Lashing rains made qualifying at the Malaysia Grand Prix a wild and wet adventure. But Mercedes' Lewish Hamilton was equal to the challenge and will start first ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in Sunday's race.
Lewis Hamilton had looked particularly quick in the early rounds of qualifying but seemed to benefit as heavy thunderstorms forced the competitors to take a half-hour break. The Englishman clocked the fastest lap of 1 minute 49.834 seconds when the cars went back on the circuit to earn the fortieth pole position of his career.
"I think the first lap was good," Hamilton told reporters. "It's always difficult in conditions like that and not one of us have driven in the wet this weekend."
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was only 0.074 seconds off Hamilton's pace and will join him in the front row.
"The nature of the track suits our car well and I expect nothing else than to be very strong tomorrow, but you never know about the conditions," Vettel said. "There is rain in the air that can hit you at the right time but also make it go all wrong, you just never know."
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was third-fastest on then day but courted more controversy when he appeared to block the English on his final lap. He'll be looking for opportunities to get the jump on Vettel.
"An important one will be the start and I'll try to get it done there," he said. "I'm confident with my starts."
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will start fourth and fifth, and the grid is rounded out by Toro Rosso's 17-year-old sensation Max Verstappen. On Sunday, the Dutchman is likely to become the youngest driver ever to take points in a Formula One race.
"I was smiling when it started to rain, because that's what I like," Verstappen said. "I'm Dutch so I'm used to driving in the wet, even though here it's a completely different story."
McLaren's Fernando Alonso returned to action after being forced to sit out the first race of the season with injuries from a crash, but could manage no better than 18th place - one spot better than teammate Jenson Button.