Felipe Massa has taken pole position for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix at the humid Sepang circuit. The Brazilian has been looking pretty handy around the track all weekend and finally brushed off advances from team mate Kimi Raikkonen with a stunning final lap that saw him clear both McLaren’s as well. The Woking-based team are not enjoying this circuit as much as Albert Park, but Heikki Kovalainen lines up third with Lewis Hamilton in fourth.
The first phase of qualifying saw an early exit for both Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, both Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams and Sebastien Bourdais’s STR. Impressively, Fisichella was able to run much of the first phase within the top 16, but a string of fast laps from his rivals at the end pushed the Italian out of the running. Nakajima and team mate Nico Rosberg didn’t enjoy qualifying, Rosberg just making the Q2 grade and finally finishing in sixteenth, but Nakajima having to settle for eighteenth.
Q2 proved more interesting if only for the weather. It seems as though the chances of rain are still high in Malaysia at the moment, and while the circuit escaped a deluge during qualifying, it did start to rain a little afterwards. The threat of rain saw most drivers putting in banker laps at the start of Q2, just in case the circuit became damp later in the session. Sebastian Vettel managed to go well again, highlighting his talent in the sister STR and qualifying in fifteenth.
David Coulthard didn’t do so well and ended up in twelfth, although the Scot is probably happy to be out of the car at the moment. Nelson Piquet Jr appears to have improved his form a little and went into P13 while Jenson Button just missed out on Q1 and slots into eleventh.
The third and final phase of qualifying saw both McLaren’s queued at the end of the pitlane waiting for the green light. Heikki Kovalainen was ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton, the current championship leader being forced to eventually back-off and create some space in the ten-minute session.
Again, both Toyota’s made it into Q3, Timo Glock wisely settling for tenth and Jarno Trulli proving himself best of the rest in fifth. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if one-lap-master Trulli came into the pits early tomorrow. Mark Webber also made it into Q3, but kept his head down and went P8, ahead of similarly-powered Fernando Alonso in ninth.
Sixth and seventh went to the BMW’s who didn’t appear to be as comfortable as they were in Australia last weekend. Although the final grid positions is great for the Swiss-German team, both drivers appeared to struggle at times. Nick Heidfeld’s final run was severely compromised by other drivers on the circuit and it is expected for BMW to complain to the stewards. I’ll update as necessary during the day.