Hamilton delighted with 'surprise' pole as Vettel nightmare continues

Red Bull Dominates First Practice Session at Malaysia GP

"Before qualifying I thought about going back to new package, times [in FP3] were similar and Valtteri was happy", Hamilton said. "Somehow we turned it around as the engineers did such a great job yesterday".

Max Verstappen qualified third ahead of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, while Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was fifth. It's also not the first time I've been in a situation like this and probably it will not be the last time.

"It's a real surprise to be up here with these guys, but I'm really grateful".

An inspection of the auto back in the Ferrari garage appeared to indicate only a minor issue but efforts were ultimately abandoned, leaving the German driver to start his race tomorrow from the back of the grid.

Vettel clocked a new lap record to go quickest in second practice with his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen second.

Raikkonen turns 38 later this month, but the 2007 Formula One champion has been showing admirable form recently.

"The race is tomorrow not today".

"It's a very unusual scenario - I don't remember the last time we had this kind of feeling". We were sliding quite a lot, especially in the high-speed corners, and it was the same case in the wet, so we need to find out why.

Verstappen celebrated his 20th birthday with a fine drive. "It is sad to think this is our last race at Sepang".

"I'm not really reflecting too much on the last race", he explained.

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Ferrari had swapped Vettel's engine after third practice.

One of the engine cylinder on the German's vehicle malfunctioned, which called for a power unit change in the next two hours.

Vettel was on his first lap when his engine cut out.

"The longer I put off leaving the sport, the later my - how do I say it?"

The gap between the pair is the biggest it has been all year and if Hamilton triumphs today, with Vettel lower than second, the Briton could clinch his fourth title without winning another race.

"We saved a lot of tyres, we can choose the strategy so there's lots of positives", he said.

Sharing his views was Bottas, who is now in third position with 212 points, but looking motivated to bring home glory as well as to chase Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari who is in second place.

The garages had a plethora of activities prior to Q1, Ferrari was hurrying up to get Vettel ready as he had taken a precautionary engine change, with no penalty incurred.

"We had such a hard day yesterday, it was hard to know where we stood", Hamilton said. "If the safety vehicle comes out in a moment that suits you, it could bring you back into the game". The German is 28 points behind Hamilton in the championship.

"We just have to maximize every opportunity we get", Hamilton said, offering some sympathy to Vettel. "It's very unfortunate for him".

Red Bull has been improving in recent weeks and looked strong in Singapore qualifying, placing both cars ahead of Hamilton and Bottas.

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