• Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button secure front row
• World champion Sebastian Vettel qualified sixth
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button repeated their success in Melbourne by locking out the front row for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hamilton took his 21st pole of his career – one more than rival Fernando Alonso – with Button second and Michael Schumacher third, his best grid since his return to the sport.
It’s the first time McLaren have taken pole in Malaysia and Hamilton said: “It’s been a good weekend so far. The weather has been tough but we still did some good times.
“The positioning and tyres are going to be everything tomorrow. The track temperatures and humidity will be a big factor in the race, so I don’t know how it’s going to go.”
Button is still looking for his first pole with McLaren but this was another fast drive and he said afterwards: “It was great to hear the team cheering for another 1-2.
“Tomorrow is going to be tough for the cars, the tyres and the drivers.”
Schumacher, more competitive now than in the first two years after his comeback, said: “This was the maximum that was available. We managed to work the car very well over the whole weekend. The focus was to try and find the best compromise for both [the qualifying and the race] and I guessed we have achieved this. Third here is is a very tight business so we can be more than happy and I look forward to tomorrow.”
For the second weekend in a row double world champion Sebastian Vettel was out-qualified by his team-mate Mark Webber, who will be fourth on the grid, ahead of the German who qualified sixth but will start fifth.
The Red Bulls were split by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, who led the field at one point, though he will start tenth after being hit by a five place penalty for his car’s change of gearbox
Red Bull team principle Christian Horner said “It was a good lap by Mark [Webber]. The grid is pretty close. Lewis [Hamilton] did a very, very strong lap. We’ve seen that they’re quick. Hopefully we can have a strong race. We decided to go with a different strategy with Seb [Vettel]. I think the harder tyres are more durable
The problems continued for Felipe Massa, who after finishing faster than Alonso in an earlier run was edged out of Q3 when he finished 12th.
The Williams team, who had caught the eye in Melbourne, were a disappointing 11th and 13th. And it was also a difficult afternoon for the Force India pair of Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.
Di Resta said: “I never really got on the limit on sector three. But 14th is not a bad place to start. And our race pace should be better than our qualifying pace, so we can still compete. But it’s pretty warm in the car.”