Saturday 18 November 2017

F1: Webber's tyre choice wins pole

Gary Rose

Mark Webber is keen to make amends for a frustrating race in Australia last weekend after securing pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Heavy rain before and during qualifying threw up a number of surprises with both the McLarens and Ferraris crashing out of the first phase after delaying their decision to head onto the circuit.

A deluge then caused Q3 to be delayed but when qualifying was resumed, Webber was the only driver to switch from wet-weather tyres to intermediates. The 33-year-old quickly became the fastest on the circuit and his time of one minute 49.327 seconds was 1.3 seconds faster than the rest of the pack.

Webber finished ninth in his home race last weekend after qualifying second and he is eager to make up for that disappointment today. "It was tricky today," he said. "When you look at the amount of standing water there was in places during Q1 and Q2, trying to get everything right and a clear lap was difficult, especially as there is a fair difference in pace between some of the cars.

"A few big names went out in the first session, which was a surprise, but it just goes to show how sensitive everything is to timing. We know Sundays we haven't executed the cleanest races this year.

"The guys have worked like hell in Milton Keynes and Viry, we are doing our utmost to execute those Sundays. We are not getting ahead of ourselves but we did what we had to do today."

Webber dedicated the result to his engineer Ciaron Pilbeam after the two had conferred to make the decision to switch tyres. "I said, 'have a look at the track, what do you think?' and he said, 'yeah let's go for it'. It was tricky in places, in the last corner there was a bit of aquaplaning, but I kept it on the black stuff and got the job done," he added.

Team principal Tony Fernandes struggled to find the words to describe his feelings after Heikki Kovalainen took Lotus into the second phase of qualifying in Malaysia for the first time this season.

Kovalainen will line up in 15th on the grid in the team's home grand prix today, while traffic on the circuit denied Jarno Trulli from potentially joining his team-mate in Q2 as the Italian had to settle for 18th.

Sunday Independent

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