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Hamilton Snatches Pole in Malaysia as Vettel Experiences Engine Woes

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Vettel Engine Change

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The 2017 Formula One season just went from bad to worse for Sebastian Vettel. After being involved in a multi-car collision at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix and handing his rival Lewis Hamilton a massive points swing, the Ferrari driver needed every advantage possible to have a chance at coming back in contention for the title in the upcoming six races—but he got just the opposite in Malaysia.

Ferrari had been looking strong in practice; then, in the final minutes of the final practice session, Vettel’s power unit failed and he limped back to the pits. The crew had to take out the engine and put in a new one, which was supposed to be a four-hour job, but by the time the qualifying session began two hours later, they had somehow managed it.

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You could have called it a miracle, and a miracle it would have been had the engine actually held up long enough for Vettel to qualify—but the engine was afflicted with more issues, the car had no power, and Vettel was unable to even try setting a time. He’ll be starting last tomorrow.

To make the pain worse, Ferrari was quite capable of taking pole position at the Sepang International Circuit, which will not be returning on the 2018 calendar. Kimi Räikkönen came within just 0.045 seconds of Hamilton’s best time, and this after locking his brakes in the final corner. Given Vettel’s significant qualifying advantage over his teammate this year, there is almost no doubt he would have been able to nab the top spot on the grid today had his engine been working.

Still, it’s always too early to call a championship in Formula One before the final point tally is well and truly settled. Last year, at this same circuit, Hamilton was poised to take a big chunk out of teammate Nico Rosberg’s championship lead, who had been tagged and spun at the start of the race—then Hamilton’s Mercedes engine caught on fire and Rosberg ultimately went on to win the title by five points. Anything can still happen—and in Formula One, everything does tend to happen eventually. Make sure to catch the race tomorrow!

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