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Hamilton prevails in the rain
Lewis Hamilton mastered Malaysia's monsoon conditions to secure his second successive pole position at the start of the new Formula One season.
The heavens opened over the Sepang International Circuit 45 minutes ahead of qualifying, forcing a 50-minute delay before the cars could finally take to a treacherous track.
Fortunes fluctuated over the three sessions, as did the conditions as the intensity of the rain continually forced drivers in and out of the pits as they switched from intermediate tyres to full wets.
Come the conclusion it was Hamilton who again emerged top of the pile, as was the case a fortnight ago in the season-opening race in Australia.
The rain certainly proved a leveller for although Mercedes dominated in the dry in final practice, Hamilton only just edged Red Bull's reigning champion Sebastian Vettel into second place on the grid.
Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg will start third.
Once qualifying finally started, with the rain having relented but with more forecast, Hamilton led a queue of cars out of the pitlane.
Early in the session, with Q1 reduced for this season to 18 minutes from 20, Vettel encountered an early problem with the energy store on his Red Bull, forcing him into the pits after three laps.
Fortunately for the reigning four-times champion the team managed to quickly rectify the issue and send him back out on the track where he managed to finish third quickest in Q1 behind Rosberg and Hamilton.
It was a session that was ultimately red flagged and finished 35 seconds early due to Marcus Ericsson spinning his Caterham into a barrier after catching a wet kerb as the rain did return.
With no control over his car, Ericsson was sent spinning back on to the circuit where Esteban Gutierrez was forced to take evasive action to avoid a high-speed impact.
The Swede will start last after finishing seven seconds slower than Rosberg in Q1, with Marussia's Max Chilton joining him on the back row.
Ahead of them will be Lotus' Pastor Maldonado in 17th, followed by the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, with Marussia's Jules Bianchi and Kamui Kobayashi in his Caterham in 19th and 20th.
With the rain slowly increasing in intensity, Q2 was only two minutes and 14 seconds old when the red flags again had to be brought out.
That followed a collision between Toro Rosso's teenage rookie Daniil Kvyat and veteran Spaniard Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
With Alonso taking a wide berth into the sharp left-hander at turn nine, Kvyat decided to dive down the inside, only for the double world champion to turn into the Russian's car.
The accident resulted in the front-left wishbone breaking on Alonso's car, leading to the stewards to unsurprising announce an investigation into the matter.
Kvyat only just missed out on a place in the top 10 after being knocked out by team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne, so will start 11th, although can expect a five-place penalty for his clash with Alonso.
Sauber's Gutierrez starts 12th ahead of Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in 13th and 15th, with the team's car not appearing to handle well in the wet.
Bottas is also under investigation for impeding Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, so could also be penalised.
Sandwiched in between the Williams pairing is Force India's Sergio Perez, with Lotus' Romain Grosjean 16th for although the Frenchman managed to get out of Q1, he struggled in Q2.
Come the final 12 minutes for Q3, extended this season from the prior 10, it was the first run of all the drivers that primarily counted as the rain became heavier as time passed.
Behind Hamilton and Vettel is Mercedes' Rosberg, winner Down Under two weeks ago, followed by Alonso and Ricciardo.
Kimi Raikkonen lines up sixth in his Ferrari, followed by the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, with McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen eighth.
Vergne starts ninth, with Jenson Button 10th after opting for the wrong tyre choice in Q3 as he chose to run throughout on the intermediate rubber in contrast to all those ahead of him who went for the full wets.
After clinching the 33rd pole of his F1 career, Hamilton was relieved to again be at the front after pipping Vettel by just 0.055secs.
"I'm very happy with what the team have done," said Hamilton.
"Today was incredible with all that rain before the session started, and then at the end (of qualifying) I couldn't see a thing.
"I couldn't see where the corners were, where others were on the track, so it was important to try and get a good lap in, which I had already managed to do."
Vettel also wiped sweat from his brow given his concern in Q1 when he had an issue with the energy store.
He said: "At the beginning of Q1 my heartbeat was rising quickly when we realised there was an issue.
"But we sorted it quickly and it was good to go out again.
"Q3 was not perfect, I'd have loved to have had another go because it was close, too close in the end.
"The margin was definitely close enough for me to have beaten him (Hamilton), but then I'm sure Lewis could have gone quicker if he'd have had another go.
"But I'm on the good side of the grid, and now we'll have to see what my start is like tomorrow."