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Hamilton, McLaren Stay Perfect On F1 Qualifying Days

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 24 2012

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Lewis Hamilton bagged his second pole of the 2012 FIA Formula One season Saturday, leading the second consecutive front-row sweep for Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes heading into the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s best time of 1 minute, 36.219-seconds was 0.149-seconds quicker around the 3.443-mile Sepang International Circuit than teammate Jenson Button, the 2009 World Driving Champion who won last weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix after qualifying second.

On Saturday, Button edged-out Michael Schumacher, the seven-time World Champion, who nevertheless posted his finest qualifying effort for Mercedes GP since returning to F1 in 2010 after a three-year retirement.

Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing/Renault will start fourth, just ahead of two-time/reigning World Champion and teammate Sebastian Vettel. Winner of this race the last two years, Vettel rallied to a second-place finish in Melbourne.

“There will be a lot of strategy options. The key is looking after your tires,” said Hamilton, the 2008 World Champion who finished third in Australia. “It’s been a good weekend so far. I don’t know if it’s (pole) definitely the best place to start – it’s a long haul down to Turn 1. Hopefully we’ll have a car that’s in a better position for the race (than in Melbourne), and I look forward to that.”

Button beat Hamilton into the first corner in Australia and dominated en route to his 13th career victory. Button scored 25 points to lead the Driver’s Championship, followed by Vettel with 18, Hamilton (15), Webber (12) and Fernando Alonso (10).

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen initially qualified fifth in his Lotus/Renault but will start 10th after incurring a penalty. Raikkonen, the 2007 World Champion who last competed in F1 in 2009 before heading off to the World Rally wars, was forced into a gearbox change after his team discovered the unit had been damaged in Australia.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Alonso, a two-time World Champion, will start eighth, followed by Sauber/Ferrari’s Sergio Perez and Raikkonen.

The 2012 schedule includes the inaugural F1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, a $300-million facility under construction outside Austin, Texas, and set for Nov. 16-18.

SPEED’s live coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix in the USA is set for Sunday at 3:30 a.m. (EDT).

Malaysian Grand Prix starting grid, with position, car number, driver, country, chassis/engine and time:

(4) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, McLaren/Mercedes, 1 minute, 36:219-seconds

(3) Jenson Button, Great Britain, McLaren/Mercedes, 1:36.368

(7) Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes GP, 1:36.391

(2) Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull Racing/Renault, 1:36.461

(1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull Racing/Renault, 1:36.634

(10) Roman Grosjean, Switzerland, Lotus/Renault, 1:36.658

(8) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes GP, 1:36.664

(5) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, 1:37.566

(15) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sauber/Ferrari, 1:37.698

(9) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Lotus/Renault, 1:36.46

(18) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams/Renault, 1:37.589

(6) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Scuderia Ferrari, 1:37.731

(19) Bruno Senna, Brazil, Williams/Renault, 1:37.841

(11) Paul di Resta, Great Britain, Force India/Mercedes, 1:37.877

(16) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, 1:37.883

(12) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Force India/Mercedes, 1:37.890

(14) Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber/Ferrari, 1:38.069

(17) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, 1:39.077

(21) Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Caterham/Renault, 1:39.567

(24) Timo Glock, Germany, Marussia/Cosworth, 1:40.903

(25) Charles Pic, France, Marussia/Cosworth, 1:41.250

(22) Pedro de la Rosa, Spain, HRT/Cosworth, 1:42.914

(23) Narain Karthikeyan, India, HRT/Cosworth, 1:43.655

(20) Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Caterham/Renault, 1:39.306

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 24 2012
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