It’s time for a team-by-team look at today’s qualifying session at Sepang, complete with oh-so-fun trivia questions for each of F1’s 12 outfits. Play along by submitting your answers in the comments box below, if you’re so inclined.
Red Bull took the pole position everyone expected of them, but it was far less comfortable than had been anticipated ahead of qualifying. Webber struggled in Q1, ending up worryingly close to the drop zone, whilst Vettel didn’t show his true pace until the final session. When he did however it was mega, the reigning world champion producing a lap of undeniable brilliance to snatch top spot from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Is Seb’s ability to get the job done starting to remind anyone else of a now-faded German driver who dominated Formula One a decade ago?
Webber meanwhile remained in the fight for pole to the last but never quite matched his team-mate. He’ll line up third, the perfect position to exact revenge on Vettel for his taking the lead from the same position at last year’s race. It’s going to be exciting when the green lights go out tomorrow.
Trivia: How many pole positions has Sebastian Vettel now scored in Formula One?
Hats off to McLaren, who have done a superb job to be right with Red Bull following a supposedly disastrous winter. Jenson Button was particularly impressive in Q2, lapping well quicker than his rivals. It’s a shame for the 2009 champ that this doesn’t decide the grid. Lewis Hamilton was right there with him and then seized the initiative in the pole position shootout, taking the fight to the Red Bulls and looking entirely capable of claiming a shock pole. He was beaten by a great lap from Vettel, but nevertheless deserves as much praise as his German rival. Button starts fourth, alongside the second Red Bull of Webber.
Trivia: Who was the last McLaren driver to win the Malaysian Grand Prix?
Panic stations at the Scuderia. By their own admission the Prancing Horse is in ‘damage limitation’ mode, which conjurs up the image of an angry steed kicking out at anyone foolish enough to come near it. Well, it would if this car had any legs. Zing!
In difficult circumstances Fernando Alonso is always going to have the advantage of Felipe Massa – fact – the Spaniard ending up four-tenths and two places ahead of his Brazilian stablemate. Today’s horse references are in keeping with the fact that famed British horse race the Grand National takes place this afternoon, but at the moment ‘lame duck’ seems the more appropriate comparison for the Italian team.
Trivia: Where did Ferrari’s cars qualify at the inaugural Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999?
A near-carbon copy of Melbourne for Mercedes, as Michael Schumacher narrowly missed out on Q3 to qualify 11th whilst Nico Rosberg snuck through to the final session where he took ninth on the grid. The Merc seems to have slipped to fifth in terms of overall pace, and a trying day lies ahead tomorrow, unless weather conditions bring the race towards them. And, honestly, that’s about it.
Trivia: Between them, how many times have the Mercedes drivers started on the front row at Sepang?
After a disastrous Q1 knockout in Australia Nick Heidfeld returned to his normal, reliable sef in today’s session. One lap in Q2 was enough to put both him and team-mate Vitaly Petrov through to the final ten, and there Quick Nick was the best of the best of the pair with the sixth fastest time, two places ahead of the Russian. The car is working nicely (when the suspension isn’t letting go at high speed) and Petrov showed at Albert Park that it has good race pace. They’ll be hoping for a double points finish tomorrow and, if things get as wild as is being predicted, may fancy sneaking a second successive podium.
Trivia: When did Renault last achieve successive podium finishes?
A poor showing from Williams. They were on the bubble from the word go, with Maldonado and Barrichello both looking vulnerable in Q1. The Brazilian completed his final lap first and remained close to the knockout zone giving Maldonado a tremendous opportunity to get one over on his team-mate. He missed it – whilst also missing his apex at the final corner by several miles – and became the obligatory big gun to fall in the first session. Rubens soldiered on to take a lowly 15th on the grid. After impressing in practice this was a step in the wrong direction, and improvement is needed fast.
Trivia: Before Pastor Maldonado, who was the last Venezuelan to race in Formula One?
Paul di Resta is quickly making a name for himself at Force India, out-qualifying Adrian Sutil for the second successive race. Is Paul mega or could it simply be that Sutil isn’t all that good? Or a bit of both? That’s not really important, yet.
Adrian starts tomorrows race 17th, Paul 14th, which is exactly where we said they’d be yesterday. That, along with Red Bull being on pole was about all we got right, however. Tomorrow will be about keeping it on the road and hoping the cars in front can’t go the distance. The latest Force India isn’t anything special, but if it keeps running points are always possible.
Trivia: Who was Adrian Sutil’s team-mate for the first half of his rookie season in F1?
Kamui Kobayashi was as impressive as ever in today’s qualifying, putting the Sauber a brilliant tenth on the grid for tomorrow’s race. His reputation continues to grow at an impressive rate. Meanwhile Sergio Perez was somewhat adrift following his Australian heroics, taking 16th spot on the grid. For the Japanese driver points are a real possibility tomorrow – he’ll just have to hope the car passes scrutuineering this time.
Trivia: Who was the last Japanese driver to score an F1 podium and where did he achieve the result?
Aside from the bits of bodywork flying off one of their cars this was a pretty standard session for Torro Rosso. Buemi took 12th, Alguersuari 13th, placing them in the middle of the field. Not good, not bad, STR seem to occupy some strange F1 limbo these days, floating about in the pack without ever really achieving much or covering their racers in glory. It may be time for a change on the driver front, just to shake things up.
Trivia: How many times has a Toro Rosso finished among the points-scoring drivers at the Malaysian Grand Prix?
Close, but no cigar. Actually they weren’t that close, but Lotus do appear to be nearing their aim of breaking in to Q2 (on pace). There’s still time to be made up, but of the three new-for-210 teams they’re far and away the most competitive looking outfit. What Trulli and Kovalainen lack in flash they make up for in solid performances, the Finn in particular continuing the rebuilding of his reputation in 2011. The team would have liked a stronger showing at this, their home grand prix, but must feel their time is nearing.
Trivia: When did the original Lotus F1 team score their last pole position in the sport?
They did it! Two weeks later than planned Hispania’s F111 will make its F1 race debut tomorrow, with both Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan having qualified for the grand prix. Liuzzi delivered a really solid lap to be just 0.5s shy of d’Ambrosio’s Virgin and a full second faster than his team-mate who, after a five year absence from F1 (and not having been quick in the first place), did well enough just to join the Italian on the grid. The next target will be to finish a race and, from there, world domination. Maybe.
Trivia: Who was the last driver to fail to qualify for a race and subsequently make the field at the next grand prix? Two to choose from.
Not good. Worrying, in fact, as the faster Virgin of Timo Glock found himself a huge 1.9 seconds behind the slower Lotus of Jarno Trulli. Last year they were nip and tuck on time. In fact Hispania now find themselves closer to the Virgin cars than they did last season, with Tonio Liuzzi a mere 0.5s shy of Jerome d’Ambrosio in a car that has never been tested. You can see them slipping behind the Spanish outfit’s cars at this rate – well, Liuzzi’s anyway. Glock remains the team’s top man, beating d’Ambrosio by close to half a second.
Trivia: Where was Timo Glock running when the red flag was dropped at the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix?