LEWIS HAMILTON’s Formula One title hopes received another massive boost after taking pole position for the Malaysia Grand Prix while Sebastian Vettel will start LAST.
Hamilton, who had been struggling all weekend for pace, pulled it together at the final moment to set a blistering time to qualifying on front spot for the 70th time in his career.
And, after seeing his nearest title rival Vettel wiped out in a first lap smash in Singapore, Hamilton was given another shot in the arm when the German was forced out of qualifying with an engine problem.
Hamilton said: “We had no idea how it was going to go today and I am sorry for what happened to Seb, but my engineers have managed to turn our car around.
“We are going to have a tough battle with these other guys but I am hoping my car is moving in the right direction.
“I was a little surprised in what we have managed to do. We came here and made big changes with the car, but the lap was very nice. The first one was really good.”
It’s worth remembering that Sepang was the scene of Hamilton’s lowest moment in 2016.
It’s where he suffered a blown engine while leading the race, handing the advantage to his then team-mate Nico Rosberg, who went on to win the title.
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But this season Hamilton is enjoying a better run of luck, while now Vettel seems to be on the receiving end as his car had a turbo problem and he was eliminated at the first hurdle.
However, the four-time world champion refused to be downbeat, despite starting last and already facing a hefty 28-point deficit to the Brit in the championship.
He added: “I didn’t do much this afternoon, so not so much to feel something about. Of course it’s not good.
“But we have a good car and we would have gone all the way today, we start last and we will take it from there.
“I said to the guys in the garage, don’t worry. We have a quick car and we have saved tyres. The race is tomorrow, not today, so who knows what can happen.
“We saw two weeks ago how quickly things can turn around. We could have safety cars or rain, but the car is quick, so I am fairly relaxed,
“Overtaking here is more straight-forward but, if you have a quick car you can produce big drivers, let’s see where it can take us.”
Hamilton was pushed to the wire by Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified second ahead of birthday-boy Max Verstappen.
But it was not as simple as it seemed for Hamilton, who had an electronic issue with his Silver Arrow.
Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, said: “We had a little gremlin in our deployment mode and it was annoying, but it did not affect the car’s performance.”