World champion Lewis Hamilton seized a dominant pole position in qualifying for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix. The British Mercedes driver's storming lap was almost the fastest ever at the Sepang circuit.
Hamilton lapped the 5.5-kilometre track in a stunning one minute 32.850, less than half a second off the quickest lap set by Fernando Alonso in 2005 during the V10-engine era.
He became only the second driver after German Michael Schumacher (116) to secure 100 appearances on the front row.
“Just a huge thank you to the team who continue through the whole year to improve,” Hamilton, chasing his 50th career win, told reporters.
“Great work done coming into this weekend… today the car felt fantastic. I really enjoyed the lap. (But) could’ve been faster,” he added.
The pole was the 57th of Hamilton’s career and eighth of the season. It was also his Mercedes team’s 51st pole from 54 races. The German squad have started all but one race from pole this year.
Hamilton’s championship-leading team mate Nico Rosberg will start alongside him in second after a scrappy lap that was 0.414 seconds off Hamilton’s mark and only slightly faster than Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who was third quickest for Red Bull.
German Rosberg, who has an eight-point advantage over Hamilton in the overall standings, could not match his team mate, making mistakes at the final corner.
“Lewis’s lap was very quick so it was always going to be difficult,” he said. “I would’ve come close but unfortunately I had a mistake in the last corner. Something just wasn’t going right in the last corner,” added the 31-year-old.
Hamilton heads into Sunday’s race chasing his 50th career win and hoping to end Rosberg’s streak of three wins from the last three races. Mercedes, meanwhile, look set to clinch their third straight constructors’ title.