SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton can sleep easy on Saturday night after mastering his car’s temperamental nature to seize pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The German team have struggled all weekend with what Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on Saturday described as a ‘capricious’ car.
Triple champion Hamilton, however, pulled out all the stops when it really mattered to beat Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to the top spot by a narrow margin with an inspired display of speed that his bosses said had made all the difference.
“I didn’t sleep very well because we didn’t know whether we would fix the issue or not,” said Hamilton after clinching a landmark 70th career pole.
“It’s always a special thing to be able to extract a little bit more out of the car than it’s particularly willing to go.
“That’s what I’ve always enjoyed... my first go-kart was fifth-hand or something like that, and (my dad) would say it was like a four-poster bed.
“Not that my car was a four-poster bed today,” the Briton added.
Hamilton’s ninth pole this season and fifth in Malaysia also leaves him ideally placed to make another huge stride towards a fourth title, with Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel having to line up last on Sunday after failing to set a time.
Power unit problems forced the German, who trails Hamilton by 28 points in the championship after crashing out on the opening lap of the last race in Singapore, back into the pits while he was on his first flying lap.
Hamilton, who retired from a dominant lead with a blown engine in Malaysia last year which eventually cost him the title, capitalised on Vettel’s misfortune to take victory in Singapore.
Even with Vettel starting at the back, Hamilton will have his work cut out on Sunday with Raikkonen’s Ferrari starting alongside him and the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo on the second row.
Malaysia’s fickle weather could throw another twist into the mix.
“We still have a tough race ahead of us,” said Hamilton. “It will just unfold the way it unfolds.”
Editing by Clare Fallon