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Lewis Hamilton claims pole in Malaysia, ahead of Vettel, Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the second race of the Formula One season, ahead of German challengers Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg. The session in Sepang was typically wet and wild.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on Saturday drew level with British F1 great Jimmy Clark, securing his 33rd career pole position in heavy rain in Malaysia. The 2008 world champion, who also started from the front at the first race of the season in Melbourne, aborted his final attempt to improve on his own time, complaining of poor visibility over the in-car radio.

No other driver was able to crack Hamilton's earlier benchmark of 1 minute and 59.431 seconds. Sebastian Vettel, who will start alongside Hamilton on the front row of the grid on Sunday, missed his chance at a last-gasp bid for pole position. The reigning champion just failed to cross the line and start his flying lap before the clock ticked down to zero. Drivers are permitted to complete the lap they are on once time has expired. Vettel's earlier effort was less than one-hundredth of a second shy of the Briton's time.

Malaysia Motorsport Formel Eins in Sepang Nico Rosberg Training

Rosberg won from third on the grid last time out in Melbourne

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, winner last time out in Melbourne, qualified third at the Sepang International Circuit, ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso - whose car was repaired in time for the pole position shootout following a collision earlier in qualifying.

Hamilton carried the slogan "Pray for MH 370" on the visor of his helmet, with similar messages of support and condolence displayed on other cars and helmets. The lost Boeing 777 took off almost three weeks ago from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, some 10 kilometers (around 6 miles) from the circuit.

Hülkenberg fastest outside of top teams

Vettel's Red Bull running mate Daniel Ricciardo secured fifth on the grid, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in the second Ferrari and the continually impressive Nico Hülkenberg - the best-placed driver from a team other than Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen again made the top 10 shootout in the wet conditions, qualifying eighth. Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Magnussen's veteran teammate Jenson Button rounded out the top 10.

Adrian Sutil was the only German not to go the distance in qualifying; he was knocked out in the first session and holds 18th position on the provisional grid.

Delays, and debris, on slippery surface

Heavy afternoon rain, virtually an annual F1 tradition in hot and humid Sepang, delayed the start of qualifying by almost an hour and again provided challenging qualifying conditions for the drivers in Malaysia. The season-opening qualifying session in Melbourne also took place, for the most part, in wet conditions.

Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson brought an early end to the first segment of qualifying, crashing heavily with less than a minute left on the clock. In the second session, Q2, a collision between Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso newcomer Daniil Kvyat also prompted a red flag and a short delay. That incident was among those up for review by the stewards after qualifying.

Mercedes have emerged as the early-season favorites in the new F1 season, with Nico Rosberg winning the first race of the season in Melbourne. His teammate Lewis Hamilton had qualified on pole in Australia, too, but was forced to retire early in the race with engine problems.

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