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Formula One 2016

Leading from the front: Lewis Hamilton storms to pole for Malaysian Grand Prix

The Mercedes driver starts on the front row with championship leading teammate Nico Rosberg, with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 7:14pm

World Champion Lewis Hamilton will start the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix from pole position after setting the fastest time in qualifying on Saturday.

The Briton’s championship leading teammate Nico Rosberg will start alongside Hamilton in second with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull.

Mercedes are on course to wrap up their third straight constructors’ title on Sunday.

Rosberg, winner of the last three races in succession, leads Hamilton by eight points in the overall standings with six of a record 21 races to go.

Hamilton headed Mercedes’ first-ever front-row lockout in Malaysia and set a new lap record at the Sepang International Circuit with a time of 1 minute, 32.850 seconds.

“Today the car felt fantastic, I really enjoyed the lap,” Hamilton said. “It could have been faster.

“I don’t feel anything is going to stop us (in the race). As a team we have great pace and if you look at the last race, we had pretty good starts and we continuously work on that. That’s not something I’m going to let in my mind. I’m thinking of getting a launch off the grid and the car feels really good on the long runs.”

Rosberg was marginally off Hamilton’s pace throughout his last flying lap and a wobble on the final corner put paid to his pole chances. He denied that he went out on that last lap only targeting second, given Hamilton’s superb time.

The pole was the 57th of Hamilton’s career and eighth of the season. It was also his Mercedes team’s 51st pole from 54 races. The German squad have started all but one race from pole this year.

“Of course I was going for pole, what else would I be doing out there?” Rosberg said. “It would have been close but I made a mistake going into the last corner.

“Second place, I have to live with that now, it doesn’t mean a victory is not possible tomorrow. I’m still optimistic.”

Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth, followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button ninth for his 300th F1 start, and Felipe Massa of Williams 10th.

Hamilton heads into Sunday’s race chasing his 50th career win and hoping to end Rosberg’s streak of three wins from the last three races.

“As we know from this year second place doesn’t mean victory is not possible tomorrow,” said Rosberg who seized the lead from pole sitter Hamilton at last month’s Italian Grand Prix and went on to win.

“We’ve seen that so many times so still very optimistic for tomorrow.”

Mercedes look set to clinch their third straight constructors’ title on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Associated Press