Lewis Hamilton on pole, Vettel last at Malaysian GP

Malaysia: Lewis Hamilton 'sad' that Formula One is losing its 'toughest' race

Kuala Lumpur: Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas pledged their fans outstanding results at the finale of the Petronas Malaysian Formula One (F1) Grand Prix to be held at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) from Sept 28 to Oct 1.

The biggest talking point from Singapore was undoubtedly the spectacular three-way crash between Vettel, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"I mean, considering [Vettel] started last it's not that great, to be honest", Hamilton said, referring to Vettel's stellar drive back to fourth.

Verstappen celebrated his 20th birthday with a fine drive.

"The whole race went well".

"I think it would have been more hard if I had lost the auto somewhere in the race", the German, a record four-time victor in Malaysia, said. I think it's part of racing.

"It's fantastic, a very tough race but incredible to win". He led comfortably previous year but retired with an engine failure.

Obviously, the points championship at this point is Lewis Hamilton's to lose. "Considering the issues we had with the auto, it's a good weekend".

But the 32-year-old will still be wary of Sepang, hosting its final race before Malaysia drops off the calendar, after last year's engine failure struck while he was leading from pole. Still, given his position - and where Vettel was - he might have expected to be further ahead. A woman looks on as Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton's auto is reflected in action on her sunglasses during qualifying.

In an interview with Sky Sports, McLaren driver Fernando Alonso said Hamilton is now the firm favourite for the championship after Vettel crashed out in Singapore. "Stroll's not looking where he's going".

Last year, Hamilton was cruising to victory in Sepang when his engine cut out late on and he retired.

Track crew lifting Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France vehicle after it crashed out on Turn 14 during the second practice at the Sepang International Circuit for the first practice session for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017. "He did a fantastic job today". The team made changes, fitting another unit before qualifying, only to find an issue involving the compressor which forced the German to nurse his SF70 back home to the pits once again.

Instead, Hamilton, who retired from a commanding lead in Malaysia a year ago, goes into Sunday's race poised to make another huge stride toward his fourth title.

"I just need to go step by step. It was my only chance", Verstappen said.

Verstappen's Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo, last year's victor at Sepang, finished third.

Vettel drove like someone keen to defy the odds. At this point, Raikkonen was already in his shorts and walking back to the Ferrari motorhome.

When he did re-emerge with 40 minutes of the session remaining his vehicle appeared still to be handling erratically, and his first timed lap was fully 1.4 seconds down on Vettel. They fixed it quickly and it's a shame I couldn't get out. "But he only had one attack".

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