Webber feat just perfect as heavens open

Australian shines among the showers while Britons get that sinking feeling

When the heavens opened just before qualifying here in Sepang yesterday, it turned the grid on its head and set the scene for a potentially great race this afternoon.

"We lost some big scalps in the first session, which just goes to show how sensitive it all was on timing," Mark Webber remarked after taking the third pole position of his career. And it was to the likeable Australian's eternal credit that he did not smirk at the thought of Jenson Button starting 17th, Fernando Alonso 19th, Lewis Hamilton 20th and Felipe Massa 21st. Yikes. Just what was going on here?

The heavy shower just before the first session created a jumbled grid, and prompted Toro Rosso's technical director, Giorgio Ascanelli, to comment: "Malaysian rain is like English tea; it comes around five and it's the same temperature." But down at McLaren and Ferrari they misread that and nobody felt like laughing. By the time they marshalled their forces and got their men out on to the track in Q1, the rain had increased.

"We thought the first rainstorm was it, and there was nothing else coming, so we waited," said Button, the hero of Melbourne who ended the session beached in a gravel bed. "I guess events proved it was the wrong thing to do. My first lap on intermediate rain tyres felt OK. The thing is, you get no real warning; the first sector of the lap was quite dry, then you get to the fast left-right and it's really wet. I just aquaplaned off and got stuck in the gravel. I could not do anything about it.

"It was a strange, disappointing session. But, even so, I'm in front of three of my world championship rivals on the grid, and I suppose that's the best way of looking at it."

Hamilton has been really pushing all weekend, intent on stamping his authority after last weekend's misfortunes. He was quick all through practice and told his team: "Don't touch the car. It's so fantastic I don't know what else to do to it!" But it all went wrong yesterday afternoon. "By the time I got out there, there were lots of yellow flags, so you just couldn't nail it," he said glumly. "Then it started to rain more heavily. You couldn't feel a thing, it was so, so slippery. It was easy to come off – I had a spin on my first lap, in fact – but I did the best job I could in the circumstances.

"I'd been fastest all weekend, but what can we do? We've just got to shrug it off. As I always say, I'll never give up. That's why I'm not only focusing on the fast cars around me, I'm focusing on everyone – including those who are quite a few rows in front of me. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm going to race my heart out."

Well, that's good news for us, the silver lining within the rain cloud, because we all know how spectacular it is when F1's fastest man really gets on it. And with Button, Alonso and Massa all intent on coming through, there is plenty of scope for drama, whether the rain comes early or not.

Webber made up for his incident-strewn race last weekend, and his pole was the result of good judgement between himself and engineer Ciaron Pilbeam, who gambled right and were the only combo to run intermediates tyres in the final session.

"It was a very tricky session for everyone," Webber said. "In Q2 on intermediates, you needed a canoe, it was absolutely undriveable in those conditions. Kamui [Kobayashi] spun in front of me and I had to go round him, but thankfully that lap got me through to Q3. Ciaron and I made the call for inters because we felt it was worth trying. It was starting to spit a little at the end, I was aware I was the only guy on inters, the black sheep of the top 10, but it turned out it was the right tyre and I kept it on black stuff."

The first man to congratulate him was team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, who started the last two races on pole for his team but ran into problems with a spark plug in Bahrain and the left front wheel drive pegs in Australia. One way or another, the Red Bulls must win this one to get back in the championship game, and with their rivals so far back today, they have a golden opportunity.

"There was a lot of water, the cars are low, and we ended up swimming more than driving today," Vettel remarked. In other words, it was just like China last year. When he won and Webber rode shotgun.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam