Lewis Hamilton will hope to avoid another Sepang shocker

Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton with Malaysian athletes at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today. Pix by Luqman Hakim Zubir

Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton with Malaysian athletes at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today. Pix by Luqman Hakim Zubir

Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel on Thursday said the remaining races and his powerful Ferrari were enough to close the gap between him and his rival Lewis Hamilton.

"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.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France smiles at his team's garage as he waits for the start of the first practice session for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.

Hamilton kept the old parts for qualifying and, after seeing title rival Sebastian Vettel hit engine trouble in Q1, turned in a blistering lap in Q3 to edge Kimi Raikkonen to the 70th pole position of his career - one that left him over 0.6s up on his teammate's upgraded vehicle. "It's over the whole year".

If he converts it into a victory today, with Vettel lower than second, or outscores the German by more than seven points, the 32-year-old won't need to win another race this season to clinch a fourth title.

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Minutes, nearly the entire second half, that New Zealand failed to score until David Havili crossed the line for their fifth try. The All Blacks were already assured of the 2017 title thanks to Saturday's draw between South Africa and Australia.

His lead did not last long, with Verstappen staying within DRS range and soon closing in for a move on lap four.

Vettel, however, failed to set a time and will start dead last in yet another blow to his title hopes, after a power unit issue on his first flier in the opening phase of qualifying forced him to limp back to the pits. The Haas and Sauber drivers made up the bottom four, with Gorsjean's mechanics facing a late night to put his auto back together ahead of final practice session on Saturday.

In April it was announced that after 19 years, the 2017 Malaysia Grand Prix would be the last.

Hamilton was even behind McLaren's Fernando Alonso, who was a surprise fifth quickest as the team's relationship with engine partner Honda enters its final six races before a switch to Renault engines next season.

As a result, Hamilton reverted to the old specification of vehicle while Valtteri Bottas ran the new. Many would say the crash was Vettel's fault, while others put the blame on Verstappen.

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"I think fifth is a little bit ambitious".

The event is among the most well-attended on the calendar, with some 135,000 spectators turning up on race day previous year, second only to Silverstone's 139,000. "We'll try to get further than 100 metres on Sunday", Raikkonen said.

"I genuinely have always had support from all of my team, I have never had any complaints from them and I don't anticipate there to be moving forward".

Verstappen impressed on his 20th birthday, with his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.

"Even if we got the greatest of deals, do it for free for example, what's the product?" he said.

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