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33rd pole for Hamilton who - with Rosberg - are gearing up for a Mercedes party


(Top 10)

l 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes): 1:59.431

l 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)

l 3. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)

l 4. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

l 5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)

l 6. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)

l 7. Nico Huelkenberg (Force India)

l 8. Kevin Magnussen (McLaren)

l 9. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)

l 10. Jenson Button (McLaren)


A year ago, at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Mercedes instructed driver Nico Rosberg to hold station behind teammate Lewis Hamilton in third place.

At the time, priority for the Briton was made clear.

Now, new ground rules have since been set for the 2014 season.

It's a fair game between the two as Mercedes vie to live up to their "favourites" tag in Sepang.

Rosberg already drew first blood, winning the season-opening race at Melbourne two weeks ago.

Hamilton is gearing up to join the party.

The 29-year-old former world champion secured pole position for today's race in wet qualifying conditions at Sepang yesterday, just 0.055 seconds quicker than Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.

It was Hamilton's 33rd pole win, matching Jim Clark's British record which had stood since 1968.

In Australia, the 2008 world champion was forced to retire early because of engine trouble, putting a 25-point gap between him and leader Rosberg. Now, he's targeting to overhaul his teammate in Sepang.

"I've been feeling good since Melbourne," Hamilton said after qualifying.

"There is a huge deficit. When you lose 25 points, that's a serious deficit to make up.

"But you can gain a large amount from one race. I quite like to chase, so maybe it's done me a favour.

"But, honestly, for myself and for the team, the priority is to bag as many points as possible. Nico and I have a great opportunity, a great car and a team who are performing fantastically right now. Fingers crossed we can see ourselves through to the finish line."

Qualifying was delayed for 50 minutes because of heavy rain and the road conditions hampered the drivers throughout.

Rosberg narrowly beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso for third, while Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Huelkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Jean-Eric Vergne and Jenson Button followed in that order.

On equalling Jim Clark's all-time British pole record, Hamilton said: "When they mentioned it, I couldn't believe it. In all these years, I would never have dreamed I would have that many poles.

"(The qualifying race) was incredible - how heavy was the rain? At the end, it was almost impossible to see.

"I couldn't see where the track went, where the corners were, where to brake. I had to bail out of my final fast lap, so it was very close."

Rosberg, meanwhile, drew a slightly more solemn figure after the race; or perhaps he was quietly confident of his chances today considering what happened in Melbourne when Hamilton won pole, but failed to finish the next day.

"Third is okay - it's not pole, but it's still a great place. The race is long and things can change," he said.

"Who knows what the weather is going to do (today)? I'm looking forward to the race. If it's Lewis or me, that will be good, because we look to be the quickest. The opposition is not asleep, they're pushing (us) like crazy."

l Ali's trip to Sepang is sponsored by Shell.