The reigning world champion waited until the very last second of Q3 to grab 1st place in the timing reports, stealing that position from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. The British driver had set a quick lap early on (1:35.000) and improved it only seconds before the session was over to 1:34.974, but his rival from Red Bull denied him first place on the grid with a superb last effort, stopping the clock at 1:34.870.
As in Australia, the second row of the Malaysian GP grid will also be a Red Bull vs McLaren affair, with Mark Webber and Jenson Button, who had previously topped Q2, taking 3rd and 4th, respectively.
The similarities to the Australian grid continue until 5th place, where Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso once more proved “the best of the rest”, while Nick Heidfeld finally managed to shut some critics up with a fine 6th place. Felipe Massa, winner of Q3 on Saturday, was only able to set the 7th best time in the last minute of action, ahead of Australia’s podium scorer Vitaly Petrov (Renault).
Finally, the Top 10 was completed by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi.
Michael Schumacher failed to make the last part of qualifying and had to settle for 11th place, ahead of STR duo Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, Force India’s Paul di Resta, Williams’ Rubens Barrichello, Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Force India’s Adrian Sutil.
Finally, failing to make it past the Q1 was Williams’ rookie Pastor Maldonado, who will start the Sunday race from 18th place, ahead of the two Team Lotus cars run by Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli and Virgin’s duo Timo Glock and Jerome D’Ambrosio.
Good news is that the F1 field in Sepang will be comprised on Sunday of 24 cars, as both Hispania racers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan made the 107 percent window in Q1 and secured 23rd and 24th places, respectively, on the grid.