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Lewis Hamilton claims pole in Malaysia despite torrential downpour

Sepang: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took pole position for today’s Malaysian Grand Prix in tricky conditions despite a thunderstorm that threatened to rain on Mercedes’ parade. 

Hamilton lapped the 5.543 kilometer-long Sepang circuit in one minute 49.834 seconds, edging Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just 0.074 seconds to take his 40th career pole.

Lewis Hamilton drives during the final practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton drives during the final practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images 

Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg could only manage third with the German struggling in the damp conditions and setting a time nearly half a second off the Briton’s benchmark.

“I think the first lap was quite good,” Hamilton said after the session.

Unknown conditions
“It’s always difficult when you go out — and none of us have driven this weekend in the wet — so the first lap is always just an unknown.

“You don’t take too much risk so that you get the lap, you need a banker. My lap was going pretty good, I was pushing and then the next one was up at one stage and then just lost a little bit on the back…,” Hamilton said.

Vettel’s strong second place ended Mercedes’ run of nine straight front-row lockouts and raised hopes that the four-time world champion could challenge for his first Ferrari win.

“You never know, just look outside,” said Vettel when asked what he can do from second on the grid.

“When it starts to rain here it can mix up things. The car felt good both in the dry and in the damp or wet conditions in the end, so reasonably happy. The long runs looked good on practice day so we should be in good shape,” Vettel said.

Kimi Raikkonen was one of the casualties of the fickle weather, failing to make it through to the top-ten shootout.

Raikkonen to start 11th
The Ferrari driver was caught out by traffic on a crowded track as all the remaining runners streamed out to make the most of the dry weather before the rain moved in in the opening minutes of the second session. He starts today’s race eleventh.

McLaren continued to struggle near the back of the field and could once again start on the back row of the grid.

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