Hamilton scored his eighth pole of 2016 – his third on the trot here and his fourth overall at Sepang – as teammate Rosberg simply couldn’t live with his raw pace.
Rosberg, who’s never started from pole in Malaysia, suffered a dreadful first run that was topped by both Red Bulls and a Ferrari.
Rosberg had to rely on his final run to join Hamilton on the front row but was almost half a second slower.
The Red Bulls locked out the second row, Max Verstappen just shading Daniel Ricciardo.
Story of the top-10 shootout
Rosberg’s first attempt in Q3 was disappointing, with a huge wobble in Turn 6 and a sideways exit from the final corner that limited him to fifth after the opening run.
In contrast, Hamilton produced a stunning 1m32.850s at his first attempt, 0.57s quicker than Verstappen, who was a tenth up on Ricciardo.
Rosberg had to rely on his second run, and produced a 1m33.264s despite another big moment at the final hairpin, which was 0.414s but two tenths clear of Verstappen. Hamilton aborted his second run after a huge lock-up at Turn 1.
Verstappen failed to improve on his second run, only managing a 1m33.604s. Ricciardo went faster on his final attempt, his 1m33.467s only 0.047s off Verstappen’s time.
Sebastian Vettel snatched fourth from Kimi Raikkonen in the battle of the Ferraris on his final run, but was 0.117s shy of beating a Red Bull.
Sergio Perez was best of the rest for Force India, over a tenth ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg.
McLaren’s Jenson Button only made one run in Q3 after his heroics to get through, but only managed the ninth-fastest time, beating the Williams of Felipe Massa for his 300th GP start.
Button stars to escape Q2
The battle to make it through Q2 was always going to be a tight one, as McLaren’s Button took the fight to the top teams and successfully made it through to the top-10 shootout.
Button’s last-gasp 1m34.431s put him eighth fastest, as Hulkenberg pushed out the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, while teammate Perez also improved but stayed 10th.
Bottas will start 11th, ahead of the Haas duo Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.
Renault’s Kevin Magnussen was a strong 14th after his excellent Singapore GP – and this was also a great recovery from Friday’s pit fire.
Daniil Kvyat beat Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz for 15th.
Hamilton beat Rosberg in this session by 0.563s, despite a moment, with a 1m33.046s using the soft tyres with which he’ll start the grand prix.
Red Bull outpaced the Ferraris here, but with only two tenths between all four cars.
Magnussen escapes Q1; Saubers top Palmer
Renault’s Magnussen produced the great escape in this session, setting an impressive 13th-fastest time.
In the closing moments of Q1, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr outpaced Renault’s Jolyon Palmer by 0.050s, but then Marcus Ericsson came along and beat them both. Palmer was unable to improve on his final lap.
Ericsson will start 17th, ahead of Nasr and Palmer. Esteban Ocon outqualified Pascal Wehrlein for the first time in the battle of the Mercedes juniors at Manor, but Ocon is likely to face an investigation from stewards after Button had to overtake him at Turn 9 while the Frenchman was on an in-lap.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso qualified in last place as expected, as he was always destined to start from the rear due to grid penalties.
His teammate Button spun on his first Q1 attempt at Turn 14 when he happened across Magnussen’s Renault on the exit of a right-hander. “There’s so much traffic; they’re not getting out of the way either,” he grumbled.
“The Manor has to get a penalty, I had to overtake him under braking on a slow lap,” he added.
Palmer had a big moment through the high-speed sweeper at Turn 6, just before Grosjean had a scare in his cockpit: “I just got my right mirror in my face,” he complained as his rear-view mirror came adrift. “The right mirror flew, so help me with traffic.”
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||1’33.420||0.570|
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||1’33.467||0.617|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||1’34.319||1.469|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||Mercedes||1’34.489||1.639|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1’35.369||2.519|
|16||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||1’35.374||2.524|