Hamilton claims Sepang pole, luckless Vettel to start from back of grid

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Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a dream qualifying session at the Malaysian Grand Prix, taking pole position as main championship rival Sebastian Vettel failed to set a time in Sepang owing to an engine issue.

Vettel, whose retirement in Singapore last time out left him 28 points behind Hamilton in the standings, was unable to complete a lap in Q1 on Saturday and will therefore start from the back of the grid.

To make matters worse for Vettel, Hamilton took full advantage of the Ferrari driver's misfortune by claiming his fifth pole in Malaysia - matching the record of Michael Schumacher.

A lap of one minute and 30.076 seconds put the Mercedes man at the head of the grid, with neither Hamilton nor Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen able to improve on that time in their final laps.

Raikkonen looked likely to snatch pole away from Hamilton at the end of the session, but a small lock-up at the final corner proved costly as the Finn missed out on top spot by 0.045secs.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo filled the second row, with Valtteri Bottas fifth in the second Mercedes.

After Vettel initially suffered problems during Saturday's practice session, Ferrari's mechanics completed a speedy engine change with minutes to spare before the start of qualifying.

However, the four-time world champion reported further issues when he took to the track for Q1 and he swiftly returned to the pits before his involvement in the session was brought to a premature end.

Ferrari will at least be able to add new engine components to Vettel's car ahead of Sunday's race, with grid penalties no longer an issue given he is already at the back of the field.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:30.076
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:30.121
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:30.541
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:30.595
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:30.758
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) 1:31.478
7. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) 1:31.582
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) 1:31.607
9. Sergio Perez (Force India) 1:31.658
10. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 1:31.704

20. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) No time