. Troy Alexander (@troy-alexander) said on 9th April 2011, 11:51

    That’s was an amazing scrap for pole. I thought Hamilton was going to be on P1 but Vettel pulled something out there.

  15. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 9th April 2011, 11:53

    Out of the 5,100,480 combinations for the Top 5, we have the exact same as that of Australia qualifying!

    In terms of Noah’s Ark, it’s 1,3 (Red Bull) 2,4(McLaren) 5,7 (Ferrari) and 6,8 (Renault)

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