F1 ti­tle race heats up

Hamil­ton re­sponds to Ros­berg’s charge with pole in Malaysia

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

L ewis Hamil­ton hopes to de­liver an em­pathic re­sponse to cham­pi­onship ri­val Nico Ros­berg by claim­ing vic­tory in to­day’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

The reign­ing world cham­pion was out­classed by Ros­berg in Sin­ga­pore two weeks ago as he fell eight points adrift of his Mercedes team­mates.

How­ever, af­ter storm­ing to pole po­si­tion yes­ter­day, Hamil­ton hopes that he can bring an end to Ros­berg’s run of three suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries.

“This has been a night and day dif­fer­ence to the week­end I had in Sin­ga­pore,” said Hamil­ton, who fin­ished half-a-sec­ond clear of Ros­berg in qual­i­fy­ing. “The me­chan­ics have been great lead­ing up to Malaysia, as they have been all sea­son, and the car felt fan­tas­tic.

“I don’t feel any­thing is go­ing to stop us win­ning. As a team we have great pace and if you look at the last race, we had pretty good starts and we con­tin­u­ously work on that.

“I’m think­ing of get­ting a launch off the grid and the car feels re­ally good on the long runs.”

Mo­men­tum had ap­peared to be firmly on Ros­berg’s side af­ter his vic­tory in Sin­ga­pore, but the Ger­man will have to find a way past Hamil­ton to ex­tend his cham­pi­onship ad­van­tage. Still, Ros­berg feels he can make it four wins on the bounce in Malaysia. “Sec­ond place doesn’t mean vic­tory is not pos­si­ble, we have seen that many times,” Ros­berg said af­ter qual­i­fy­ing. “I am still op­ti­mistic for the race. “As we saw last year qual­i­fy­ing is not de­ci­sive, there are go­ing to be a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. The start, def­i­nitely, and af­ter that with race pace and strat­egy.” Start­ing be­hind the Mercedes duo will be Max Ver­stap­pen and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo who claimed third and fourth place re­spec­tively. How­ever, Ver­stap­pen feels it will be dif­fi­cult to chal­lenge the dom­i­nance of the Mercedes pair.

“This week­end there has been pos­i­tive changes af­ter Sin­ga­pore. Long race pace is promis­ing, we needed to im­prove the short work and we did that,” said the Dutch­man. “But I don’t know if we can beat them.”

Red Bull boss Chris­tian Horner was more pos­i­tive about his team’s chances af­ter be­ing sur­prised to see his driv­ers qual­ify ahead of Fer­rari.

“We didn’t ex­pect that,” Horner said of get­ting ahead of both Fer­raris.

“Hope­fully we will be able to give Mercedes a race.”

The Fer­rari pair of Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Kimi Raikko­nen will start on the third row of the grid, while Fer­nando Alonso will start at the very back af­ter serv­ing a 45-place grid penalty fol­low­ing a raft of up­dates to his Honda en­gine.

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