World championship leader Lewis Hamilton hailed an amazing turnaround Saturday , after taking pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix with title rival Sebastian Vettel condemned to the back of the grid.

The championship leader set a lap of one minute 30.076, the fastest ever around the 5.5 kilometre-long Sepang track, to beat Kimi Raikkonen by 0.045 seconds at the end of a hard-fought session.

Hamilton had been off the pace all weekend in practice. “We had no idea what was going to happen today,” said Hamilton, who had endured a torrid Friday as his Mercedes took a dislike to an aerodynamic upgrade package and he finished sixth in both practice sessions.

Max Verstappen, celebrating his 20th birthday, was third.

Raikkonen, who had topped Saturdays final practice session, ended up as Ferraris best hope for pole, with Vettel limping back to the pits with engine problems at the end of his first lap out of the pits without having set a time.

Saturdays pole was the 70th of Hamilton’s career and fifth in Malaysia, which is hosting its last race on Sunday.

Trailing Hamilton by 28 points,Vettel’s world championship hopes suffered a huge blow when he lost drive leaving his Ferrari without a completed lap in first qualifying.He will start at the back of the grid despite being consistently quickest during practice.

Hamilton will not have to win another race if he triumphs on Sunday and Vettel finishes lower than second.


Driver Standings – F1

Pos. Driver Team W Pts
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 7 263
2 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari 4 235
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 2 212
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1 162
5 Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari 0 138
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 0 68
7 Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India F1 Team 0 68
8 Esteban Ocon Sahara Force India F1 Team 0 56
9 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Toro Rosso 0 48
10 Nico Hülkenberg Renault Sport Formula One Team 0 34
11 Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing 0 31
12 Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing 0 28
13 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team 0 26
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 0 11
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 0 10
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport Formula One Team 0 8
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 0 7
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber F1 Team 0 5
19 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 0 4
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team 0 0
21 Antonio Giovinazzi Haas F1 Team 0 0
22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 0 0
23 Paul Di Resta Williams Martini Racing 0 0