Malaysia GP: Lewis Hamilton's sleepless night ends in dream qualifying

A young F1 fan cheers during the last Malaysian Formula One race at the Sepang International Circuit today. Bernama

A young F1 fan cheers during the last Malaysian Formula One race at the Sepang International Circuit today. Bernama

The Japanese Grand Prix takes place on the Suzuka Circuit.

Hamilton proved particularly popular with a group of Japanese schoolchildren, all clamouring for a picture with the Stevenage-born racer. Of course Lewis is fighting for the championship as well, we all know that. He has been on a roll, winning four of the last five F1 races.

There are five races left on the calendar, with Japan followed by races in USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Lewis Hamilton leads the championship by 34 points as his rivalry with Sebastian Vettel intensifies, but whose side are the omens on? I talked to people up and down the paddock, different engineers and the people from Pirelli, and nobody is able to give a clear answer as to why the Mercedes were not competitive and certainly less consistent than we've seen in the past.

"I want to win this thing", he told reporters in Suzuka.

Ferrari have been quicker than Mercedes in the past two races but both their cars crashed out together at the first corner in Singapore and Vettel finished fourth in Malaysia after starting from the back because of an engine problem.

Saturday's pole was the 70th of Hamilton's career and fifth in Malaysia, which is hosting its last F1 race on Sunday.

He said: "You can never predict how the rest of the season will go but we keep improving the vehicle and it is looking positive".

Practice in Malaysia was going well for the four-time champion until engine trouble cropped up at the worst of times to deny him the chance to qualify for the race. Now we're working on the quality department and making some organizational changes.

Quickly promoted from Toro Rosso after a season and four races, the Dutchman, whose dad Jos drove for Red Bull predecessors Stewart GP, attracted attention from both Ferrari and Mercedes for his swashbuckling and fearless style.

Whether it be Max Verstappen's seat-of-the-pants style of driving or Daniel Ricciardo's eye-watering "Shoey" celebration, Red Bull is without doubt Formula One's coolest team. I didn't sleep very well last night as we didn't know if we would fix the issue.

"I am still optimistic, because we know that we have a quick vehicle", said Vettel, who almost snatched third from Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

Even then, three Ferrari one-two finishes in succession would still see Hamilton lead the championship into the penultimate round if he finishes third every time.

"It's just this deep into the season that I still have no idea where it's going to be good, where it's going to be great - like Silverstone - or where it's going to be a real struggle like Malaysia or Singapore".

I'm interested to see what happens in Suzuka, because in terms of the layout, the circuit is pretty similar to Sepang.

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