SEPANG: World champion Lewis Hamilton splashed through the puddles at a rain-soaked Sepang International Circuit to secure pole position for Mercedes in a hectic Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying session on Saturday.
The Briton, who cruised to victory from the front in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this month, battled through the traffic just to survive the final cut in Q2 and was rewarded with the 40th pole position of his career.
Hamilton clocked one minute 48.834 seconds on his first lap of Q3 and the time was fast enough to hold off all challengers, including Sebastian Vettel, who proved Ferrari`s impressive early-season form was no fluke with a solid second place.
Four-times world champion Vettel, who looks revitalised since joining the Italian outfit from Red Bull in the close season, backed up his third-place finish in Australia with a scintillating final lap to trail Hamilton by just 0.074 seconds.
The German not only broke the Mercedes stranglehold in qualifying by finishing ahead of a disappointed Nico Rosberg, but he also became the first Ferrari driver to sit on the front row since Felipe Massa at the same circuit in 2013.
Rosberg will be joined on the second row by Red Bull`s Daniel Ricciardo after a tropical downpour early in the second session forced the drivers to wait in the garage for 35 minutes before the track was safe enough to go out again.
Daniil Kvyat will start in fifth place in the other Red Bull with Toro Rosso teenager Max Verstappen joining the Russian on the third row following another impressive drive.