F1: Lewis Hamilton on pole in Malaysia; Sebastian Vettel to start last

Lewis Hamilton says he had the title fight in mind when Max Verstappen caught him in the opening stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, a race he doubts Mercedes had a chance of winning on raw pace.

"I think he just didn't look", said Vettel, who set the fastest lap of the race, a day after he failed to complete a timed lap in qualifying due to an engine issue.

The Formula 4 South East Asia (F4 SEA) race, a support event at the Petronas Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix, ground to an embarrassing halt at the Sepang Circuit today.

"In Singapore, Sebastian was first and I was fourth in qualifying so if you compare it with Mercedes, we were better", he said.

Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton was handed a lucky break in Singapore but the Mercedes driver can take little more than the heat and humidity for granted in Malaysia this weekend.

While Hamilton heads to malaysia in fine form, Vettel has won only one of the last eight races. "It's over the whole year".

The gap between the pair is the biggest it has been all year and if Hamilton triumphs on Sunday, with Vettel lower than second, the Briton will not need to win another race to clinch his fourth title.

Daniel Ricciardo, who led a one-two with team mate Max Verstappen in last year's Malaysian race, ended the day third fastest ahead of the Dutchman.

Having qualified on pole in Singapore, the stage was set for Vettel to retake the championship lead he had squandered for the first time in 2017.

"Overall it doesn't change anything for how we tackle the last six races".

In April it was announced that after 19 years, the 2017 Malaysia Grand Prix would be the last. I think it's much better if your time and energy is spent looking forward.

However, Raikkonen is not one to get flustered easily and 15 minutes into the race, the Finnish driver was already in his shorts and walking back to the team's motorhome.

Sharing his views was Bottas, who is now in third position with 212 points, but looking motivated to bring home glory as well as to chase Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari who is in second place.

Vettel will start from last in the latest bitter blow for Ferrari.

"As I said, it's a surprise to be up here". "For sure it's not ideal, not what you want especially on a day where you feel you've got it in you, got it in the vehicle".

The event is among the most well-attended on the calendar, with some 135,000 spectators turning up on race day a year ago, second only to Silverstone's 139,000. "We'll see. In terms of speed we should get back to the leading group and we'll have to see how far up [we can be]".

The Red Bull of birthday boy Verstappen was third, nearly half a second behind Raikkonen.