SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) — Three-time defending Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull won pole position at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, edging the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso just as the rain-affected qualifying ended.
It was the second pole in a row and 38th overall for the German, who finished third at the season-opening Australian GP last week after struggling with his tires. Vettel took top spot on the grid by almost a second, causing him to scream "Yes!" when told by his team.
"I'm a bit surprised by the gap. I had a decent lap and was very happy, obviously," Vettel said. "It was quite tricky because some parts of the track were still wet and others were dry. Overall, a very good session."
Massa struggled for most of last year but has now qualified ahead of his more famous teammate Alonso, the two-time F1 champion, for the second straight race.
"I think it was a good qualifying for us," said Massa, who only had two podium finishes in 2012. "We took the right decision to change tires and managed to put a good lap together as well."
Australian GP winner Kimi Raikonen of Lotus appeared to have problems with his car, qualifying seventh. The Finn complained to his team over the radio during the third practice session that he was unhappy with his car's set-up, telling them "I don't understand how the car can change so much."
The circuit was hit by afternoon rain during qualifying but that stopped as the final session began. The worst of the showers came in the second session, affecting several drivers who were challenging to make the top 10.
Raikkonen's teammate, Romain Grosjean got out of his car and walked away with several minutes left in the second session despite needing to overtake McLaren driver Sergio Perez to advance to the last part of qualifying.
Force India driver Paul di Resta also looked set to reach the final session until he spun out on the wet track.
Jenson Button, the 2009 F1 champion, qualified eighth and Perez 10th as McLaren's struggles continued. The new car has yet to perform to expectations, prompting Perez to suggest using last year's vehicle that won the final two races of the 2012 season.