Vettel fastest on hard Friday for Mercedes in Malaysia

Lewis Hamilton: 'Formula 1 losing toughest race on calendar'

Lewis Hamilton: 'Formula 1 losing toughest race on calendar'

Sebastian Vettel still had a smile on his face after qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, as the German put on a fearless face despite the pain of the latest setback to strike his championship challenge.

"The Formula One Chinese Grand Prix has become a motorsport showpiece for China but also a fixture for all Asia Pacific and global motorsport fans", he said.

Vettel insisted that he can still get a decent haul of points on Sunday despite a qualifying day to forget.

"The vehicle seems to be unbalanced and that triggers consequences".

The issue created a downward spiral in performance as the overheating tyres offered less grip and more slides - creating a huge headache for both drivers and engineers. Only six races remain in the 2017 season with Lewis Hamilton sitting comfortably at the top of the standings.

"Obviously it's a while ago, but for sure one of my nicest memories here was 2015, my first win with Ferrari", Vettel revealed.

"We only listen to the FIA", he added ahead of Saturday's final practice and qualifying sessions.

"Try to battle on", his engineer replied. He can ill afford another blip in Malaysia, where the intense heat and stifling humidity make it one of Formula One's toughest races. "Quite the contrary. I have been working very hard in the past few years to make it to F1 - why should I crack now?" Ferrari are strong, Mercedes are a bit unusual for now but I'm sure they'll get quicker tomorrow so we need to improve.

Sebastian Vettel's hopes of securing a fifth world championship suffered a major blow on Saturday as he was left at the back of the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix following engine trouble.

The German will start from the back of the grid tomorrow. While Malaysia isn't the most power-sensitive circuit, it was still impressive to see Stoffel Vandoorne haul his MCL32 up to seventh.

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.

"I'll have a quick stop in Tokyo on the way to Suzuka". With a wry smile he replied "I don't want to be hit!" Yesterday they were OK and we made public that very clear.

Razali also cited the race's hefty franchise fee and its annual inflation rate imposed by Bernie Ecclestone over the years as another reason to pull the plug on an event he now would not even accept fro free!

Things were incredibly close at the front too, with the top 4 separated by less than two tenths, with Valtteri Bottas at the top of the pile after improving his lap late in the session.

Hamilton fought off a challenge by Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen despite Mercedes struggling all weekend in Malaysia.

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