Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Sebastian Vettel took pole position in the qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel took pole position in the qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Formula One: Sebastian Vettel beats Ferrari pair to take pole in Malaysia

The three-time world champion holds off Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso to take top spot on the grid in his Red Bull Racing car, writes Gary Meenaghan.

SEPANG // Sebastian Vettel snared his second successive pole position of the season on Saturday, but the action immediately behind him between the two Ferraris may yet prove the most engrossing battle at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Red Bull Racing’s three-time world champion proved almost a second quicker than the rest of the field in wet conditions at Sepang as he claimed his 48th career pole.

As the German discovered last week in Australia, however, how he manages his strategy is likely to prove more important than his raw race pace.

When the lights go out this afternoon, Vettel will start alongside Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian, so often labelled beleaguered, is blossoming this year with an early season car that he feels comfortable and confident driving.

The 31 year old out-qualified Fernando Alonso, his teammate, for the fourth successive race.

“I feel very happy, very comfortable driving the car,” said Massa, who is without a race win since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.

“I like the car that we have this year much more compared to the car we had last year.

“I think I understand a lot more the direction for the set-up and everything.”

Massa struggled for much of last year, but finished the season strongly, finishing on the podium twice in the final six races.

His potential, however, was limited as Alonso chased race victories and in Korea the Brazilian was ordered to back off his teammate, despite being in a quicker car.

A month later in Austin, Texas, Ferrari deliberately broke the seal on Massa’s engine to incur a grid penalty that moved Alonso up the starting order.

“It was really clear that I was not comfortable last year and the year before, so many things around the car, bad luck, around myself as well,” Massa said.

“There were so many things that were not working in the proper direction, but now they are and I know how quick I can be. I’ve showed that many times in the past.”

Massa came within seconds of winning the world title in 2008, but Alonso has been the indisputable No 1 driver at the Italian manufacturers since joining from Renault in 2010.

Massa’s much-improved performances will test the two teammates’ relationship and could potentially provide Ferrari with a headache.

When Massa was asked about coming out on top in recent qualifying session head-to-heads, Alonso stared straight ahead with a slim smile.

The Spaniard looked set to start on pole here after setting the fastest time on his final lap of qualifying, but Vettel immediately usurped it and Massa, last over the line, bumped his teammate down one more place by clocking a lap 0.14 second quicker.

The two-time world champion said the added in-team competition is nothing new.

“I’ve been racing 27 years now in motor racing – I’m getting old – so it’s not the first time that we have very close competition,” Alonso, also 31, said, adding that Massa had struggled the past three seasons with “bad luck, some incidents and some mechanical problems”.

“This year it is maybe a little bit closer and for sure the last two races we are behind on the grid, but so far on Saturday there are no points, so we need to keep working for Sunday.

“We will push each other to our own limits and this is good news for the team.”

Vettel, whose relationship with his older, more experienced teammate Mark Webber is so often the focus of scrutiny, is remaining cautious today after failing to convert pole into a victory last week in Melbourne.

The 25 year old is acutely aware of the dangers of Pirelli’s quick-wearing tyres and knows managing his rubbers and pit stops will be the pivotal factor if he is to secure his first win since India last October.

“Managing the tyres will be crucial and then we go from there,” he said.

“We have to go with the conditions and fortunately they’re not in our hands. It’s very exciting for us, finding the right lap to make the call to come in or stay out.

“We’ve seen in the past that sometimes you are just on the spot, sometimes you are not, so it can make a big difference to the race.”

Kimi Raikkonen, who secured a surprise win at Albert Park last week after running a perfect tyre strategy, will start from 10th after being given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Mercedes-GP’s Nico Rosberg.

“I don’t think we could have found much more time in the wet,” Lotus’s Finnish driver said.

“For sure, I wanted more, but it is what it is and I hope we’ll do better in the race. It’s obviously disappointing to lose three places on the grid, but we’ll have to see what happens.”


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE & Gary Meenaghan @GMeenaghan

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

comment Paul Freelend

Benching sends right message the wrong way

Let there be no doubt how much Matt Williams values hustle.

The Washington Nationals manager made the biggest move of his 18-game tenure on Saturday, benching rising star Bryce Harper for his “lack of hustle”. Harper appeared to run with less-than-maximum effort after tapping to the pitcher in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to St Louis.

It should be noted, however, that Harper had returned just two days earlier from a quadriceps injury and stood little chance of reaching base safely, even at top speed. Williams’s decision ultimately came back to hurt Washington as Harper’s replacement grounded out in the bottom of the ninth with the tying runs in scoring position. The manager still laid the blame on Harper for not being available, saying: “That’s a shame for his teammates.”

 Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho, second from right, holds back assistant coach Rui Faria, centre, after he was sent off by referee Mike Dean, left, during their Premier League match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London. Philip Brown / Reuters

Angry Jose Mourinho mocks referees for ‘fantastic performance’ after Chelsea defeat

Manager targets Mike Dean, who awarded the 82nd-minute penalty from which Fabio Borini scored the winning goal for Sunderland.

 Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Sterling and Suarez inpire Liverpool to win over Norwich City

The win takes the Premier League table-toppers to 80 points from 35 games.

 Jack Wilshere has endured several injury setbacks since breaking into the Arsenal first team as the club’s youngest league debutant at the age of 16 years and 256 days when coming on against Blackburn at Ewood Park in September 2008. Michael Regan / Getty Images

Arsene Wenger backs Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere to be ‘polished’ for World Cup

England midfielder on schedule to be available next month – in time for the FA Cup final against Hull on May 17.

 Michelle Wie’s other two LPGA titles also came in North America, at the 2009 Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico and at Canadian Women’s Open in August of 2010. Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Michelle Wie’s win snaps LPGA title drought

The American, who erased a four-shot deficit to win with a 14-under par total of 274, wins her third career LPGA crown.

 Bayern Munich may be winning games but they are clearly below their best, which is worrying their manager Pep Guardiola, right. Peter Steffen / EPA

‘Black beasts’ Bayern need to step up in Madrid, Guardiola says

Manager worries that Bundesliga and European champions are not playing – or winning – convincingly of late.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National