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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Malaysian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton takes pole as new setback for Sebastian Vettel means he will start last

Vettel fails to set a lap time in qualifying as championship leader claims his 69th career pole position in Sepang.

Lewis Hamilton will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position. Ahmad Yusni / EPA
Lewis Hamilton will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position. Ahmad Yusni / EPA

Lewis Hamilton tightened his grip on the Formula One drivers' championship as he took pole position for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix while engine problems mean his title rival Sebastian Vettel will start from the back of the grid.

Hamilton had looked off the pace throughout practice, but the Mercedes-GP was on it when it mattered most in qualifying as his lap of 1 minute, 30.076 seconds around the Sepang track earned him his 70th career pole.

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The achievement was made even sweeter by Vettel's woes, with Hamilton already leading his German rival by 28 points going into the race.

The Ferrari driver had failed to score a point in Singapore after a first corner collision with teammate Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull Racing car of Max Verstappen, and now he has 18 cars between him and Hamilton, with a loss of power on his first qualifying lap leading to the German returning to the pits from which he would not return.

Vettel's hopes now rest in the hope that teammate Raikkonen can help with the damage limitation by beating Hamilton in Sunday's 56-lap race.

The 2007 world champion was second fastest in qualifying, 0.045 seconds behind Hamilton, with the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo on the second row.

The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was fifth, with Esteban Ocon completing the top six in his Force India.

Sunday's race begins at 11am UAE time.