McLaren lock out the front row again in Malaysia

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, McLaren, Sepang, 2012Lewis Hamilton put a McLaren on pole position for the first time at the Sepang International Circuit.

Team mate Jenson Button made it a McLaren one-two after relegating Michael Schumacher to third place with his final run.


Mercedes were quickest in the first part of qualifying until a group of drivers had to make second runs in a bid to ensure they reached Q2.

These included Mark Webber, who briefly fell as low as 17th before setting the fastest time of the session with a late run on the hard tyres.

Felipe Massa also had a scare: he was 18th after the first runs, 1.1 seconds slower than his team mate and facing the threat of elimination.

Both Ferrari drivers returned to the track for a second run on the softer medium tyres and Massa posted a big enough improvement to ensure his progression to Q2.

He made it at the expensive of Jean-Eric Vergne, who locked up his tyres at the start of his final lap and failed to make the cut.

Unlike last week, all the drivers were within the 107% time. Narain Karthikeyan was inside the target by three-tenths of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’39.077
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’39.306
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’39.567
21 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’40.903
22 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’41.250
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’42.914
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’43.655


Pastor Maldonado understeered off at turn 11 on his first effort which caused problems both for him and the cars immediately behind.

Hamilton was one of the first drivers on the scene and was anxious to ensure he wouldn’t get a penalty for going past the trouble spot too quickly. “I didn’t see any yellow flags,” he told his team. “We saw there was no time to react whatsoever,” they responded.

Maldonado and several other drivers who had to back off for the yellow flags needed to run again.

Massa’s last run temporarily got him into the top ten at the expense of his team mate. But Alonso’s final run and improvements from other drivers knocked Massa out of qualifying.

The Mercedes drivers left it until the dying moments of the session to secure their places in Q3, but did so comfortably. Raikkonen ended the session quickest.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’37.589
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’37.731
13 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’37.841
14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’37.877
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’37.883
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’37.890
17 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’38.069


Raikkonen was first to set a lap in Q1 but he took too much kerb at turn seven and was a tenth off his best lap from Q2.

He was beaten by both the McLarens – first Button, then Hamilton, who went quickest with a 1’36.219 despite locking his front-left tyre at the final corner.

The Mercedes drivers limited themselves to a single run. Rosberg had a slightly scruffy lap and took fourth, while Schumacher claimed second, just under two-tenths slower than Hamilton.

As was the case in Melbourne, Hamilton’s first effort proved quick enough for pole position. Button posted an improvement on his second lap which got him ahead of Schumacher – but not Hamilton.

Webber and Raikkonen set times that were identical to one-thousandths of a second – Webber claiming the place ahead as he set the time first. Raikkonen’s grid penalty means he will start the race tenth.

Vettel gambled on the hard compound for his second run and produced a quicker time, meaning he will start the race on the more durable tyres.

Top ten in Q3

1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’36.219
2 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’36.368
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’36.391
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’36.461
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’36.461
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’36.634
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’36.658
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’36.664
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’37.566
10 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’37.698

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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213 comments on McLaren lock out the front row again in Malaysia

  1. Damon (@damon) said on 24th March 2012, 11:16

    5 out of top-6 are former champions!
    Isn’t this awesome? And there are 6 champions in the top-10.
    That’s just fantastic.

  2. SPIDERman (@spiderman) said on 24th March 2012, 11:16

    is it possible red bull are sandbagging now only to turn on the heat later ?

    • Sean (@spaceman1861) said on 24th March 2012, 11:24

      Not sure why they would?

    • Sam B (@sb360) said on 24th March 2012, 11:25

      Why would they sandbag during the actual season, when it is going to cost them points and positions, I understand it in pre-season but once things kicked off in Quali at Melbourne then that all stopped and everyone started showing their true pace.

    • bearforce1 (@bearforce1) said on 24th March 2012, 11:54

      No way.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 24th March 2012, 13:10

      And what could they possibly gain from doing so?
      In case they were, they would have no guarantee that they wouldn’t be overtaken in the development race, thus being unable to “turn on the heat” later in the season. McLaren won’t slow their development down, nor will any of the other teams just because Red Bull don’t look that strong.
      If Red Bull had the car to win both races and claim pole position, they would have done so. Anything else would be completely stupid.

  3. kenneth Ntulume said on 24th March 2012, 11:49

    Within another race or two Button is going to bag his very first McLaren Podium…..
    I am seeing an incremental but steady Quali times improvement relative to Ham.

    • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 24th March 2012, 11:56

      Surely you mean pole position, as Button has had more podiums in the last 2 years than Hamilton :P

    • Aussie Fan said on 24th March 2012, 11:57

      Thats a very confusing post, although I do believe I get what you might have been trying to say….. his first McLaren Pole Position??? :-)

    • I dont think Button is getting closer to Hamilton.

      The gap is typically around 3 tenths, today Ham made a couple of mistakes on his timed lap that would have cost him a couple of tenths. In aus his timed lap was also his first lap, his second run was aborted after a mistake in sector 1.

      I dont think a driver can suddenly pick up a couple of tenths after 2 decades of racing, he drives the way he drives, its just instinctual when you’re driving on what you percieve to be the limit. Button will see the data, where Hamilton is making time on him, but the differences are so fine (less than the blink of an eye over a 2-3 mile circuit) that i dont think its something he can now adjust.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th March 2012, 14:09

      This seems like it should be a fairly easy debate to settle.

      So far this year the average gap is 0.151s in Hamilton’s favour.

      Last year the average gap was 0.204s in Hamilton’s favour:

      Lewis Hamilton 2011 form guide

      In 2010 the average gap was 0.155s in Hamilton’s favour.

      Lewis Hamilton vs team mate, 2010

      So the figure is actually fairly static.

      Of course that’s only looking at a crude average. When it comes to the qualifying score, Hamilton is emphatically ahead, and has regularly out-qualified Button by around two to three tenths. Had he not locked up at the final corner on his best lap today, I expect that would have been the case here.

      You can keep an eye on the updated figure for Button over the year here:

      Jenson Button 2012 form guide

      And all the other drivers for this year and last here:

      2012 F1 driver form guides
      2011 F1 driver form guides

      Incidentally, it’s good that we’re in our third year without ‘race fuel qualifying’, which made comparisons like this so much harder.

    • kenneth Ntulume said on 24th March 2012, 15:06

      Meant “1st McLaren pole”, am so sorry, but the ever wise gentlemen that you are, you spotted it, tks

  4. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 24th March 2012, 11:59

    With the fast starting Mercedes of Schumacher only just behind, the McLaren’s are going to have to get a very good start to keep their positions and maintain their advantage.

    I think we’ll probably see Vettel lose a couple of places on the start, mainly because of the tyre he is on, and that the Lotus team in the past have had decent starts, as was shown last year at Malaysia. Plus, with Webber’s starting performance, we might see both Red Bull’s down in the lower reaches of the points and having to pull their way back through.

    It would be fantastic to see Schumi on the podium again, but it would surprise me, because the Red Bull’s will be fast in race trim, so they’ll need a great strategy to pull that off.

  5. david said on 24th March 2012, 12:04

    I think tosberg would make the ultimate test driver.

  6. The Limit said on 24th March 2012, 12:10

    Great work again from the McLaren drivers’. Mercedes and Lotus appear to have good pace, shame Raikkonen got that penalty but I expect him to bounce back! Most people suggested during the week that Ferrari would not have enough time to improve the car for Sepang and they were right. Yet another poor showing for Felipe Massa, although I liked how Rob Smedley tried to keep Massa’s spirits up at the end over the intercom!
    Bruno Senna disappointed again, especially compared to Maldonado who, if not for a trip through the gravel, would have qualified better than he did for Williams.
    However, what impresses me the most about the new season is the Mercedes and Lotus teams’ performance, especially against the Red Bulls. I could not help but notice how frustrated Sebastien Vettel looked when he got out of the car today, having a good ‘nose’ at a parked McLaren in the process. Probably all too aware that McLaren are not Red Bull’s only threat this season, as Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen have proved this weekend.
    Loved Raikkonen’s onboard, not locking up at all at the final hairpin at the end of his hotlap. Something few other drivers did, which is not bad considering Kimi has not raced in F1 since 2009! He will be strong in the race as I think will be Schumacher. Can’t wait!

  7. Vettel could have easily taken 3rd, if not higher, had he been on the medium tyre. Add that to the fact he has a better tyre strategy now and red bull look quicker in the race and I think it may end up a similar result to that in Australia. It’ll be a good race this

    • Aussie Fan said on 25th March 2012, 0:23

      Fail, Vettel chose the harder tyre because he couldn’t get ANY pace out of the softer tyre, unlike Webber whom got a better balance on his car.

  8. Snafu (@snafu) said on 24th March 2012, 13:05

    my money on Hamilton beating Vettle’s record of most poles on a season

    • If its that easy, others would have already beaten Nigel Mansell’s record. Why must it wait till 2011?

      • Sam B (@sb360) said on 24th March 2012, 13:33

        Because 2011 was when one team, and one driver in particular had a car that was untouchable in qualifying, and it also had a large number of races on the calendar.

  9. Sam B (@sb360) said on 24th March 2012, 13:14

    If anything Hamilton seems to have increased the qualifying gap to Button, he must have lost at least a tenth with that final corner lock-up and yet still nobody can get very close. The big problem for him though is converting it into race pace, seeing him out of the car this season he doesn’t appear to have put the demons of last season to rest completely yet, but maybe a couple of early wins can cure that.

  10. Horacio said on 24th March 2012, 13:49

    To me, it was really painful to see Massa driving today. To be honest, I think he improved somehow and closed a bit the big gap to Alonso, compared to Australia. I do not believe for a moment that a team like Ferrari would go to the trouble to develop a new chassis and rebuild the car if they believe the problem is the driver. No way. But at least to me is very clear that Massa and his car are not talking the same language. Today his car was just everywhere, almost always outside of the best line, his car is unstable at the entrance of the turn, is unstable at the exit, and lacks final speed. It’s a mess.
    It seems to me that the constant change of rules is forcing the drivers to adapt their driving styles constantly and that is leaving Massa outside the ballpark. In the beginning of the season Alonso and him where introduced to the new car, but while Alonso managed to understand its behavior, Massa simply seems unable to develop the car.
    Now, a guy who spent 10 years in Formula 1 never forgets how to drive a car. And how to drive it fast. But the car from 2012 is a very different beast, and Massa seems to me unable to understand how to deal with his Ferrari. Particularly, I believe his performance went down the tube since Pirelli brought the new tires. Others adapter better, but not him. And that will cost him his career.
    Just my last $0,02…

  11. tmax (@tmax) said on 24th March 2012, 13:53

    It is an irony and little bit of a sweet revenge for Kimi I guess. Alonso moved from Renault to Ferrari to replace him ahead of the contract. Now the same Renault is a much faster and better car than Ferrari. To top it all Kimi was having a good time last 2 years enjoying rallying and the payout package for his early termination of the Ferrari contract.On the Other end Ferrari is struggling since last 3 years. I guess what goes around comes around. I somehow feel as much as McLaren is Lewis’s home, Renault is Alonso’s home.

  12. No Button hasn’t closen the gap

    Lewis made the obvious mistake that would have put him even further ahead. Also in the last two races, he hasn’t even finished his 2nd timed run, compared to Button having two go’s at his time

  13. Ral (@ral) said on 24th March 2012, 15:29

    I think Kimi has had a lucky break on the timing for his return with the banning of the DRS. All the drivers in the top teams who benefited most from it last year, seem to struggle a little bit finding the limits of their cars without it. Vettel most emphatically, but Hamilton as well looked quite a bit scruffier than normal in practice.
    In the meantime, those who didn’t quite get on with it, look like they have made a step forward, like Schumacher and Webber.

    And then there’s Kimi who never had it in the first place and, according to Lotus, from the beginning was pretty much bang on the limit of the car again and in his own words thinks the car feels pretty much the same as what he was used to. Doesn’t hurt that those limits are pretty close to the front as well.

    I wonder, and of course that is an if, if Lotus manage to keep up development this season, will Kimi be labelled a “complete racing driver” and “amazing development driver”? It certainly looks like he is able to communicate to his engineers what he needs from the car, given his comments about the changes they made to the floor and the steering rack so far and the resulting difference in confidence and speed.

  14. hays33d (@hays33d) said on 24th March 2012, 16:41

    There is a lot of Massa bashing going on and after last week, a lot of it is justified. But after this qualifying, it seems to me to be piling on a bit. Look at the times. Massa was behind Alonso 0.165 seconds. Compare that to Rosberg who was behind Schumacher by 0.273 seconds. Button is behind Hamilton 0.149. That is really comparable in my opinion.

    Alonso has always out qualified Massa. That time difference is not that great. The reason it looks so much worse is that this year the cars are very packed in time. So it is easy to be many places down compared to your teammate.

    The real bashing should be reserved for the Ferrari team this year, in my opinion. We’ll see how it goes in the race. But right now, “Massa looking pathetic in qualifying” as I’ve seen is a bit overblown.

    • Horacio said on 24th March 2012, 23:06

      I agree 100% with this.

      • Aussie Fan said on 25th March 2012, 0:27

        in the same session the difference was actually 4 tenths, you are comparing Massa’s Q2 time to Alonso’s Q3. At the same time on the same track it was still 4 tenths not 2.

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