Date: 23rd March 2013 at 10:00am
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Sebastian Vettel has stormed to his 38th career pole position for Sunday?s Malaysian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel has stormed to his 38th career pole position for Sunday?s Malaysian Grand Prix, after rain struck the latter half of the all-important qualifying hour. The German will start the race alongside the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, with a second row consisting of Fernando Alonso and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

After three practice sessions of inconclusive results with regards to the true pecking order, the all-important qualifying hour got underway with dark rain clouds looming ominously in the distance. Max Chilton was the first driver to take to the track for Marussia, as the Briton set the initial pace along with his team-mate Jules Bianchi. However, the Marussia?s early pace at the front was quickly thwarted by the Williams of Valtteri Bottas who set a 01:38.376.

Nico Rosberg became the next driver to rise to the top for Mercedes, as the Red Bull duo elected to remain in the pits during the early stages of the session. Eventually both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel left the pit-lane, electing to run the medium tyre compound. Adrian Sutil continued to impress many throughout the paddock by rising to the top with a 01:36.809, whereas Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber confused many by a considerable lack of pace. Luckily the duo managed to progress to Q2, however both Jean-Eric Vergne, Valtteri Bottas, Jules Bianchi, Charles Pic, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde were eliminated.

Paul di Resta was the first driver to take to the track for Q2, however the Scotsman decided to abort his first timed lap as Esteban Gutierrez set the pace with a 01:39.221. Adrian Sutil was quick to once again rise to the top for Force India, before Nico Rosberg once again asserted his authority over proceedings with a 01:36.190. As Q2 continued, light rain began to fall around Turns 7 and 8, catching out Paul di Resta on several occasions as the Briton struggled in the inclement conditions.

As the rain intensified, it became clear that the drivers within the drop zone would be unable to progress through to Q3. This therefore saw qualifying come to a wet and quiet conclusion, as Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Gutierrez, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado were all eliminated and dealt a major blow by the inclement weather which seemed to sweep across the circuit without much warning. In the short period between Q2 and Q3, the rain continued to lash down upon the Sepang International Circuit, forcing the entire field to take to the track with the intermediate tyre compound once the top ten shootout began.

Force India?s Adrian Sutil led out a long queue of awaiting drivers once the session got underway, as the German driver set the early benchmark. However, as the drivers crossed the line the time at the top tumbled immensely as Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and then Sebastian Vettel rose to the top. The latter set a 01:52.576 for Red Bull, before his team-mate of Mark Webber thwarted him with an even quicker time. The Australian driver managed to improve upon his time at the top, as Sebastian Vettel elected to pit for a fresh set of the intermediate tyre.

Lewis Hamilton managed to momentarily rise to provisional pole position for Mercedes with a 01:51.699, however the reigning World Champion of Sebastian Vettel soon reasserted his authority over proceedings with a sensational 01:49.674. Felipe Massa managed to out-qualify team-mate Fernando Alonso in 2nd, with a second row which consists of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

The rain was always a threat for qualifying, and remains so for the 56-lap Malaysian Grand Prix. With tyre degradation levels extremely high, and rain a threat once again for the race, expect the Malaysian Grand Prix to be an absolutely thrilling spectacle as the 22-car field strives to manage their tyres well as the rain poses a strong threat.

Author: Andy Young

TWITTER: @AndyYoungF1


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