Esteban Gutierrez put in an excellent performance to put his Sauber C33-Ferrari twelfth on the grid, but Adrian Sutil ended up 18th after being caught out by the red flag caused by Caterham driver Marcus Ericsson crashing towards the end of the first part of qualifying. The German driver later lambasted Pirelli for a lack of grip with the full wet tyre.
Gutierrez finished 14th in the first part of qualifying, but improved to 12th in the second; his lap time of 2:02.369s putting him just behind Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat, but ahead of the highly experienced Felipe Massa of Williams.
“It was a good qualifying,” said a happy Gutierrez. “In the morning we were really busy and we tried to put everything together. Everyone did a great job, and we managed to overcome some small issues to have a reliable car. I really want to thank my team and also Ferrari, as they have been working very hard to further improve the power unit.
“The conditions on the track were quite tough. However, we managed to improve the car during qualifying, trying to adapt the aero balance and also the tyre pressures. It was a good day. P12 is a great starting position considering our overall performance. Tomorrow we are going to do our best.”
Team-mate Sutil was less happy as he was eliminated at the first phase of qualifying. He was on a better lap when Ericsson crashed at turn three, and will start on row nine in Malaysia alongside Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado, but the German admits there is still work for Sauber to do to improve the car.
“Our strategy was to get out onto the track a bit later, as the track normally has the best conditions at this stage,” said Sutil. “However, more rain started to fall again. We would have improved, but due to the red flag we did not have any more time left. The car was very difficult to drive in these conditions, as the tyres never had enough grip.
“There is a lot of work ahead of us. At the moment it is difficult to drive a good lap. We need to improve step by step and be patient.”
Team Principal of Sauber Monisha Kaltenborn was partly happy with how qualifying ended for her team, and is hopeful for a reliable race as they continue to update and improve their car.
“This was a typical Malaysia qualifying in wet conditions, where it was all about delivering the maximum performance at the right moment,” said Kaltenborn. “With positions 12 and 18 we are only partly satisfied, but overall it has been a good weekend for us so far. Our cars worked reliably, and we were able to make progress with the power unit and the braking. Now it will be important to keep this reliability for the race, which might put us in a position to score a strong result.”