Another blow for Vettel – he'll start last in Malaysia, Hamilton on pole
The Ferrari driver suffered engine problems at the Sepang circuit while the Mercedes man delivered a stellar lap.
Having led the world championship for much of the season, Sebastian Vettel's chances of a fifth world title have now taken a second major blow in as many weeks.
First came the Singapore Grand Prix, where he crashed at the start while title rival Lewis Hamilton scored maximum points.
Many felt Seb was at least partly to blame for that incident, but today he suffered a misfortune that was entirely out of his hands. His session ended without setting a lap time, while Lewis went on to secure his 70th career pole.
Vettel was favourite for top spot in qualifying, but Ferrari found a suspected electrical problem during final practice and elected to rebuild his powerunit.
Seb spent most of Q1 in the garage. Pic: Sutton Images
Vettel was on the track early in Q1, but problems quickly reared their head. "It feels like I have no turbo," he reported to his team, before limping back to the pits. Listening to the engine, it was clear that all was not well.
The team attempted to send the German's car back out for the dying minutes of qualifying, getting as far as pulling the tyre warmers off, but eventually decided he could not run again.
With Vettel out of contention his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen became favourite for pole.
But it was Hamilton who snatched P1 with a magnificent, inch-perfect lap in Q3. Kimi retaliated but missed out on pole by a minuscule 0.045 seconds. Birthday boy Max Verstappen was third, edging out the other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, with Mercedes rear-gunner Valtteri Bottas completing the top five.
There were also strong showings for Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne, who beat their more experienced teammates to secure sixth and seventh.
Image via @F1 on Twitter
With no grid penalties issued yet Vettel is currently slated to start tomorrow's race from last position. That could change, but he's unlikely to move forward by more than a few places.
Sepang does allow passing and Ferrari can now change further engine parts, but Seb clearly has a job on his hands tomorrow. If Hamilton's car runs cleanly there is almost no hope of Seb beating his title rival, with only Raikkonen seeming to pose a threat to the Brit.
The top three starters for tomorrow's race. Pic: Sutton Images
It's a major blow for the title battle, but we could be in for a belting race. Kimi will need to take it to Lewis out front, while Seb is sure to carve through the pack. Keep up to speed with it all and have your say in our live F1 chat.